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Australian Refugee Foundation
Refugee Week

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Government must stop deception and do more to protect Iraqis

The Australian Government must stop trying to deceive Australians about its recent cuts to the Refugee and Humanitarian Program and start acting to increase protection options for Iraqi and Syrian refugees. Read more here.

Welfare system review needs greater focus on humanitarian entrants

The Federal Government review of Australia's welfare system must pay more attention to addressing barriers faced by refugees and humanitarian entrants. Read more here.

MPs hear community concerns about weakening protection against race hate

RCOA today welcomed the Australian Government's decision not to proceed with changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. Read more here.

Refugee Council appalled by claims of cruelty to children in detention

RCOA said it was appalled by allegations made today at a national inquiry which if true amounted to the systemic abuse of children. Read more here.

Independent guardian needed to protect interests of child asylum seekers

RCOA has welcomed the release of a new report that recommends the replacement of the Immigration Minister as the guardian of unaccompanied asylum seeker children. Read more here.

Allowing Indian consular access to asylum seekers ignores protection claims

Australia's decision to grant Indian consular officials access to 157 asylum seekers without testing their claims for refugee protection creates a troubling precedent. Read more here.

Government removes Refugee Council's core funding

The Australian Government has completely cut core funding to RCOA despite allocating $140,000 just two weeks ago in its 2014-15 Budget. Read more here.

Child asylum seekers locked up at higher rate than adults

Child asylum seekers are more likely than their adult counterparts to be held in Australia in a locked detention facility than in community alternatives. Read more here.

Australia's answers on return of asylum seekers to Sri Lanka unsatisfactory

RCOA has demanded Australia explain what has happened to 41 asylum seekers returned to Sri Lanka and what guarantees were given about their safety. Read more here.

RCOA backs call for independent observer for screening process

RCOA has endorsed a call for an independent observer to be present during the interviews of asylum seekers under enhanced screening. Read more here.

Lives on the line under proposed changes to Migration Act

RCOA has expressed alarm at proposed changes to the Migration Act 1958 which will significantly increase the risk of people being returned to danger. Read our media release.

UN High Commissioner criticises Australia's 'strange' obsession with boats

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has described as "very strange" Australia's obsession with deterring asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Read more here.

Cambodian NGOs unite in opposition to Australia's refugee deal

RCOA has welcomed a joint statement issued by a coalition of 21 Cambodian NGOs who oppose the planned refugee resettlement deal between Cambodia and Australia. Read more here.

Running an asylum policy on cruelty leads to deadly consequences

RCOA President Phil Glendenning fears a repeat of the tragic self-immolation of a Tamil asylum seeker in Melbourne unless Australia abandoned its cruel and punitive policy approach. Read more here.

Refugee review changes a matter of life and death for asylum seekers

Proposed legislation aimed at fast-tracking refugee claims will take legal resources away from asylum seekers and hand them to the Australian Government, increasing the risk of vulnerable people being sent back to danger. Read more here.

Critical questions about Manus Island violence remain unanswered

The Australian Government's explanation for February's violence on Manus Island is inadequate and leaves critical questions unanswered. Read more here.

Federal Budget summary 2014-15

RCOA has released a summary of refugee-related spending in the 2014-15 Federal Budget. Read more here.

Detention centre closures must be accompanied by community alternatives

RCOA has welcomed plans to close six immigration detention centres but called for greater use of community arrangements for more than 3000 asylum seekers in detention. Read more here.

Enough is Enough: It's time for a new approach

On the first anniversary of the report on the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, 64 Australian NGOs have called for a new approach to refugee and asylum policy that delivers protection to refugees. Read more here.


Employment strategies for refugee and humanitarian entrants

This report analyses solutions to the barriers that refugee entrants face in making the transition to meaningful, sustainable employment in Australia.



Alternative Place of Detention: an immigration detention facility designed for people who have been assessed as posing a minimal risk to the Australian community

Asylum seeker: a person who is currently seeking protection as a refugee and is still waiting to have his/her application for refugee status assessed.

Complementary protection: a system of providing protection and assistance to persons who do not qualify for refugee status but are nonetheless in need of protection under other international human rights treaties, for example people who may face torture or death for reasons not related to the five grounds mentioned specifically in the Refugee Convention (race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion).

Convention country: a colloquial term for a country which has signed the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The formal term for such a country is a signatory or a state party.

Cultural orientation: see settlement education.

Culturally and linguistically diverse: an umbrella term used to refer to individuals and communities from migrant and refugee backgrounds, particularly those from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Durable solution: the term used by UNHCR to describe any means by which the situation of refugees can be satisfactorily and permanently resolved. In most cases, refugee status is resolved through one of three “durable solutions”: voluntary repatriation to the country of origin when conditions improve; integration (ideally permanent residency) in the country of asylum; or resettlement to another country.

Ethnic community organisation: an organisation which represents and advocates for the needs and interests of a specific cultural, religious, national, racial or ethnic group.

