Assistance in Australia and the region

Who does UNHCR help?

What is UNHCR’s role in Australia and New Zealand?

What is UNHCR’s role in the Pacific?

Claiming asylum in the Pacific

Claiming asylum in Australia or New Zealand

Immigration detention in Australia

Offshore Processing

Resettlement

Outside our region

Missing Persons

Rafha Attestations

Information for Palestine refugees

UNHCR Archives

Who does UNHCR help?

UNHCR’s primary purpose is to provide protection and seek solutions by assisting Governments to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. UNHCR also has a supervisory role in respect of the implementation of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

To this end, UNHCR strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and, where necessary, find safe refuge in another country. By assisting refugees settle in another country, UNHCR seeks to protect refugees, and also to provide lasting solutions to their plight.

UNHCR’s Regional Representation in Canberra is responsible for the promotion and protection of refugee rights in the region, which includes Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

In support of UNHCR’s core activities on behalf of refugees and relevant expertise that has been acquired, UNHCR has further involvement with other groups of people who may have protection concerns. These people include asylum-seekers, stateless persons, internally displaced people and returnees (refugees) who may wish to voluntarily return home when it is safe to do so.

In all of its activities UNHCR pays particular attention to the needs of vulnerable persons, including children, and seeks to promote the equal rights of women and girls.

What is UNHCR’s role in Australia and New Zealand?

The Governments of Australia and New Zealand are signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol and have undertaken to adhere to international standards in the protection of asylum-seekers and refugees.  Persons applying for asylum in Australia and New Zealand are subject to the national laws and asylum procedures that are in place.

UNHCR has a supervisory role with regard to the implementation of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in Australia and New Zealand.

What is UNHCR’s role in the Pacific?

In some States, UNHCR acts in a supervisory capacity, while in others it has an operational role. This is determined by the situation in the individual State. Of the 14 Pacific Island Countries* covered by UNHCR’s Regional Representation in Canberra, Fiji, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu are Contracting States to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Nauru and Vanuatu have enacted refugee-specific national legislation and accompanying regulations.

Persons claiming asylum in a Pacific Island Country are subject to the national laws and procedures established in that particular country.

In Pacific Island Countries without national systems to carry out refugee status determinations of persons wishing to claim asylum, UNHCR may assist to assess claims for refugee status.

In other countries, including Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, UNHCR provides assistance to national officials to undertake refugee status determination procedures.

*The 14 Pacific Island countries are Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Claiming asylum in the Pacific

I arrived in Australia or New Zealand and I wish to claim asylum. Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?

The Governments of Australia and New Zealand are both Contracting States to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol and have asylum systems in place to determine whether persons claiming asylum are refugees. UNHCR is not formally involved in determining whether a person is a refugee in Australia or New Zealand.

If you are in Australia and wish to claim asylum in Australia, you must approach the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). Further information is available from DIBP’s website at www.border.gov.au/Trav/Refu

If you are in New Zealand and wish to claim asylum in New Zealand, you must approach the Refugee Status Branch of New Zealand. Further information is available from the Refugee Status Branch website at www.immigration.govt.nz/branch/RSBHome/

To assist you in making a visa application, you may find it useful to seek the assistance of a lawyer or a migration agent.

There is a directory of registered migration agents in Australia that may be accessed from the Australian Migration Agents Registration Authority at www.mara.gov.au

There is also a directory of licensed immigration advisers in New Zealand that may be accessed from the Immigration Advisers Authority at www.iaa.govt.nz

I have applied for refugee status in Australia or New Zealand but my claim has not been successful. Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?

The Governments of Australia and New Zealand have asylum systems to determine whether persons claiming asylum are refugees. These systems provide avenues for review and appeal. The UNHCR Regional Representation in Canberra is not formally involved in determining whether a person is a refugee in Australia or New Zealand. UNHCR does not review individual cases.

To assist you in the appeal process, you may find it useful to seek the assistance of a lawyer or a migration agent.

There is a directory of registered migration agents in Australia that may be accessed from the Australian Migration Agents Registration Authority at www.mara.gov.au

There is also a directory of licensed immigration advisers in New Zealand that may be accessed from the Immigration Advisers Authority at www.iaa.govt.nz

I would like confirmation that I have been registered with UNHCR in another country. Can UNHCR’s Regional Representation in Canberra help me?

UNHCR’s Regional Representation does not have a global database of people registered in all countries. At first instance, you should check your own records, as you will have been provided with confirmation at the time of your registration or refugee recognition. If you no longer have access to your original documentation, UNHCR in Canberra can, in exceptional circumstances, enquire on your behalf with the UNHCR office where you were registered.

If you would like our office to request such confirmation for you, please send the request in writing, with the reasons the documentation is required, to our office.

In order to release any confidential information, UNHCR will need proof of your identity. To provide proof of your identity, we require that you provide us with three copies of your identity documents that have been certified; two of which must contain a recent photo of you.

I am currently in another part of the world and I wish to claim asylum in Australia or New Zealand. Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?

UNHCR in Canberra cannot assist you with claiming asylum in Australia or New Zealand.

Australia and New Zealand have asylum systems to determine whether persons claiming asylum are refugees. UNHCR in Canberra is not formally involved in this process.

To claim asylum in Australia or New Zealand you need to be physically present in the relevant country.

Claiming asylum in Australia or New Zealand

I arrived in Australia or New Zealand and I wish to claim asylum. Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?

The Governments of Australia and New Zealand are both Contracting States to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol and have asylum systems in place to determine whether persons claiming asylum are refugees. UNHCR is not formally involved in determining whether a person is a refugee in Australia or New Zealand.

If you are in Australia and wish to claim asylum in Australia, you must approach the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). Further information is available from DIBP’s website at www.border.gov.au/Trav/Refu

If you are in New Zealand and wish to claim asylum in New Zealand, you must approach the Refugee Status Branch of New Zealand. Further information is available from the Refugee Status Branch website at www.immigration.govt.nz/branch/RSBHome/

To assist you in making a visa application, you may find it useful to seek the assistance of a lawyer or a migration agent.

There is a directory of registered migration agents in Australia that may be accessed from the Australian Migration Agents Registration Authority at www.mara.gov.au

There is also a directory of licensed immigration advisers in New Zealand that may be accessed from the Immigration Advisers Authority at www.iaa.govt.nz

I have applied for refugee status in Australia or New Zealand but my claim has not been successful. Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?

The Governments of Australia and New Zealand have asylum systems to determine whether persons claiming asylum are refugees. These systems provide avenues for review and appeal. The UNHCR Regional Representation in Canberra is not formally involved in determining whether a person is a refugee in Australia or New Zealand. UNHCR does not review individual cases.

To assist you in the appeal process, you may find it useful to seek the assistance of a lawyer or a migration agent.

There is a directory of registered migration agents in Australia that may be accessed from the Australian Migration Agents Registration Authority at www.mara.gov.au

There is also a directory of licensed immigration advisers in New Zealand that may be accessed from the Immigration Advisers Authority at www.iaa.govt.nz

I would like confirmation that I have been registered with UNHCR in another country. Can UNHCR’s Regional Representation in Canberra help me?

UNHCR’s Regional Representation does not have a global database of people registered in all countries. At first instance, you should check your own records, as you will have been provided with confirmation at the time of your registration or refugee recognition. If you no longer have access to your original documentation, UNHCR in Canberra can, in exceptional circumstances, enquire on your behalf with the UNHCR office where you were registered.

If you would like our office to request such confirmation for you, please send the request in writing, with the reasons the documentation is required, to our office.

In order to release any confidential information, UNHCR will need proof of your identity. To provide proof of your identity, we require that you provide us with three copies of your identity documents that have been certified; two of which must contain a recent photo of you.

I am currently in another part of the world and I wish to claim asylum in Australia or New Zealand. Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?

UNHCR in Canberra cannot assist you with claiming asylum in Australia or New Zealand.

Australia and New Zealand have asylum systems to determine whether persons claiming asylum are refugees. UNHCR in Canberra is not formally involved in this process.

To claim asylum in Australia or New Zealand you need to be physically present in the relevant country.

Immigration detention in Australia

I am in immigration detention in Australia. Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?  

UNHCR is not in a position to review individual asylum claims in Australia.

The Governments of Australia and New Zealand have asylum systems to determine whether persons claiming asylum are refugees. These systems provide avenues for review and appeal. The UNHCR Regional Representation in Canberra is not formally involved in determining whether a person is a refugee in Australia or New Zealand. UNHCR does not review individual cases.

To assist you in the appeal process, you may find it useful to seek the assistance of a lawyer or a migration agent. There is a directory of registered migration agents in Australia that may be accessed from the Australian Migration Agents Registration Authority at www.mara.gov.au

UNHCR is also not in a position to investigate individual complaints regarding conditions of detention. UNHCR does, however, visit Australia’s immigration detention centres to monitor whether the treatment of asylum-seekers in detention is in accordance with international standards, and provides recommendations to the Australian Government in this regard.

