In this section
An asylum seeker is someone who has applied for refugee status and who is awaiting a decision on this application. See: Refugee policy and timeline.
Asylum seekers in Australia can broadly be divided by:
This determines whether they are (or have been) subject to mandatory immigration detention.
This determines how their protection claims are processed and whether they are/were subject to offshore processing/resettlement
There were substantial delays in processing protection claims for people who arrived after Aug 2012 - processing halted between Sep 2013 and May 2015.
The stages in the protection claim process can be divided into:
People who have had their claims assessed and declined at all stages of review may be described as '
As of end-2017, the detention population is approximately 25% people who arrived by boat without a valid visa, 35-40% criminal cancellations and 35-40% 'other'. The last asylum seeker children held in prolonged detention were released in Apr 2016. Detention centres also have ongoing turnover - with flows in and out of the detention network.
Now predominantly people transferred back from Nauru and Manus Island for medical reasons. Some of this group are subject to the Final Departure Bridging Visa E (FDBVE) announced in Aug 2017 (and moved out of community detention).
There are several means of
identifying asylum seeker status; also see information on the DHA Immicards.
People who were successful in their asylum claim were granted a
Protection visa (subclass 866). This visa granted permanent residency, work rights, Centrelink eligibility, Medicare and settlement support; therefore 866 visa holders are no longer asylum seekers. People who arrived before 13 August 2012 whose claims were not finalised, are subject to retrospective application of Temporary Protection Visas (TPV) - either TPV or Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEV).
TPVs were proposed for reintroduction in October 2013 - see NSW
Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) Factsheet and the Victorian Refugee Health Network
Asylum seeker fact sheet from that time.
Legislation changes in Dec 2014 allowed TPVs to proceed, reintroducing the
TPV 785 (XD) and introducing a new form of SHEV Visa (790). TPV became available in May 2015, SHEV became available in July 2015, and SHEV arrangements included Victoria from Oct 2016. Also see
RILC fact sheet - SHEV, and
Department of Social Services - TPV entitlements.
Both immigration detention statistics and onshore processing statistics are available. In Feb 2018 in Victoria there were:
All asylum seekers have a health assessment – either in held detention (through
IHMS), or in the community after release from detention as part of refugee health care, or by
BUPA (contracted by DHA).
This comprises: CXR, limited blood testing including FBE; HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis screening. Additional tuberculosis (TB) screening is provided for people in held detention with known TB exposure en-route to Australia or in detention - using interferon-gamma-release assays (IGRA).
Less than 15 years this comprises: CXR for children 11 years and older. Additional health screening was introduced in mid-2014 for children
<15 years in held detention - details are not available, although clinical experience suggested this was similar to adult screening. Additional TB screening for all children aged 2-10 years (Mantoux test or IGRA, generally IGRA) was introduced in Nov 2016, including for asylum seeker children who were by that time in the community (as they submitted their protection claims).
Immunisation catch-up is provided for people in held detention with all Australian schedule vaccines, including varicella vaccine and HPV; and additional vaccines including hepatitis A and influenza. Immunisation catch-up delivery was patchy through early 2013, coverage improved from mid-2013, although available evidence suggests the majority of individuals released from detention still required catch-up vaccinations at the time of release.
Detention health checks are recorded in the IHMS Health Discharge Assessment (HDA) - all people released from held detention should have a copy of their HDA. Initially these HDA were available through the Community Detention Assistance Desk (CDAD) - 1800 725 518. In 2017, this information stopped being available, and IHMS advised completing a
freedom of information (FOI) request to DIBP, from early 2018, we have been advised IHMS will provide a copy of an individuals health records (to the individual) with consent.
In late 2016/early 2017, asylum seeker clients were sent proforma letters from DIBP requesting health examinations as part of the legacy caseload processing - to be completed at BUPA Medical Visa Services. Key details included:
Access to services, workrights, and Medicare for the different asylum seeker groups (and those on a TPV) is shown in Table 1.
Medicare cards for all asylum seeker BVE holders expired at the end of 2014 and again at the end of 2017. This was related to the Commonwealth Health Insurance Act 1973 and administrative procedures that allow (time-limited) access for asylum seekers to Medicare. Medicare access has been extended for another 3 years; however, Medicare is dependent on having a valid BVE, and expires when an individuals BVE expires (although in 2018, we have seen cases where Medicare duration is not connected to BVE duration). BVE duration was short (often 3-6 months) across 2016-17. Once people submitted their protection claims (usually mid 2017, prior to the 1 Oct 2017 deadline) they were issued with longer duration BVEs (through to the end of their fast track assessment). If individuals have a negative initial and review decision, they revert back to short duration BVE (with the same issues with Medicare arising).
Individuals who arrived on a valid visa and sought asylum usually remain on their entry visa (and associated conditions) for the duration of that visa. This means they usually do not have Medicare access (for example - arrival on student, tourist and short term visas which do not carry Medicare access), although there is an expectation that individuals arriving on such visas have their own (private) health insurance.
Asylum seekers may not have access to Medicare if:
Work rights were permitted for BVE holders after the legislation changes in Dec 2014. The restriction on work rights was lifted as BVE were renewed (i.e. work rights were granted when BVE were renewed after Dec 2014). In practice, BVE durations became very short over 2016-17, which has precluded employment.
Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) is a program providing supports to non-citizens as their immigration status is resolved. In 2014, SRSS replaced the previous CAS – Community Assistance Support (changed to band 5) and ASAS – Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (changed to band 6) - see Department of Human Services information (which includes links to application forms) and policy manual. Most (but not all) people on SRSS are individuals who arrived by boat and sought asylum.
From 2017, access to SRSS has decreased. SRSS access stops if an asylum seeker:
Individuals may also re-apply for SRSS if their circumstances change - see DHA form 1445 (to get onto the program) and also DSS form SU691 (to get income support payments - this can also be used to apply for Medicare).
Final Departure BVE people previously in CD
Most remain on entry visa for the duration of that visa. May be on BVA,
or BVE, conditions may revert to entry visa.
Often no case support, may be eligible for SRSS, may get case support through ASRC. May be eligible for
IAAAS if meet disadvantage criteria.
Immigrant health resources. Updated May 2018. Contact: