Under international law, Australia is obliged to ensure a person found to be a refugee is not unwillingly sent back to their country of origin.
SBS Learn
3 Jun 2015 - 2:25 PM  UPDATED 24 Sep 2015 - 11:55 AM

The terms "refugees" and "asylum seekers" are often used interchangeably but they have quite distinct meanings.

Refugees are people who have been forced to leave their countries because they have been persecuted.

The 1951 UN Convention defines a refugee as: “Any person who owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country.”

An asylum seeker is a person who has fled their own country and applies to the government of another country for protection as a refugee. The term asylum seeker refers to all people who apply for refugee protection, whether or not they are officially determined to be refugees.

The two most common ways for an asylum seeker to seek refugee status in Australia is to arrive by boat or by plane, and on arrival announce their claim as a refugee. Arriving in Australia with refugee status already granted, tends to refer to people who have been pre-determined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as a refugee in either a refugee camp or by registering with the UNHCR in neighbouring country to their country of origin.

Refugee camps and countries where a person can register with UNHCR does not guarantee safety and only offers an in-transit options.

One per cent of the world’s refugees directly benefited from resettlement.

The main beneficiaries of the UNHCR resettlement program were refugees from Myanmar (24,800), Iraq (23,000), Bhutan (17,500), Somalia (5500), Eritrea (2500), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2500).

Australia's intake

In 2010, Australia received only 1% (10,995) of new asylum applications worldwide. That places Australia 25th in the world for the number of asylum applications it received and 51st based on wealth per capita.

As a percentage of our overall immigration intake, Australia accepts fewer refugees under the Gillard Government than we did under Howard. Refugees made up 7.6% of the total immigration program under Howard, compared with 6.6% under Gillard—this is close to its lowest level in 35 years.