Asylum seekers and refugees

There is a great deal of confusion about the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee and often the terms are used interchangeably or incorrectly.

‘Refugee’ is used commonly to refer to people who are forced to leave their homes for many reasons, including conflict and violence. Sometimes it refers to a person displaced due to a natural disaster and extreme weather conditions.

Refugees have to move if they are to save their lives or preserve their freedom. They have no protection from their own state—indeed it is often their own government that is threatening to persecute them. If other countries do not let them in, and do not help them once they are in, then they may be condemning them to death—or to an life in poverty conditions and without rights.

An asylum seeker is someone who is seeking international protection but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined. It is not a crime to enter Australia without authorisation for the purpose of seeking asylum. Asylum seekers do not break any Australian laws simply by arriving on boats or without authorisation.

Article 31 of the Refugee Convention states that refugees should not be penalised for arriving without valid travel documents. What may be considered an illegal action under normal circumstances (for example: entering a country without a visa) should not, according to the Convention, be considered illegal if a person is seeking asylum. Australian and international law make these allowances because it is not always safe or possible for asylum seekers to obtain travel documents or travel through authorised channels.

Support for asylum seekers and refugees

The Refugee Council of Australia provides a range of information and factsheets for refugees, including information on living in Australia, immigration, and resettlement.

The conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, and most recently Ukraine have displaced many people from their homes. Some of them have resettled and found their new homes in Greater Geelong. Below are useful resources for refugees and asylum seekers.

  1. Cultura (formerly Diversitat) provides a range of multicultural services and is the main provider of settlement support to the new arrivals to Geelong.
  2. Support for Afghan community
  3. Geelong Afghan Community
  4. Support and resources for refugees from Ukraine
  5. Ukrainian Community in Geelong
  6. Barwon Child Youth & Family (BCYF) provides counselling and emotional support to newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers. 

Page last updated: Monday, 20 November 2023