Excised offshore place: an area of Australia which is excluded from the migration zone. Under Australia’s Migration Act, “unlawful non-citizens” who first enter Australia at an excised offshore place are unable to submit a valid visa application unless the Minister for Immigration makes a personal intervention into the case. Excised offshore places include Christmas Island, Ashmore and Cartier Islands and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

Human right: a basic, universal freedom or entitlement inherent to all human beings.

Immigration Residential Housing: an immigration detention facility which aims to provide a flexible detention arrangement to enable people in immigration detention to live in family-style accommodation.

Immigration Transit Accommodation: an immigration detention facility designed for people who are a low security risk.

Independent Merits Review: prior to 2012, this was the non-transparent review process available to asylum seekers who receive an unfavourable Refugee Status Assessment outcome, under which the outcome could only be lifted at the discretion of the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.

Irregular Maritime Arrival (IMA): persons who attempt to reach, or do reach, Australia by boat without a visa.

Lawful non-citizen: according to the Migration Act 1958, an lawful non-citizen is a person in the migration zone who holds a visa.

Local integration: a durable solution for refugees which involves their permanent settlement in the country in which they sought asylum. The onshore component of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program is an example of local integration.

Mandatory detention: an Australian Government policy which requires all unlawful non-citizens (or persons who, if they were in the migration zone, would be considered unlawful non-citizens) to be detained until they are granted a visa.

Migrant: a person who chooses to leave their country and settle in another country.

Migrant Resource Centre: an organisation which provides services to migrants, refugees, humanitarian entrants, new arrivals and/or international visitors.

Migrant Service Agency: see Migrant Resource Centre.

Migration zone: the area consisting of the Australian States, the Territories, Australian resource installations and Australian sea installations, but excluding excised offshore places.

Non-refoulement: a principle of international law which prohibits the forcible return of a a refugee to a situation where their life or freedom may be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

Offshore entry person: according to the Migration Act 1958, an offshore entry person is a person who has entered Australia at an excised offshore place and become an unlawful non-citizen because of that entry.

Offshore program: the component of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian program which involves the resettlement of refugees from overseas. See resettlement.

Onshore program: the component of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian program designed for people who apply for refugee status while they are in Australia.

Protection: all activities aimed at obtaining full respect for a person’s rights. Providing protection for refugees usually involves granting permission for them to live freely in their country of asylum, preventing their forcible return to situations of persecution, ensuring that their human rights are respected and providing support to enable them to live a normal life.

Protection Obligations Determination: the non-statutory refugee status determination process formerly undegone by asylum seekers who first arrive in an excised offshore place. Unlike the procedure which applies on the Australian mainlaind, the POD process was not bound by the Migration Act and was instead governed by guidelines which are not legally binding. For further information on how the POD process worked, see our page on excised offshore places.

Refoulement: the forcible return of a refugee or asylum seeker to a situation where his/her life or freedom may be threatened. Refoulement is a violation of the Refugee Convention.

Refugee: any person who, owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country.

Refugee Convention: the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Refugee Status Assessment: prior to 2011, this was the non-statutory refugee status determination procedure undergone by asylum seekers who first arrive in Australia at an excised offshore place without authorisation. Unlike the determination procedure that applies on the Australian mainland, refuege status assessment was not bound by the Migration Act 1958. In 2011, Refugee Status Assessment was replaced by the Protection Obligations Determination process.

Refugee Status Determination: a legal and administrative procedure undertaken to determine whether a person should be recognised as a refugee under national and international law.

Resettlement: a durable solution for refugees which involves their resettlement from the country in which they have sought asylum to another country which has agreed to provide them with protection. The offshore component of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program is an example of resettlement.

Settlement education: a process of learning about the culture, laws, values and lifestyle of the country in which a refugee or migrant is settling. Also known as cultural orientation.

Stateless person: a person who is not considered to be a national by any country, including persons whose nationality has not been established.

Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel or Suspected Irregular Entry Vessel (SIEV): the term is used by the Australian Government for boats entering Australian waters without prior authority.

Temporary Protection Visa (TPV): TPVs were granted to people who had arrived without documentation and were deemed to be refugees. TPVs allowed the recipient to stay in Australia for three years. After this time they were required to apply for further protection or return to their country of origin. TPV holders had no family reunion rights, no right of return if they travelled out of Australia and limited access to settlement services. TPVs were abolished in 2008.

Unlawful non-citizen: according to the Migration Act 1958, an unlawful non-citizen is a person in the migration zone who does not hold a visa. Non-citizens who first enter Australia outside the migration zone (ie. at an excised offshore place) are referred to as offshore entry persons.

Voluntary repatriation: a durable solution for refugees which involves return to their country of origin, based on a free and informed decision. Voluntary repatriation is only promoted when conditions in a refugee’s country of origin are considered conducive to a safe and dignified return.


Updated August 2012