[Prefatory Notes: This post comes in response to a few incidents people have brought to my attention over the last year or so. Briefly, those people have approached or have been approached by migration (visa) service providers to help them in applying for Refugee Visas to Australia. Each applicant has been charged incredibly high service fees in return for preparing and lodging a visa application based, according to the applicants, on what clearly are deceptive representations by the migration service providers. I hope the following lines would help in averting further exploitation of many who have found themselves in dire circumstances and are seeking their very right to a better future for themselves and their families]
The prolonged violent conflicts in today’s world, especially in Syria and Iraq, have recently culminated in an unprecedented rise in the number of refugees and internally displaced people since World War II. Some of them have considered Australia as a place to call home. There is, probably, no need to state that the number of inquiries I have been receiving in relation to the Australian refugee visa has been intensely overwhelming. Many of these inquiries are coming either form people experiencing inadequate or rather sometimes dreadful conditions, possibly in a war zone, or from Syrian nationals who are residing outside Syria and understandably expecting the worst from the ordeal of their country and its long-term repercussions for their lives. Yet, despite the fact that the legitimacy of the majority of cases was unquestionable, upon careful consideration of each individual case I did not advise, or encourage, to apply for a Refugee Visa to Australia as the prospect of positive outcomes was very negligible, if not nil.
Also, I have been contacted by people who have fallen victim to what may amount, under Australian Law, to migration fraud. They have been identified as easy preys by incompetent migration service providers who claim to have knowledge of the Australian visa system and have been charged enormous amount for service fees (over USD10.000 in some cases) in exchange for helping the applicants prepare and submit Refugee Visa applications. Disconcertingly, a migration service provider claims to have offices in different parts of the world, including Australia and Europe, demands the service fees be transferred to countries in the Middle East or Africa and uses multiple email addresses some of which can easily be confused with official email addresses of the immigration authority of Australia.
This post sheds some light on the very basic requirement of Australian Offshore Refugee Visa. It is written to help those who are outside Australia and considering applying for a refugee visa avoid falling victim to migration fraud and exploitation. If you are in Australia and seeking information about the Onshore Protection visa please contact the writer for more information.
Australia is a signatory to the UNHCR Refugee Convention 1951 including its protocols and amendments. Therefore, it is under international obligation to accept asylum seekers for permanent resettlement, provided that they are genuine refugees. Australian Refugee and Humanitarian Program is offering 13750 refugee visas this financial year, 2015-2016. Also, in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, the Government has announced additional 12000 Refugee visas to be granted over the next two years to refugees impacted by the conflict in Syria. Some see that the additional 12000 refugee places are generous and in proportion to Australian capacity to settle refugees while others, on the other hand, are very disappointed and believe that Australia can and should be more accommodating. No matter where one stands on this issue, let’s explore who qualifies for refugee visa to Australia and to whom this visa is granted. Please note that the visa’s criteria are much more complex than they would appear in this post. For the sake of brevity, I am presenting the basic visa requirement in the most simplistic possible form.
The primary requirement of the grant of this visa is that the visa applicant (or any family member) meets the definition of refugee as described by the Geneva Refugee Convention 1951 . For further information please refer to http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10.html and
The Definition of a Refugee:
International legal protection of refugees centres on a person meeting the criteria for refugee status as laid down in the 1951 Refugee Convention. Under Article 1(A)2, the term “refugee” shall apply to any person who:
“...owing to 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 nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”
Thus, according to this provision, refugees are defined by three basic characteristics:
• they are outside their country of origin or outside the country of their former habitual residence;
• they are unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted; and
• the persecution feared is based on at least one of five grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.
The Definition clearly states that in order for a person to qualify for a refugee status, the person should be outside his/her country of citizenship or outside the country in which they lived in habitually. For example, a Syrian citizen who resides in Syria or an Iraqi citizen who resides in Iraq cannot satisfy the basic requirement for refugee visa. Furthermore, a Syrian citizen, or otherwise including family members, who works (on work visa) in Saudi Arabia(KSA) or any other country is highly unlikely to meet the refugee definition and hence will not be considered for refugee visa as he will be taken to be living in the country of habitual residency. The situation becomes different if a Syrian person is subject to severe, imminent persecution or imprisonment in KSA, or another country, for committing an act that is not considered a crime under Australian Law and this person had his visa in KSA cancelled and cannot return to his home country(Syria in this example), then in this case this person may meet the definition of refugee.
What should be noted here is that all refugee visa applications made by, or on behalf of, applicants who have no prospect of being assessed as refugees in light of the above refugee definition, will have no chance to have their visa applications approved and any presentation to the contrary made by anyone who is expected to have knowledge in the Australian migration law or visa system DOES NOT and WILL NOT serve the interest of the applicants.
There are provisions in the Australian Refugee and Humanitarian Program that allow asylum seekers who are subject to persecution inside their home countries to be granted humanitarian visa, provided those applicants being proposed by a person or organisation in Australia. This visa category is usually intended for applicants who have strong connections to Australia and therefore, for the purpose of this post, there is no need to elaborate more on this visa type.
The Role Of UNHCR:
UNHCR is the international agency in charge of solving the refugees problem worldwide. One of its primary responsibilities is to refer refugees for resettlement to third countries. Australia relies heavily and works closely with UNHCR in implementing the Refugee and Humanitarian Immigration program. It is in fact the Immigration Department general policy to only accept refugee though UNHCR. This is further stressed in the Australian Foreign Ministry announcement to take additional 12000 refugee affected by the crisis in Syria. Click on the link for further information http://foreignminister.gov.au/releases/Pages/2015/jb_mr_150909a.aspx.
In other words, given the enormous number of refugees registered with and assessed by UNHCR for resettlement, unless the applicant is referred to the Australian immigration office by UNHCR the chances of achieving positive outcomes for most applications filed, without UNHCR referral, are close to zero
UNHCR generally follows a comprehensive and detailed protocol in assessing any asylum seeker claim. This, in most cases, necessitates few interviews with the applicant over an extended period of time. The initial registration with UNHCR as an asylum seeker does not by itself mean that the person is determined as a refugee and will be automatically referred for resettlement to Australia or another country.
It is vital to know that any person, regardless of their nationalities or place of residence, can apply for Australian refugee visa and all applications will be considered by the immigration officers provided that the application has been completed and submitted according to the instructions stated on the relevant application form(s). There is no application fee payable for refugee visa. It is even more important to know that considering or processing visa applications does not indicate, and should not be understood as, the visa will be granted to the applicant. Some applications can take months or even years in processing and a visa can only be granted when all the criteria of the grant of a visa are satisfied by each applicant. Thus, if the applicant cannot meet the definition of refugee as outlined above, the application for refugee visa will eventually be refused.
Again, this article is written with one thing in mind; that is, to prevent any future exploitation of vulnerable intended migrants by deceptive, dishonest migration service providers who offer no help despite their extraordinarily exorbitant service fees.The information provided in this article is not comprehensive and cannot be relied upon as an advice for a visa of any kind. Should this article raise any concern, please contact the author for clarification
For more about Australian refugee visa please visit: http://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa-1/200-
For more information about migration fraud and scam please visit: http://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa/migration-fraud-and-scams.
To find a Registered Migration Agent in Australia or any part of the world please visit https://www.mara.gov.au