Australian Refugee Visa Policies
Australian Refugee Visa Policies

Recent Updates In Australian Refugee Visa Policies

The many updates to Australia’s refugee visa policies over the past few years are summed up in this brief. These updates are mostly a political consequence of rising maritime casualties (a minimum of 862 over the previous 5 years) and asylum-seeking boat landings (51,637 over the previous 5 years). In response, Australia’s two main political parties have penalized boat arrivals and restricted access to refuge within Australia. But who are these refugees and asylum seekers? Let’s find that out first.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Who Are They?

An asylum seeker is someone who has left their home country and seeks refugee status. So, the UN Convention, which was updated by the Protocol of 1967 (the Refugee Convention), outlines that an individual who is outside their home country and is unable or hesitant to go back due to a legitimate fear of persecution related to their religion, membership of a specific social group, nationality, race, or political opinion.

Understanding The Refugee and Humanitarian Program

Australia has granted refugee visas under the Refugee and Humanitarian Program for many years, both for grants of refuge in Australia (onshore protection) and for resettlement of individuals for humanitarian purposes (offshore resettlement).

This was previously fixed at 13,750 spots, except for the 2012–13 fiscal year, when it was raised to 20,000 spots—the biggest program increase in thirty years. After the September 2013 change of administration, this went back to 13,750 spots, then increased to 16,250 in 2017–18. The Australian Government stated in September 2015 that an additional 12,000 resettlement seats would be made available on an as-needed basis for refugees escaping the crises in Syria and Iraq.

By March 2017, all those visas had been approved. Even though this figure is now seen as a “ceiling,” the Government has stated that the Program will rise to 18,750 in 2018–19. Citing its inability to relocate during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government lowered admissions to 13,750 in the 2020 budget.

Serving Mandatory Detention

Upon arrival, whether by air or water, those who do not have a valid refugee visa are subject to lawful detention. About 349 individuals who had come by boat made up the 1,369 individuals detained in Australia’s shuttered immigration detention facilities as of April 26, 2018.

In closed detention facilities, 461 individuals (34% of the detention population) had been in custody for over a year, and 264 had been there for over two years. The average term of detention was 434 days. Seven kids were detained in Australia’s closed institutions as of April 26, 2018.

This is where the refugees can seek assistance from a Refugee Visa Lawyer Perth once their detention is over. However, suppose you have a solid/valid reason to justify why you cannot generate a valid visa while entering Australia. In that case, the migration lawyer may be of help, too.

Refugee Visa Policy: Updates in Work Rights

After August 13, 2012, individuals who arrived by boat seeking asylum were not allowed to work until December 2014, when the Government changed this restriction for those on BVEs. It is still illegal for those incarcerated in community detention to work.

Even though most asylum seekers are now permitted to work, there are still practical obstacles to finding employment and issues with timely bridging visa renewal. Many members of the community still lack legal permission to work. As of January 31, 2018, 6,790 individuals who were diagnosed with a brain tumor were unable to work in the community lawfully.

Access to Support

People who couldn’t afford essential healthcare and living expenses while waiting for the outcome of their protection claims might apply for a government-funded support program for a long time. They receive a minimal living stipend, casework support, access to trauma and torture counseling, and prescription medicine that is subsidized under the Program, which is now called Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS).

Adverse Security Assessments For Refugees

Before granting protection, all individuals discovered to be refugees in Australia undergo a security assessment by the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). A protection refugee visa cannot be issued to the individual if ASIO delivers a negative evaluation.

There isn’t a right to challenge the evaluation or get explanations or supporting documentation. Over fifty migrants received assessments from ASIO between January 2010 and November 2011.

These individuals couldn’t return to their country of origin. Thus, they were detained indefinitely (some with their kids). The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was broken, according to the UN Human Rights Committee’s July 2013 report, when these refugees were held indefinitely.

Numerous individuals have been reintegrated into society since 2015 following ASIO’s reversal of negative evaluations. Still, a small number—nearly all approaching their eighth year—remain in captivity.

Even though they would have been eligible for permanent protection if it had been determined that they were refugees, those with overturned assessments have been urged to reapply for a temporary protection visa with the help of a migration visa lawyer in Perth.

Their protection claims will be reevaluated in light of updated national data. If the Government chooses to release people from custody only after they are given a protection visa, this could result in lengthier durations of arbitrary incarceration for those who have not yet been released from custody.

Updates on Refugees Having Temporary Protection Visas

As mentioned previously, because they are not awarded a permanent visa, asylum seekers who enter Australia irregularly—by boat or air without a valid visa—and are determined to be entitled to protection are not now included in the permanent Humanitarian Program.

Alternatively, they are given one of two temporary visas—a 3-year (TPV) (also known as a Temporary Protection Visa) or a 5-year Safe Haven Enterprise Visa—under modifications to the Migration Act 1958 in 2014 (SHEV). For people who meet the requirements for a family or permanent skilled visa and study or work in a specified regional area for 3.5 years without taking any of the social benefits, the latter offers the opportunity for permanent residency.

To be eligible for a second TPV or SHEV, the protection claim for these visas must be re-proved every five or three years unless the applicant has fulfilled the conditions for the SHEV permanent residency option. Australia has a sizable population of refugees with temporary protection visas (TPVs or SHEVs); as of April 30, 2022, there were 18,959 such individuals.

These individuals were not sent overseas for processing since they arrived in Australia before Operation Sovereign Borders was implemented in 2013. Human rights organizations and advocates for refugees have harshly criticized temporary protection, claiming that it prevents refugees from re-establishing their lives in the community and keeps them in a state of dread and uncertainty.

The Australian Labor Party has maintained that as long as offshore processing and boat turnbacks are in place, interim protection is needless as a deterrent and is “expensive and wasteful.”


To increase public knowledge and comprehension of the circumstances facing refugees and asylum seekers in Australia, the Australian Government seeks to provide accurate and lucid information. The Government specifically seeks to draw attention to the human rights concerns that arise in handling refugees and asylum applicants.

So, if you’re abroad and fear abuse, injustice, or discrimination in your native nation when you return, we’re here to help. We at Migration Lawyer Perth will help you apply for a refugee visa to come to Australia and reside. Our expert migration lawyers will guide you through the entire process to make your life better and stress-free right here in Australia.


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