Overview: Refugees & Asylum Seekers
Refugees & Asylum Seekers Overview
Although the terms "refugee" and "asylum seeker" are often used interchangeably, especially since many programs which benefit one group also benefit the other, they do not have the same meaning.
A refugee is someone who has been officially recognised as a refugee. According to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to which Australia is a signatory, a refugee is "any person who owing to a 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/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country." This convention is used by the Australian Government to determine whether someone is a refugee and therefore entitled to assistance under international law.
An asylum seeker is a person who tries to seek protection in another country such as Australia through entering it directly, often because they face persection if they attempt resettlement from their country or origin or a neighbouring country. Many asylum seekers who come to Australia enter with a student visa or other temporary visa; other arrive without documents or with false documents. Some asylum seekers will eventually be officially recognised as refugees.