Line of people waiting for two men at a desk

Seeking asylum is normal

Seeking asylum is the normal way to apply for protection as a refugee. Australia also resettles refugees from overseas, but this is a different strategy for different circumstances. It does not mean that resettlement is the better or ‘right’ way to come. In fact, before a person can be resettled they usually must first seek asylum through UNHCR.

Resettlement is offered only by a few countries. There are very few places for resettlement. Less than 1% of the world’s refugees are resettled every year.

There is no queue

Resettlement helps people who cannot return home once conditions have improved. It helps those who have moved but have not found effective protection. It is used for those who are especially vulnerable, because of their disability, gender, risk of detention, or other reasons.

While resettlement remains essential and much-needed, there are other ways to address refugee needs. Most refugees would rather return home if they can, or settle permanently in the country where they first sought asylum.

Even for refugees who are in need of resettlement, there is no resettlement ‘queue’ to join. In practice, the resettlement system works more like a lottery than a queue. While UNHCR aims to prioritise those in greatest need, most refugees – even people in very vulnerable situations – cannot expect to be resettled in the near future, if ever. Many refugees also live in countries where UNHCR does not operate, so they cannot access resettlement.