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How do refugees come to Australia under its Refugee and Humanitarian Program?

Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program

How do refugees come to Australia? For decades, Australia has been protecting refugees under its Refugee and Humanitarian Program. This Program is separate from the much larger Migration Program, which includes business, skilled and family migrants.

How many refugees and migrants have come to Australia?

Read more: Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program

Australia’s resettlement program, which began in 1977, should be celebrated. It is one of the longest-standing and largest in the world, following usually only the US and Canada. It has brought hundreds of thousands of refugees to safety in Australia.

How many refugees and migrants have come to Australia?

'Offshore' and 'onshore' parts of the Program

For many years, Australia's Refugee and Humanitarian Program has included both refugees who are resettled (the 'offshore' component), and refugees who apply once they are in Australia ('onshore protection').  Although they both fall under the same Program, Australia treats refugees who are resettled very differently from those who seek protection in Australia.

For many decades, Australia has been a leader in bringing some of the most vulnerable refugees in the world from overseas, and supporting them to settle in Australia. It is a voluntary commitment designed to provide durable solutions for the many refugees who can neither remain where they are nor return home. Australia's contribution is important, as relatively few countries resettle refugees. This commitment is even more valuable today when it is harder than ever for refugees to find protection in a safe country.

Global resettlement needs

However, Australia’s treatment of refugees who come to Australia seeking protection is now leading the world in the opposite direction - to the most punitive policies aimed to deter vulnerable people from seeking safety. People who are found to be refugees once they are in Australia  are often referred to as 'asylum seekers' while they are waiting for a decision. They make a claim for protection under the Refugee Convention, which Australia has signed. Because Australia has decided to include them in the overall Refugee and Humanitarian Program, politicians and others may say that these people are 'taking away places' from 'genuine refugees'. First, it is untrue that these people are not genuine refugees, as they have been found to be refugees by the Australian Government.

Second, there is no reason why the Australian Government has to include these people within the Refugee and Humanitarian Program at all. It did not when the Program began. In recent years, too, refugees who arrived by boat and are given only temporary protection are no longer included in the overall Program.

Are people seeking asylum jumping the queue?

This guide focuses on Australia's resettlement of refugees from overseas. Another guide explains Australia's complex asylum policies in more detail.

Australia's asylum policies

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