You may wish to contact the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) if you have concerns regarding conditions of detention. Contact details for the AHRC are as follows:

  •   Phone:1300 656 419 (local call) or (02) 9284 9888
  •   TTY:    1800 620 241 (toll free)
  •   Fax:     (02) 9284 9611
  •   Email:  infoservice@humanrights.gov.au

You may also wish to contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman, which has responsibility for investigating such concerns. Contact details for the Commonwealth Ombudsman are as follows:

  •   Phone:1300 362 072 (calls from mobile phones at mobile phone rates)
  •   Fax:     (02) 6276 0123
  •   SMS:    0413 COM OMB (0413 266 662) (standard carrier rates apply)
  •   Email:  ombudsman@ombudsman.gov.au
  •   Postal:  GPO Box 442, CANBERRA ACT 2601

I am a refugee in immigration detention in Australia due to an adverse security assessment.  Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?

The Government of Australia is a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, and has undertaken to adhere to international standards regarding the protection of refugees. UNHCR has a supervisory role with regard to the implementation of the 1951 Convention in Australia. There is no established process for refugees to be resettled (or relocated) out of Australia.

Although UNHCR is deeply concerned by the prolonged detention of asylum-seekers and refugees in Australia, you are subject to the laws of Australia and may continue to be subject to immigration detention while the Government of Australia finds a solution for you.

UNHCR is involved in on-going discussions with the Government of Australia in relation to the measures being taken to resolve cases where recognized refugees have received adverse security assessments.

Offshore processing

I am an asylum-seeker who has been transferred from Australia to Papua New Guinea or Nauru. Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?

The Governments of Australia, Papua New Guinea and Nauru are signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. UNHCR has a supervisory role regarding the implementation of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees by those Governments.

UNHCR is not a party to the bilateral transfer arrangements between the Governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea, nor between the Governments of Australia and Nauru, and UNHCR is not operationally involved in the assessment of refugee claims of asylum-seekers transferred through those arrangements. The responsibility for the care and protection of asylum-seekers and refugees transferred from Australia to Papua New Guinea or Nauru lies with the authorities of the States involved. This includes responsibility for the physical and mental health and welfare of asylum-seekers and refugees, for the processing of asylum claims and for finding durable solutions for those who are found to be refugees.

UNHCR is not a party to the proposed bilateral arrangements between the Governments of Australia and the United States to relocate refugees currently held in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. The full details of the agreement are not yet known, and UNHCR is not operationally involved.

The proposed arrangement reflects a much-needed, long-term solution for some refugees who have been held in Nauru and Papua New Guinea for over three years and who remain in a precarious situation. It is on this basis that UNHCR will endorse referrals made from Australia to the United States, on a one-off, good offices, humanitarian basis, in light of the acute humanitarian situation. UNHCR’s endorsement of these referrals under the humanitarian imperative does not alter Australia’s obligations under international law, including the right to seek asylum irrespective of the mode of arrival.

Unfortunately, UNHCR is not in a position to assist you directly, but can address concerns raised with relevant government authorities and service providers. UNHCR, however, recommends that you also direct enquiries relating to your situation to the relevant government authorities and service providers in Papua New Guinea or Nauru.

I am an asylum-seeker who has been transferred to Nauru or Papua New Guinea and I wish to make a complaint about the conditions of my detention. Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?

UNHCR is not in the position to investigate individual complaints regarding the conditions of a person’s detention.

UNHCR has a supervisory role regarding the implementation of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. As part of this supervisory role, UNHCR visited the detention facilities at Nauru and Papua New Guinea to monitor their compliance with international standards. Read UNHCR’s monitoring reports.

You may wish to contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman regarding your concerns. Contact details for the Commonwealth Ombudsman are as follows:

  •   Phone:1300 362 072 (calls from mobile phones at mobile phone rates)
  •   Fax:     (02) 6276 0123
  •   SMS:    0413 COM OMB (0413 266 662) (standard carrier rates apply)
  •   Email:  ombudsman@ombudsman.gov.au
  •   Postal:  GPO Box 442, CANBERRA ACT 2601

You may also consider contacting the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Complaint Handling Section.  Contact details for the AHRC are as follows:

  •   Phone:1300 656 419 (local call) or (02) 9284 9888
  •   TTY:    1800 620 241 (toll free)
  •   Fax :    (02) 9284 9611
  •   Email : infoservice@humanrights.gov.au

Resettlement

I am a refugee or asylum-seeker in Australia or New Zealand. Can UNHCR in Canberra resettle me to another country?

UNHCR is not able to resettle (or relocate) refugees, asylum-seekers or failed asylum-seekers from Australia or New Zealand to any other country.

