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Australian Refugee Foundation
Refugee Week

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Australia's focus on deterrence challenged in global forum

RCOA has challenged the Australian Government's promotion of its "regional deterrence network" as governments, NGOs and international bodies gather in Geneva for a global dialogue on protection at sea. Read more here.

Asylum laws will fast-track vulnerable people to danger

The passage of the Australian Government's asylum legislation is a shattering blow for asylum seekers who face the grave risk of being returned to danger. Read more here.

PM urged to remove all children from immigration detention

RCOA has written to the Prime Minister urging him to remove children from immigration detention facilities in Australia and Nauru. Read more here.

Housing issues for refugees and asylum seekers

RCOA has released a new report on challenges and alternatives in sustainable housing for refugees and asylum seekers. Read it here.

UN Committee takes aim at Asylum Legacy Caseload Bill

Cross-bench Senators have been urged to take note of a report from one of the UN's foremost authorities on the prevention of torture. Read more here.

End to resettlement from Indonesia adds insult to injury

Australia's refusal to resettle refugees who sought protection in Indonesia after June 2014 will cement Australia's reputation as a bad neighbour. Read more here.

Temporary Protection Visas will separate families indefinitely

RCOA has highlighted the devastating impact of the Australian Government's proposed Temporary Protection Visas in forcing the indefinite separation of families. Read more here.

Australia must stop returns following torture of asylum seeker

RCOA president Phil Glendenning has again pleaded with the Department of Immigration to halt forcible returns of asylum seekers to Afghanistan. Read more here.

Governments challenged to end neglect of African crises

Delegates from 94 nations including Australia have been challenged to end the global neglect of Africa's 15 million displaced people. Read more here.

Australia urged to take more constructive response to global refugee crises

The crises in Syria, Iraq, Central African Republic and South Sudan and efforts to eliminate statelessness will dominate discussions at a key UNHCR meeting. Read more here.

Punishment not protection for refugees sent to Cambodia

The agreement to be signed this week between Australia and Cambodia to resettle refugees from Nauru will leave refugees at further risk. Read more here.

Australia ignores UN call for action on statelessness

As the world commemorates the 60th anniversary of the 1954 Statelessness Convention, stateless people in Australia have little to celebrate. Read more here.

Refugee Welcome Zone initiative reaches its century

RCOA's Refugee Welcome Zone initiative has reached a milestone with more than 100 councils signing on. Read more here.

National Party's call for more refugee places a positive step

RCOA has backed calls by the Government's Coalition partner the National Party for an expanded Refugee and Humanitarian Program. Read more here.

Australia must step up to support Syrian refugees

News that the number of Syrian refugees has passed three million confirms that Australia's decision to cut its refugee program could not have come at a worse time, says RCOA. Read more here.

No excuse for ongoing detention of children

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has failed to offer an adequate justification for the ongoing detention of children on Christmas Island and Nauru, says RCOA. Read more here.

Efforts to return Syrian refugees unconscionable

RCOA is alarmed by media reports that Syrian asylum seekers detained on Manus Island are being pressured by Australian Government officials to return home. 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.

Federal Budget summary 2014-15

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


Refugee Week

Refugee Week is Australia's peak annual activity to inform the public about refugees and celebrate positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society.



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