Last year, Australia granted 13,770 humanitarian visas, fulfilling its obligation as an international citizen of protecting refugees from persecution. There are many options available to assist a person in gaining a visa on humanitarian grounds, depending on their circumstance and the type of visa sought.
Even though Australia is a signatory to The Refugees Convention, the Government is not obliged to accept a person who is not in danger of persecution, even if their reasons for fleeing is due to war, famine, environmental disaster, or pursuing better economic opportunities. However, in granting a humanitarian visa, The Refugees Convention is used as the main criteria in assessing whether or not there is a legitimate claim for protection. The Refugees Convention defines a refugee as a person:
• that is outside their country of origin or residence
• who is unable, or unwilling to return to their country of origin because of a legitimate fear of persecution regarding their race, religion, nationality, group membership, or a political belief
• who is not a war criminal, and has not committed any serious non-political crime.
What are the different humanitarian visa categories?
For humanitarian visa applications made outside of Australia, the types of visas available are:
• Refugee Visa (Subclass 200)
• In-country Special Humanitarian Program Visa (Subclass 201)
• Global Special Humanitarian Program Visa (“SHP”) (Subclass 202)
• Emergency Rescue Visa (Subclass 203)
• Woman at Risk Visa (Subclass 204)
Besides the SHP Visa, applications made outside of Australia are granted on the basis that a person is in danger of persecution in their country of origin. The Refugee, Emergency and Woman at Risk visas are granted when the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has identified a particular class of person is in danger, and has referred the person to the Australian Government. In contrast, the In-country Special Humanitarian Program Visa, allows the Australian Government to make a direct assessment on the threat of persecution, and provide the appropriate response.
An application for a SHP Visa is made on behalf of a person who is suffering substantial discrimination and a violation of their human rights, and can be made by an Australian citizen, permanent resident or humanitarian organisation.
When a person is already in the country, and is seeking a humanitarian visa, an application can be made for a Protection Visa (Class XA) (Subclass 866). An applicant who is successful in gaining a Protection Visa must:
• be a refugee as defined by the Refugees Convention
• pass the health and character tests
• sign the Australian Values Statement.
The Protection Visa affords permanent residency status and allows a person to receive Medicare and Centrelink services.