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Asylum Seekers and Refugees: Clarifying Terms

Resources to support Year 9 Learning Journeys students as they undertake the section of the City Culture/Immigration Unit that requires them to investigate the issues surrounding asylum seekers and refugees


Asylum seeker

An individual seeking international protection whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined. Entrants by boat without a visa are entitled to seek asylum. If the Government’s initial processing suggests they may have a valid case, they are classified as ‘asylum seekers’. The term 'asylum seeker' is used widely by Refugees Convention signatory countries to identify people awaiting a determination on claims for refugee protection. Asylum seekers who have received such a determination and are recognised as being refugees are referred to as 'refugees'

 Community Detention

Community-based detention arrangements, for unaccompanied minors and vulnerable families were introduced in June 2005. These enable people to reside in the community without needing to be escorted. Community-based detention arrangements do not give a person any lawful status in Australia (for example, no visa is granted at this stage), nor does it give them the rights and entitlements of a person living in the community on a visa (for example, the right to study or work). The person remains administratively in immigration detention while living in the community.

Country of first asylum:

A country that permits a person fleeing from persecution to enter its territory for purposes of providing asylum temporarily, pending eventual repatriation or resettlement.

Human Right

A basic, universal freedom or entitlement inherent to all human beings.

Illegal immigrant

According to Australian immigration law, a person who tries to enter Australia without a visa or travel documents is in the country illegally (unlawfully) and is termed "illegal entrant", "unauthorised arrival" or "unlawful arrival". There are three categories of unlawful immigration. The first is arrival by air without proper documentation or visa, the second, arrival by sea without proper documentation or visa and the third, the overstaying or breaching of visa

Immigration Detention Centre

Australia's Migration Act 1958 requires that all non-Australians who are unlawfully in mainland Australia must be detained and that unless they are granted permission to remain in Australia, they must be removed as soon as practical. Since 1994 government policy requires that all such people be detained in detention centres. The Australian Government maintains a number of categories of detention facilities

 Malaysia Agreement

Arrangement between the Australian and Malaysian governments signed on 25 July 2011 to deter people smuggling by transferring unauthorised arrivals from Australia to Malaysia for processing of their refugee claims.

Mandatory detention

An Australian Government policy which requires all unlawful non-citizens to be detained until they are granted a visa.


A person who chooses to leave their country and settle in another country.


The area consisting of the Australian states, the territories, Australian resource installations and Australian sea installations, but excluding excised offshore places.

Excised offshore places

An area of Australia which is excluded from the migration zone. Unlawful non-citizens who first enter Australia at an excised offshore place are unable to submit a valid visa application unless the Minister for Immigration makes a personal intervention into the case. Excised offshore places include Christmas Island, Ashmore and Cartier Islands and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

Off-shore processing

People Smuggling

People smuggling is the organised illegal movement of groups or individuals from one country to another. People who pay people smugglers do so for a variety of reasons including to seek protection and to pursue economic advantage. People smuggling can be lucrative and is increasingly carried out by sophisticated and highly organised networks

Pacific Solution

Name given to the Australian government policy of transporting asylum seekers to detention centres on small island nations in the Pacific Ocean, rather than allowing them to land on the Australian mainland. First implemented during 2001–2007, it had bipartisan support from both the Liberal-National government and Labor opposition at the time.


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 unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his/her former habitual residence is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.


Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel. The term used for boats entering Australian waters without prior authority.

Skilled Migration Scheme

Australia’s immigration program is divided into two distinct programs for permanent migrants—the Migration Program for skilled and family migrants and the Humanitarian Program for refugees and those in refugee-like situations. The scheme is designed to target migrants who have skills or outstanding abilities that will contribute to the Australian economy.


United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; established in 1950 with initial plans to disband after three years. Now the agency leads and co-ordinates international action to protect refugees across the world. Resettlement, safety or sustainable repatriation are the goals of UNHCR for around 34.4 million people.


Permission to travel to, to enter and/or to remain in Australia for a period of time or indefinitely.

Resource Citation

Use the Senior level of the  Online Reference Generator to create your bibliography of resources in the correct style. If you are using the Online Generator from home you will need the password. If you have forgotten it ask your teacher or the teacher librarian.  

A copy "Documentation of Sources:a guide for secondary students" is available here.

Criteria and Rubric