Australia's response to the Syrian and Iraqi humanitarian crisis

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Australia's contribution

On 9 September 2015, the Australian Government announced that it will make an extra 12,000 humanitarian places available in response to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. People in the 12,000 place intake will be granted a permanent visa.

These places are in addition to the existing Humanitarian Programme intake of 13,750.

On 4 February 2016, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, announced a further $25 million in response to the Syria and Iraq humanitarian crises. This assistance will help in continuing to deliver protection services, shelter, food, health support and education to vulnerable populations in the region impacted by conflict.

The announcement brings Australia’s total humanitarian response to the Syria and Iraq crisis to $258 million:

  • $213 million in response to the Syria crisis since 2011
  • $45 million in response to the Iraq crisis since 2014.

The Australian Government is working closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration and other partners to deliver on this commitment. Additional staff have been deployed to posts in the Middle East to expedite processing of applications for these additional Humanitarian Programme places.

Recent events

The first families granted visas as part of the additional 12,000 humanitarian places for those displaced by conflict in Syria and Iraq arrived in Australia in November 2015.

There is now a regular flow of visa grants to Syrians and Iraqis under the 2015-16 Humanitarian Programme and the additional 12,000 humanitarian places.

It is important that our new arrivals are given time to adjust to their new life in Australia and that the community and media respect their privacy.

Before a visa is granted, applicants for resettlement in Australia are required to meet all criteria for a Refugee and Humanitarian visa, including health, character and security checks.

The Australian Government takes our national security extremely seriously and has made clear from the outset that security and character checks of the additional 12,000 humanitarian will not be compromised.

Rigorous security checks are conducted prior to arrival in Australia at a number of key visa processing points. This includes the collection and checking of biometric data such as facial images and fingerprints.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection works closely with relevant Australian agencies and international partners in conducting security checks, including the checking of biometric data.

For all offshore humanitarian applicants, these checks are supplemented by an interview with Australian departmental officers where claims for resettlement and identity are assessed.

Eligibility and prioritisation

Priority for 12,000 Humanitarian Programme places will be given to people displaced by the conflict in Syria and Iraq who are:

  • assessed as being most vulnerable – persecuted minorities, women, children and families with the least prospect of ever returning safely to their homes
  • located in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Applicants will be required to meet all of the standard criteria for a Refugee and Humanitarian visa, including health, character and security checks. These checks will be conducted before people are granted visas to enter Australia.

All applications are assessed on an individual basis – in line with Australia’s existing refugee and humanitarian policies. The Humanitarian Programme intake includes people from a broad range of religious and ethnic backgrounds. A person’s religion or ethnicity can be relevant to the nature of their individual claims.

Every year, many more people apply to be resettled under Australia's Humanitarian Programme than Australia can accept. The limited number of places available and the high demand for these places means that not everyone can be accepted.

Visa processing arrangements

For planning purposes the 12,000 places will be available to refugees, many of whom are referred by the UNHCR, and to persons proposed under the Special Humanitarian Programme.

People referred for resettlement by the UNHCR

There are millions of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey who are registered with the UNHCR. The Australian Government is working closely with the UNHCR to identify refugees in these countries who are the most vulnerable and in greatest need of resettlement.

Refugee visa applicants including those people referred by the UNHCR for resettlement in Australia will be required to meet all criteria for a Refugee visa (subclass 200), including health, character and security requirements. These criteria must be met before visas can be granted.

People proposed for resettlement under the Special Humanitarian Programme (SHP)

Australian citizens or permanent residents over the age of 18, eligible New Zealand citizens and organisations operating in Australia are able to propose persons for resettlement under the Special Humanitarian Programme.

Priority for the limited places available under the Special Humanitarian Programme is generally given to applicants proposed by close family members.

People eligible for resettlement under the Special Humanitarian Programme can be registered with the UNHCR, but it is not a requirement.

The limited number of Special Humanitarian Programme places available and the high demand for these places means that not everyone can be accepted.

People who have already applied for a Global Special Humanitarian visa (subclass 202) will continue to be considered and do not need to do anything more.

There is no need for Special Humanitarian Programme applicants or proposers to contact us unless:

  • we ask them to provide further information or attend an interview
  • they need to tell us about a change in their circumstances.

Applicants and proposers who need to advise us of a change to their contact details can send an email to victoria.ohpc@border.gov.au.

People previously refused a Global Special Humanitarian visa

People who previously lodged an application for a Global Special Humanitarian visa under the Special Humanitarian Programme that was refused will need to apply again if they want to be considered.

People who will not be considered

The additional 12,000 humanitarian places will not be offered to people in Australia or regional processing countries who travelled to Australia illegally by boat.

The policy of Operation Sovereign Borders has not changed.

It remains Australia's policy to safely turn back boats or send people to another country for processing and resettlement.

People who are citizens of, or have a right of residence in, a country where it is safe for them to live, will not be considered for one of these humanitarian places.

People who are still in Syria and Iraq

Priority is being given to those displaced by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and temporarily located in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Our capacity to consider people who are currently living in Syria and Iraq is very limited due to security concerns and the destruction of infrastructure.

Timeframes for processing and resettlement

The Australian Government is working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration and other partners to process and resettle 12,000 individuals displaced by the conflict in Syria and Iraq as quickly as practicable.

Applicants for resettlement will be required to meet all criteria for a Refugee and Humanitarian visa, including health, character and security checks. These checks must be completed before individuals enter Australia.

Rigorous security checks are being conducted by Australian government agencies at a number of key points during visa processing, including the checking of biometric data. The Government takes our national security extremely seriously and our health, character and security checks will not be compromised.

Most applications will take a number of months to process. It is not possible to be more precise than this because processing time varies according to the circumstances of individual applicants.

Settlement services in Australia

People resettled under this programme will be eligible to access the same benefits and support provided to other people arriving under Australia's offshore Humanitarian Programme. These include Medicare, income support payments, English language tuition, torture and trauma counselling and settlement services.

The Department of Social Services (DSS) is responsible for providing settlement support and assistance to people who come to Australia under the offshore Humanitarian Programme. The DSS website has information about what people in the Australian community can to do assist.

Telephone enquiry line

We have introduced a dedicated telephone line for people who have questions about the visa processing aspects of Australia's response to the Syrian and Iraqi humanitarian crisis. If you have questions about visa processing that are not answered on our website, call 131 881 (within Australia).