Refugee Settlement Media Hub

Australia has a long and proud tradition of resettling refugees and vulnerable people in humanitarian need. The refugees who come here are seeking protection from conflict and trauma.

The 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi intake is an additional commitment and part of our contribution to international efforts to protect and resettle refugees. Priority is given to people who are the most vulnerable – women, children and families with the least prospect of ever returning safely to their homes.

The Department of Social Services (DSS) 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.

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 9 June 2017, 22,406 visas have been granted to people displaced by conflict in Syria and Iraq:

  • 12,000 towards the additional 12,000 places (November 2015 – 21 March 2017)
  • 5,556 under the 2016-17 Humanitarian Program to date
  • 4,850 under the 2015-16 Humanitarian Program.

In this time, 21,506 people have arrived in Australia:

  • 11,752 as part of the additional 12,000 places (November 2015 – 9 June 2017)
  • 6,553* arrivals in 2016-17 to date under the annual humanitarian program
  • 3,201* 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.

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, 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. How is it determined where humanitarian entrants will live?

A. DSS encourages regional settlement as much as possible, in all states and territories.

For most Humanitarian visa holders, the decision on where to live is influenced by where family, friends or proposers are living. Being with people they know provides crucial informal settlement support.

A large number of refugees are entering Australia on Special Humanitarian visas, which means they have been proposed by a relative or connection already here. This often influences their preference of where to live. Being with people they know provides crucial informal settlement support.

In some cases, this results in a number of humanitarian entrants living in particular metropolitan areas. This is not surprising given there are large ethnic communities established in particular metropolitan cities and a majority of the proposers are from these areas.

Although some entrants are settled in regional towns, humanitarian entrants are permanent residents and are able to move freely once they arrive in Australia.

In choosing the settlement locations of humanitarian entrants without sponsors or family links, DSS considers the availability of:

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

For more information, visit Settlement Services.

Q. Why have certain areas been chosen as settlement locations?
A. A number of factors are taken into account when selecting settlement locations. The Australian Government works to ensure the best assistance possible is provided to each person when they arrive in Australia, and in the months ahead as they settle into their new life. Some of the considerations include:

  • 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.

For a list of all humanitarian settlement locations visit the Humanitarian Settlement Services Locator.

Q. Do councils know when refugees are being settled in their region?

A. The Australian Government plans for and delivers support to migrants and refugees in partnership with state, territory, and local governments.

Local Government and other representatives from areas such as health and education are invited to attend regular Local Area Coordination meetings held as part of the Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) program. At these meetings, details of humanitarian entrants and settlement-related information are discussed and local strategies developed.

To further assist with planning, local government representatives are provided with regular reports on humanitarian arrivals.

For more information see the National Settlement Framework.

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. What are the employment prospects for refugees?

Most refugees have a strong desire to work and, through employment, make a valuable contribution to their local community and to Australia.

Many employers already benefit from the unique skills, international experience and diverse cultural perspectives they bring to the workforce.

An important component of the settlement journey is to assist refugees to either enrol in education, or find a job. DSS funds settlement service providers in 23 locations around Australia to help refugees build on their individual strengths, and become independent.

To view or read the personal stories of refugees, and their journey to employment, visit Helping Refugees.

Q. How will these refugees be accommodated?

A. DSS funds Humanitarian Settlement Services (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 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.

Q How does DSS fund humanitarian entrants?

As part of the 2015-16 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the Australian Government announced it would provide $638.1 million over four years (2015-16 to 2018-19) towards supporting the 12,000 additional Syrian and Iraqi refugee intake.

To provide initial settlement support, DSS funds settlement service providers in 23 locations across Australia to provide a tailored package to meet each individual’s needs.

Service providers receive payment for each client they support through the Australian Government’s Humanitarian Settlement Services program.

Additional funding has been allocated to service providers based on the anticipated number of humanitarian entrant arrivals in metropolitan and regional locations across Australia.

DSS also funds 96 organisations across Australia under our Settlement Grants program to help people settle into their new life during their first five years.

For more information see the Humanitarian Settlement Service or the Settlement Grants webpage.

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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