UNHCR’s resettlement programme has limited numbers of places available to it and is geared primarily to the special needs of refugees who have been recognized pursuant to UNHCR’s mandate, and whose life, liberty, safety, health, or fundamental human rights are at risk in the country in which they sought refuge.

Resettlement is primarily used for the protection of refugees in countries of asylum which either do not have legal structures in place for the assessment and protection of refugees, or those in which such structures are ineffective or dysfunctional. Individuals who are not recognized as refugees are generally unable to be considered for resettlement.

Refugees who are in the territory of States with established and functional asylum systems will not meet the criteria for UNHCR resettlement and principal responsibility for their protection rests with the authorities of the host country.

I am a refugee and I wish to be resettled to Australia or New Zealand, but I am outside the countries covered by UNHCR Regional Representation in Canberra. Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?

If you are in a country outside Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea or the Pacific region, as a general rule, the assessment of resettlement needs is undertaken by UNHCR in your country of asylum.

If you are an asylum-seeker or refugee in one of the Pacific Island countries covered by UNHCR in Canberra, please contact our office.

If you are in a country outside UNHCR Canberra’s region, a list of contact details for UNHCR offices is available at the following website: www.unhcr.org/pages/4a324fcc6.html

Resettlement is a solution which is only available to a very small number of refugees.  This is because very few resettlement places are available each year.  They are, therefore, reserved for the most vulnerable cases only, where refugees are at risk in their country of asylum and are also without any prospects of a safe return to their country of origin.  Recognition of refugee status does not necessarily mean that a refugee will be referred for resettlement.

You may wish to consider other avenues by which you may be able to migrate to Australia or New Zealand. If you do so, we recommend you seek the assistance of a migration agent/immigration adviser or lawyer.

I am a refugee and I wish to be resettled to the same country as my family members. Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?

UNHCR places great importance on the unity of nuclear and dependent family units. Nevertheless, resettlement is a solution which is only available to a very small number of refugees. This is because very few resettlement places are available each year. They are, therefore, reserved for the most vulnerable cases only, where refugees are at risk in their country of asylum and are also without any prospects of a safe return to their country of origin. Recognition of refugee status does not necessarily mean that a refugee will be referred for resettlement. Likewise, the fact of a family connection in a resettlement country will be taken into account but will not necessarily be a determining factor in and of itself.

If you are in a different part of the world and have family members living in Australia or New Zealand, you should consider family reunification or sponsored humanitarian migration avenues that may be available to you outside the UNHCR resettlement programme. Your family members in Australia or New Zealand will be able to seek further advice on programmes such as the Special Humanitarian Programme (Australia), Refugee Family Support Category (New Zealand) and family reunification through the general migration programmes of each country. We recommend that your family members in Australia or New Zealand seek further information from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (Australia) or Immigration New Zealand, and that they consider seeking independent legal or migration advice. 

There is a directory of registered migration agents in Australia that may be accessed from the Australian Migration Agents Registration Authority at www.mara.gov.au

There is also a directory of licensed immigration advisers in New Zealand that may be accessed from the Immigration Advisers Authority at www.iaa.govt.nz

With regard to resettlement by UNHCR, assessment of resettlement needs is undertaken by UNHCR in the refugees’ country of asylum and the assessment is primarily based on the difficulties and protection needs faced by the refugees in the country of asylum. The presence of family members in a given resettlement country is a relevant secondary consideration.

Where UNHCR assesses that resettlement is required, please note that refugees are asked for their consent to engage in the process, but are not entitled to choose the country to which they are referred.

UNHCR strongly supports the principle of family unity, especially as regards nuclear and dependent family members, and seeks to keep family members together wherever possible. Where resettlement is needed and where UNHCR has been informed by the refugees of their family links to a given country, this information will be taken into account. There are a number of reasons, however, why it may not always be possible for UNHCR to refer all members of an extended family to the same resettlement country.

Outside our region

I am being subject to persecution but remain in my home country. Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?

To apply for asylum, you need to be outside your country of nationality or habitual residence and have a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of your race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion and be unable or, owing to such fear, be unwilling to return to that country.

UNHCR’s mandate therefore restricts our capacity to provide protection and assistance where a person remains inside their home country.  It is noted, however, that in some very limited circumstances UNHCR may assist internally displaced persons.

However, if a person finds themselves outside of their home country and wishes to claim asylum, we recommend that they contact the nearest UNHCR Office for more information about the process of claiming asylum.

