Refugee Settlement Media Hub

The Australian Government has committed to resettling an additional 12,000 refugees who are fleeing the conflict in Syria and Iraq. These 12,000 permanent places are in addition to the existing annual Humanitarian Program intake.

The Department of Social Services has responsibility for the settlement of refugees in Australia.

This page provides media with information and resources about the settlement process and details of Australia’s humanitarian intake from Syria and Iraq.

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Media enquiries can be emailed to the Department’s media inbox: media@dss.gov.au

Journalists can also call the media hotline on (02) 6146 8080 during business hours.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The Syrian and Iraqi Humanitarian intake

Q. How many refugees are coming to Australia?

A. Australia is settling an additional 12,000 refugees as announced by the Australian Government in September 2015. These 12,000 places are in addition to the existing Humanitarian Program of 13,750 in 2015-16 and 13,750 in 2016-17.

Q. How many of the additional 12,000 refugees have resettled in Australia?

A. The following figures are updated monthly.

Between 1 July 2015 and 2 December 2016, 17,436 visas have been granted to people displaced by conflict in Syria and Iraq:

  • 10,092 towards the additional 12,000 places (November 2015 – 2 December 2016)
  • 2494 under the 2016-17 Humanitarian Program to date
  • 4850 under the 2015-16 Humanitarian Program.

In this time, 14,099 people have arrived in Australia:

  • 8317 as part of the additional 12,000 places (November 2015 – 2 December 2016)
  • 2576* arrivals in 2016-17 to date under the annual humanitarian program
  • 3206*^ arrivals in 2015-16 under the annual humanitarian program.

*note: arrivals early in a program year may have been granted a visa in the preceding program year.   

^note: there is a slight variation in the 2015-16 program year arrival figures due to a time lag between the transfer of arrival data from DIBP to DSS systems.

As at 2 December 2016, a further 5158 people have been interviewed and assessed as meeting threshold requirements for a visa, and are awaiting the outcomes of health, character and/or security checks.

Q. Where are the refugees coming from?

A. The additional 12,000 places are for people who have been displaced by the conflict in Syria and Iraq. While some of the people selected for settlement in Australia are being drawn from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) camps, others are being drawn from the urban communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Q. When will these refugees arrive?

A. Families began arriving in Australia in November 2015 and there is a regular flow of visa grants and arrivals of Syrians and Iraqis under the annual Humanitarian Program and the additional 12,000 humanitarian places.

Most applications for a humanitarian visa take a number of months to process. Processing times vary according to the circumstances of individual applicants. People who are granted a visa through the offshore Humanitarian Program generally take some time to settle their personal affairs before travelling to Australia.

Applicants for settlement are required to meet all criteria for a Refugee and Humanitarian visa, including health, character and security checks before they enter Australia. The government takes our national security extremely seriously and has been clear from the outset that security and character checks of people who apply to come to Australia as part of this intake will not be compromised.

Refugee settlement and services in Australia

Q. How does refugee settlement work in Australia?

A. Once refugees have been granted visas and begin to arrive in Australia, the Department of Social Services (DSS) is responsible for providing settlement support and assistance.

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. These services are designed to assist the most vulnerable refugees who have escaped conflict, including women and children.

HSS providers are contracted by DSS to provide early practical support to refugees to help them settle into the community. The types of services provided to refugees to help them settle in Australia generally include: arrival reception and assistance; assistance with finding accommodation (short and long term); property induction; assistance to register with Centrelink, Medicare, health services, banks and schools; orientation to life in Australia; and linking with community and recreation programs.

Q. Where are these additional 12,000 refugees being resettled?

A. Settlement locations have been identified for the settlement of the additional intake across a mix of metropolitan and regional locations, in all states and territories. These locations have established settlement services and other supports to support the new arrivals. A list of all humanitarian settlement locations is available on the Humanitarian Settlement Services Locator page.

DSS takes into account a range of factors, on a case-by-case basis, when deciding on settlement locations, including:

  • availability of settlement services
  • family or community links
  • availability of mainstream services such as health and education
  • opportunities for employment
  • the size and ethnic / cultural / religious composition of potential settlement communities
  • the potential for the harmonious settlement of the specific group.

Primarily, we want to ensure that existing settlement services are in place in the communities where refugees are being settled. Many of the new arrivals have family members living in Australia.

Q. Can Australia accommodate the additional refugee intake?

A. While Australia’s commitment to take an additional 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq represents a significant increase in our humanitarian intake, accommodating a rapid expansion like this is being managed through the Australian Government’s existing Humanitarian Program arrangements.

The Department of Social Services is working closely with experienced settlement service providers who are willing and able to accept an increase in referrals to help settle these additional refugees in Australia.

Q. What social security benefits will the refugees be entitled to?

A. People arriving under the Government’s Humanitarian Program are eligible to access the same benefits and support provided to other residents and citizens of Australia. These include employment services, Medicare and income support payments.

Refugees have the same social security entitlements as all other permanent residents—they do not receive special refugee payments or special rates of payment.

Q. Will these refugees seek employment in Australia?

A. Refugees are selected as part of Australia’s commitment to contributing to international efforts to protect and resettle refugees and to meet important international obligations. Newly settled refugees often undergo a period of adjustment and require training, such as English language tuition, before seeking employment.

Refugees can make significant economic contributions to Australia by helping to fill labour shortages and through their contribution to supply and demand. Like any other significant number of new migrants, they bring a range of skills, knowledge, and innovative work and business practices.

Q. How will these refugees be accommodated?

A. The Department of Social Services funds Humanitarian Settlement Service (HSS) providers to assist newly arrived humanitarian entrants to build a life in Australia.

Settling new arrivals into accommodation is a normal part of the settlement process and there is sufficient housing to meet this need under the HSS program. Accommodation is being sourced primarily from local private rental markets. The Government is not considering housing new arrivals within private households.

Humanitarian entrants are, like all Australian citizens, subject to state and territory government waiting periods for permanent public housing.

When making decisions about the settlement of refugee families in the community, DSS takes into account the family size and availability of appropriate accommodation.

Q: What is the history of Syrian and Iraqi settlement in Australia?

A: The Syrian and Iraqi communities are well-established in Australia, numbering around 16,000 and 66,000 respectively.

Small numbers of Syrians first arrived in Australia prior to Federation and the community remains small. Most Iraqis in Australia arrived in the period since the Gulf War in 1991.

In recent years, the majority of settlers from Iraq and Syria have settled in New South Wales and Victoria, mainly in the outer metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne.

How people can help

Q. What can people do to help?

A. Australia has a long and proud tradition of resettling refugees and vulnerable people in humanitarian need. Refugees are seeking protection from conflict and trauma the likes of which, many of us could never imagine. Community support is essential to helping people to adjust to their new homes and ensuring a smoother settlement process.

While the Australian Government is delivering a package of assistance in response to the Syrian and Iraqi humanitarian crisis, many businesses, the corporate sector, community organisations and individuals have made wonderful offers of support for people who will be settled in Australia.

The needs of people arriving are varied, as are the ways in which people may be able to help. DSS provides information and links about ways people can help refugees to settle into their new life in Australia.

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