Refugee Council of Australia
Woman holding identity card with child in background

Identity documents for refugees

Denial of services

Strict identity systems and computers can make it hard for refugees and people seeking asylum to get access to basic services. This can be caused because people record default dates of birth differently, or because services may not accept travel documents as a primary form of ID.

Government guidelines on recording names

For example, a woman who had been in Australia for 12 months tried to get a phone and internet connection. They would not accept her travel document as a primary form of ID.
They told her to go to the NSW roads authority. She had a letter stating her birthdate starting with 01/01, but the authority doesn’t accept that as a default date of birth. It uses 31/12 instead. A person working with this woman told us:

They told the client that she would have to ask for the travel document to be reissued. Her caseworker called [the Department of Immigration] to explain the problem and was put through to the Humanitarian Branch, who told them to contact the Department of Foreign Affairs. [It] said the travel documents would not be reissued as they are for travel to Australia only. The [NSW roads authority] told her to go to Centrelink to change the date of birth to the 31/12/67; however, the 01/01 date of birth has been accepted by Centrelink, TAFE, library, census form and doctors.

The roads authority would not accept travel documents as ID after changes have been made, as the form states that it is “not to be used as ID”.

In another example, Centrelink refused to grant a 15-year-old an allowance using his travel document. Instead, it demanded photo ID from his school, which didn’t give photo IDs. Centrelink didn‘t accept a letter from the school confirming the student’s enrolment even though it had previously done this.

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