A list of contact details for UNHCR offices is available at www.unhcr.org/pages/4a324fcc6.html

If you are in your home country but have family members living in Australia or New Zealand, we suggest that you consider family reunification or humanitarian migration avenues outside the UNHCR resettlement programme. You or your family members should approach the authorities of the Australian or New Zealand governments for further information, and we also suggest that your family members living in Australia or New Zealand seek independent legal or migration advice.

I am a refugee or asylum-seeker in a country of asylum which is outside those covered by UNHCR Regional Representation in Canberra. Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?

UNHCR Regional Representation in Canberra has responsibility for the region comprising Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. As you are currently outside of this region, UNHCR in Canberra is limited in the assistance it can provide in this instance.

If you would like further information and assistance regarding the process of claiming asylum, or if you have concerns regarding your physical safety or legal status, we recommend that you contact UNHCR in your country of asylum.

A list of contact details for UNHCR offices is available at the following website: www.unhcr.org/pages/4a324fcc6.html

I wish to make a complaint about the conduct of a UNHCR staff member overseas. Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?

UNHCR in Canberra is unable to investigate complaints regarding the conduct of UNHCR staff members overseas. We recommend that you direct your enquiry to the Inspector General’s Office (IGO).

The IGO, based in UNHCR’s Geneva headquarters, is mandated to prevent mismanagement, investigate allegations of misconduct by anyone working for UNHCR (including non-permanent staff), and conduct inquiries into other types of incidents that could affect the reputation and integrity of the organization. The IGO’s investigation service is responsible for receiving and looking into allegations of misconduct by UNHCR personnel.

Contact details for the IGO are as follows:

  •   Hotline: +41 22 739 88 44
  •   Confidential fax:+41 22 739 73 80
  •   Confidential email: Inspector@unhcr.org
  •   In person or by post:94 rue de Montbrillant, CP 2500, 1211 Geneva
  •   Mark all mail: CONFIDENTIAL

Missing Persons

I believe my friend or family member travelled to Australia via boat but now they are missing. What can I do to find them?

UNHCR recommends that you contact the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) in relation to your enquiry and fill out the form available at the following link: www.border.gov.au/about/corporate/information/forms/online/persons-suspected-missing-while-sailing-to-australia-online-report

Rafha Attestations

I was a refugee in the Rafha Camp in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s and require documentation attesting to this for the purposes of compensation with the Iraqi Government. Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?

If you require an attestation to support your application for the Government of Iraq’s compensation scheme, you should address your request to the Political Prisoners’ Foundation, which is the official focal point designated by the Government of Iraq to handle this matter and/or to Iraq diplomatic representations abroad.

More information on how to apply to the Government of Iraq’s compensation scheme can be obtained from the website of the Political Prisoners’ Foundation available at www.ppf.gov.iq/ or by contacting its coordinator at coordinator.ppf@gmail.com.

Information for Palestine refugees

I am a Palestine refugee in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon or Syria. Can UNHCR in Canberra assist me?

The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention) contains certain provisions whereby persons otherwise having the characteristics of refugees are excluded from the benefits of the Convention. These provisions exclude individuals who are receiving protection or assistance from organs or agencies of the United Nations other than UNHCR.

Palestine refugees who are receiving protection or assistance from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) are excluded from the benefits of the 1951 Convention. UNRWA services are available to all persons falling within the definition of a Palestine refugee, living in its areas of operations, who are registered with the Agency and need assistance. For further information about UNRWA, please see the following website: www.unrwa.org/

As such, if you fall within the protection of UNRWA, UNHCR is not in a position to provide assistance to you. Should you have concerns in relation to your physical safety or legal status, we recommend that you contact the UNRWA field office in your region. For further contact details, please see the following website: www.unrwa.org/contact-us

Refugees who do not meet the definition of a Palestine refugee and thus do not enjoy UNRWA’s protection or assistance would, however, be entitled to the benefits of the Refugee Convention. If you fall within this category, we encourage you to contact the UNHCR office in your region. A list of contact details for UNHCR offices is available at the following website: www.unhcr.org/pages/4a324fcc6.html.

You may also wish to consider other avenues by which you may be able to migrate to Australia. Further information is available from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s website: www.immi.gov.au/. To assist you in making a visa application, you may find it useful to seek the assistance of a lawyer or a migration agent.

UNHCR Archives

I have an enquiry regarding UNHCR’s archives. Can UNHCR’s Regional Office in Canberra assist me?

UNHCR’s Archives and Records section is located in Geneva. Their contact details are as follows:

 

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The information presented in this website is general in nature and may not be applicable in particular circumstances. We advise you to contact UNHCR’s Regional Representation in Canberra for further advice and/or assistance regarding specific issues or needs you may have.