Refugee Council of Australia
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Identity documents for refugees

Why do refugees have issues with identity documents?

Many refugees and people seeking asylum find it difficult to prove their identity. It can be hard for them to get documents, get the right information on those documents, and get those documents accepted. This can make it difficult for them to access basic services. 

Why do some refugees not have documents?

Refugees and people seeking asylum may have no documents or documents that Australia accepts.

It is hard to get documents

If you are being persecuted, it is hard to get official documents. For example, it could be unsafe for a person fleeing from a government to get a passport.

People who need to flee quickly do not have time to gather their documents. Many people who are fleeing will lose their documents.

It is also common for people smugglers to order people to destroy these documents while they are travelling.   

Documents aren’t easy to get

Often, people come from countries that do not have high standards for identity documents. They may have to travel far to get identity documents. Getting those documents can also take a very long time. 

Standards of documents are often not high

Even if they can get documents, Australia may not accept or recognise these documents. Countries record things differently. They also use different practices to making sure a document is genuine.  Many countries don’t have the same high standards for identity documents as Australia. 

Practices are also different

Countries also differ in how they name people. For example, some cultures don‘t often use surnames.

Another common problem is that people may not know their age or birth date. This may mean their age is incorrectly recorded.

Learn more about naming conventions: Cultural Atlas (SBS)

Documents must be translated

Documents also need to be translated. This can be difficult if there are few translators for those languages. 

Interpreting and translating

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