Refugees in Australia

14 June, 2009

Vietnamese boat people in Darwin Harbour aboard several small wooden fishing vessels which brought 259 Vietnamese to Australian in one week in November 1977
Vietnamese boat people in Darwin Harbour aboard several small wooden fishing vessels which brought 259 Vietnamese to Australian in one week in November 1977
Image: National Archives of Australia
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: How many refugees come to Australia each year?

Answer: Australia’s permanent immigration program has two components – “migration” for skilled, family and special eligibility stream migrants, and “humanitarian” for refugees and others in humanitarian need. Since the end of World War II, more than 680,000 immigrants have arrived in Australia under humanitarian programs, many as refugees. 13,014 humanitarian visas were granted during the 2007–2008 migration program. Of these, 6,014 were refugees.

The United Nations’ 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees defines a refugee as a person who has “a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside his or her country of nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

As one of the signatory countries to this convention, Australia provides protection for asylum-seekers who meet the United Nations definition of a refugee.  An asylum-seeker is someone who has made a claim to refugee status and is waiting for that claim to be processed.

The UNHCR estimated that 11,390,700 people worldwide were refugees at the beginning of 2008. A further 740,100 people were in the process of seeking asylum. Globally, the top five countries of origin for refugees were Afghanistan, Iraq, Columbia, Sudan and Somalia. Refugees were most likely to seek asylum in Pakistan, Syria, Iran, Germany and Jordon.

In comparison to these countries Australia receives few asylum claims. The major source countries of humanitarian immigrants to Australia in recent years have been China, Sri Lanka, India and Iraq.

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debbie nicholas 7 November, 2010 18:43
As a S&E teacher I would use this site as a resource in my classroom
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caitlin 29 July, 2012 17:09
EXTREMELY INTERESTING!!!
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minh nguyen 25 January, 2014 17:25
Hi, there were 2 groups of Vietnamese refugee boats that arrived in Darwin in Nov 1977. There were 3 boats in each group. The 1st 3 boats arrived approximately 1 day before the other. I was among the people in the first 3 boats. I wonder if there is any information such as photos or documentary records about those refugees. Much appreciated. Thanks, Minh Nguyen
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Discovery Centre 27 January, 2014 14:28
Hello Minh - one of our volunteer researchers has had a look into the refugee arrival in Darwin 1977, and we found that SBS has a program called Once upon time which has some references to the arrivals in Darwin which may include what you are looking for; or otherwise you may wish to contact the National Archives of Australia to see what documentation might be available.