Syrian/Iraqi humanitarian crisis

Learn more about the Syrian / Iraqi humanitarian crisis and what you can do to help.

  1. What is the Syrian/Iraqi humanitarian crisis?
  2. What is Australia doing to help?
  3. How will the 12,000 humanitarian entrants be supported to settle in Australia?
  4. What can I do?
  5. What can my community do to help?
  6. Media Hub

1. What is the Syrian/Iraqi humanitarian crisis?

The conflicts occurring in Syria and Iraq represent one of the worst humanitarian disasters of our time. More than 11 million people have become displaced due to these conflicts, with most people fleeing to neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

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2. What is Australia doing to help?

On 9 September 2015, the Australian Government announced that a total of 12,000 additional Humanitarian Program places would be made available for those who have been displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Priority for the additional 12,000 Humanitarian Program places is being given to people who are assessed as being the most vulnerable – women, children and families with the least prospect of ever returning safely to their homes.

These 12,000 permanent places are in addition to the 'base' 13,750 places available under Australia’s 2016–17 Humanitarian Program. Australia’s base Humanitarian Program will rise to 16,250 places in 2017-18 and will rise to 18,750 places in 2018-19.

Australia is also providing support to more than 240,000 Syrian and Iraqi people who have been forced to flee their homes or seek refuge in neighbouring countries. Funding of around $69 million will deliver much needed food, water, healthcare, education, emergency supplies and protection, including support for women and children. Australia’s contribution to addressing the humanitarian crises in Syria and Iraq is approximately $258 million since 2011. For more information visit the Department of Foreign Affairs’ website.

The Australian Government’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook committed a total of $827 million over four years (2015-16 to 2018-19) to support the 12,000 additional intake, including $142 million for the provision of settlement services.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is responsible for ensuring all applicants for resettlement meet the criteria for Refugee and Humanitarian visas, including health, character and security checks. These checks are thorough and are conducted before individuals are granted a visa to enter Australia. The Australian Government takes our national security extremely seriously and has made clear from the outset that security and character checks of humanitarian entrants will not be compromised.

3. How will the 12,000 humanitarian entrants be supported to settle in Australia?

Australia’s approach to the settlement of migrants and humanitarian entrants is based on several key principles, including providing support based on need, fostering participation in Australian society as soon as possible, fostering welcoming communities and drawing on the valuable skills and expertise of civil society to provide services and support.  

It is important to remember that these people are seeking refuge from situations of conflict and trauma that many Australians would find hard to imagine. Some may require an extended period of adjustment once they arrive. Our priority is to support them through this time.

Humanitarian entrants settled in Australia are permanent residents and as such have access to Medicare and income support benefits as any other Australian citizen or permanent resident. They are also eligible to receive English language training, torture and trauma counselling and a range of settlement services that are managed by the Department of Social Services (DSS).

All newly arrived refugees are eligible to receive initial, intensive settlement assistance through the Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) program in their first year in Australia. HSS is delivered by service providers under contract to DSS.  These service providers have long standing experience working with new arrivals and assisting them to integrate successfully into the Australian community.

Initial settlement support is provided to humanitarian entrants for the first six to 12 months on a needs basis and may include: arrival reception and assistance; assistance with finding accommodation (short and long term); property induction; providing an initial food package and start-up pack of household goods; assistance to register with Centrelink, Medicare, health services, banks and schools; orientation to life in Australia; and linking with community and recreation programs through the HSS program. HSS providers also link new arrivals with the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) which is administered by the Department of Education and Training.

Assisting humanitarian entrants to source suitable accommodation and providing orientation on tenancy rights and responsibilities is a key component of the HSS program. Accommodation services delivered by HSS service providers have historically managed increases and fluctuations in the Humanitarian Program. HSS service providers employ a range of accommodation models such as short term arrangements or assisting humanitarian entrants into the private rental market. Offers to house new arrivals within private homestay arrangements will therefore not be needed.

These services are designed to provide humanitarian entrants with the assistance they need to build a life in Australia. They aim to assist clients to become self-reliant and participate equally in Australian society and minimise longer-term reliance on support services. Refugees and other humanitarian entrants do not receive higher benefits than other social security recipients. They have the same entitlements as all other Australian permanent residents. Refugees do not have their rental bonds automatically paid for by the government, nor do they receive a lump sum payment from the government upon arrival.

4. What can I do to help?

Since the announcement, the response from communities across Australia has been heartfelt and generous. It reflects the long standing tradition of pitching in and helping others in times of need.

The needs of people arriving are varied, as are the ways in which you may be able to help, for example through participating in volunteer support programs such as the Home Tutor Scheme that assist people to learn English, homework clubs, mentoring programs or through sport and recreation programs.

Community Hubs

Community Hubs enable refugees and new migrants to fully participate in Australian life. Community Hubs assist people to access government and other services within their local community and provide services ranging from playgroups for pre-school children with multi-lingual storytelling, through to English classes, sewing groups and coffee circles. Hub trained staff and volunteers provide support, advice and mentoring.

There are currently 42 Community Hubs in highly diverse suburbs in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Community Hubs are critical in helping Syrian and Iraqi refugee families to transition into Australian life and working with them in their journey beyond immediate settlement.

6. Media Hub

The Media Hub houses all media releases, FAQs and background information for media.

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