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Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to all your frequently asked questions.

What is Settlement?

Settlement is a dynamic, multi-faceted, ongoing process of people’s transition moving to a new country. It is a two-way process for both the settlers and their new communities.

What are Settlement Services?

Settling in a new country can be a stressful process. Settlement services are a range of services aimed at supporting people of refugee backgrounds and newly arrived migrants. Our members include agencies, large and small, who are committed to the successful settlement of refugees and migrants across the country. Their services range from greeting new arrivals at the airport, through to assisting them to secure housing, access services and find their first job.

How do Australia’s settlement services compare with the rest of the world?

Australia is one of the 28 countries in the world that offer resettlement programmes and consistently appears among the top three resettlement countries in the world.

States like Australia that offer settlement services to assist with resettlement provide legal and physical protection, including access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights to refugees and migrants that are similar to these services provided to their citizens.

Settlement services provided by Australia are world class and include a range of support programs and services that very few other countries provide. Whilst there is always room for improvement, Australians can be proud of the support we provide to help assist newly arrived people from refugee and migrant backgrounds to settle in Australia.

Who is a refugee?

Asylum seekers or refugees and migrants have very different experiences and reasons for moving to another country.

Migrants choose to leave their home country, and can choose where to go and when they might return to their home country. Australia has a long history of accepting migrants.

Asylum seekers and refugees, on the other hand, flee their country for their own safety and cannot return unless the situation that forced them to leave improves.

Under international law, a person becomes a refugee at the time the person fits the definition of refugee.

The United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, as amended by its 1967 Protocol (the Refugee Convention), defines who is a refugee and sets out the basic rights that countries should guarantee to refugees. According to the Convention, a refugee is a person who is outside their own country and is unable or unwilling to return due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership of a particular social group or
  • Political opinion.

The term ‘asylum seeker’ is used to describe people who has fled their own country and applied for protection as a refugee, but whose claims have not yet been recognised by a government.

What are Australia’s human rights obligations in relation to asylum seekers and refugees?

Australia has international obligations to protect the human rights of all asylum seekers and refugees who arrive in Australia, regardless of how or where they arrive and whether they arrive with or without a visa.

While asylum seekers and refugees are in Australian territory (or otherwise engage Australia's jurisdiction), the Australian Government has obligations under various international treaties to ensure that their human rights are respected and protected.

These treaties include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). These rights include the right not to be arbitrarily detained.

As a party to the Refugee Convention, Australia has agreed to ensure that asylum seekers who meet the definition of a refugee are not sent back to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened. This is known as the principle of non-refoulement.

Australia also has obligations not to return people who face a real risk of violation of certain human rights under the ICCPR, the CAT and the CRC, and not to send people to third countries where they would face a real risk of violation of their human rights under these instruments. These obligations also apply to people who have not been found to be refugees.

How many refugees does Australia grant permanent protection to each year?

Under the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s (DIBP) Humanitarian Programme, Australia accepts a certain number of people every year who are refugees or have special humanitarian needs.

The Humanitarian Programme intake numbers are set each year. These numbers are influenced by UNHCR assessment of resettlement needs overseas, the views of organisations within Australia conveyed during community consultations and Australia’s capacity to assist.

The Humanitarian Programme has two main components:

  • offshore resettlement for people who are found to be refugees (and others whose need for protection has been acknowledged) in another country before they come to Australia, and
  • onshore protection for people who come to Australia with a valid visa and make a successful claim for asylum after they arrive.

In addition, asylum seekers who arrived in Australia without a valid visa (prior to offshore detention policies being implemented) but are not transferred to Nauru or Manus Island may be granted Temporary Protection Visas or Safe Haven Enterprise visas.

In 2015–16, the Humanitarian Programme was set at 13,750 places. A total of 13,765 visas were granted under the annual Humanitarian Programme, of which 11,762 visas were granted under the offshore component and 2003 visas were granted under the onshore component.

In addition, 3790 humanitarian visas were granted in 2015–16 under the Government's commitment to provide an additional 12,000 visa places for people displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq. This brought the total number of Humanitarian visas granted in 2015–16 to 17,555 (15,552 offshore).

In 2015–16, 1277 visas were granted to Woman at Risk visa applicants. The Government had committed to granting at least 1200 woman at risk places in 2015–16.

In 2015–16, a total of 77,026 people lodged applications under the offshore programme component compared with 62,946 in 2014–15.

Humanitarian Programme figures
Humanitarian Programme grants by category 2011–12 to 2015–16
Category 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16
Refugee 5,993 11,980 6,491 5,994 8,284
Special Humanitarian Programme 714 503 4,505 5,007 7,268
Onshore 7,037 7,505 2,751 2,747 2,003
Total 13,744 19,988 13,747 13,748 17,555
Source: DIBP

Where do Australia’s refugees come from?

In line with global resettlement needs the top regions Australia’s refugees come from include: Asia, Middle East and Africa. Under Australia’s Humanitarian Programme 2015-16 refugees’ countries of birth were:

2015–16 offshore visa grants by top ten countries of birth
Countries Number of visas granted
Iraq 4358
Syria 4261
Burma (Myanmar) 1951
Afghanistan 1714
Congo (DRC) 657
Bhutan 515
Somalia 437
Iran 337
Ethiopia 337
Eritrea 291
Other 694
Total 15,552

Why become a member of SCoA?

SCOA offers a strong voice for settlement service providers across Australia, lobbying government to influence settlement policy, as well as working tirelessly to promote the capacity and capability of the sector, organise training and networking opportunities and foster innovation in settlement service delivery. Being a SCOA member provides you with the opportunity to:
  • Inform the development of SCOA’s policies and positions;
  • Receive updates on policy, events, issues and other things of interest;
  • Participate in SCOA’s teleconferences, webinars and meetings on policy, service and research issues;
  • Provide input into a SCOA’s reports and submissions; and
  • Make contributions to our regular e-newsletter highlighting the work of settlement providers across Australia.
Click for more information on Member Benefits.

Who can be a member of SCOA?

SCoA is the peak body representing over 97 of Australia’s leading settlement service providers. Our members include agencies, big and small, who are committed to the successful settlement of humanitarian migrants across the country. Their services range from greeting new arrivals at the airport, through to assisting them to secure housing, access services and find their first jobs. SCOA’s aim is to provide leadership for the sector and represent a unified voice for the many and varied organisations providing settlement services across the country. We take this task seriously, and attempt to ensure that in all of our dealings with government and other stakeholders, our members’ interests are promoted as being of paramount importance. There are two types of SCOA membership: Full and Associate.
  • Full membership is open to all organisations play a key role in delivering settlement services.
  • Associate membership is open to other relevant organisations that share the objectives of SCOA.
Full membership of entitles the organisation to vote at SCOA General Meetings and to nominate a representative of the organisation for membership of the SCOA National Executive. Being an Associate Member entitles organisations to many of the benefits of Full Members, but Associate Members cannot vote at General Meetings or nominate a representative for membership of the National Executive. To apply to become a member, please complete an application form.  For more details about membership, click here to go to the membership page.