Glossary of terms


A foreigner, especially one who is not a citizen of the country in which they are living.

Asylum seeker

A person who has sought protection as a refugee but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been assessed.

Complementary protection

A system of providing protection and assistance to persons who do not qualify for refugee status but are nonetheless in need of protection under other international human rights treaties.

Durable solution

The term used by UNHCR to describe any means by which the situation of refugees can be satisfactorily and permanently resolved. In most cases, refugee status is resolved through one of three ‘durable solutions’:

  • voluntary repatriation to the country of origin when conditions improve;
  • integration (ideally permanent residency) in the country of asylum;
  • or resettlement to another country.
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.

Human right

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

Irregular maritime arrivals (IMAs)

Persons who attempt to reach, or do reach, Australian shores without prior approval such as a visa.

Local integration

A durable solution for refugees which involves permanent settlement and eventual naturalisation in the country where they sought asylum. The onshore component of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program is an example of local integration.

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.

Migration zone

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

Offshore program

The component of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian program which involves the resettlement of refugees from overseas.

Onshore program

The component of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian program designed for people who apply for refugee status while they are in Australia.


All activities aimed at obtaining full respect for a person’s rights. Providing protection for refugees usually involves granting permission for them to live freely in their country of asylum, preventing their forcible return to situations of persecution, ensuring that their human rights are respected and providing support to enable them to live a normal life.

Prima facie refugee

A person who, based on criteria related to circumstances in their country of origin, has been recognised as a refugee on the presumption that they meet the necessary criteria for refugee status.


The forcible return of a refugee or asylum seeker to a situation where his/her life or freedom may be threatened. Refoulement is a violation of the Refugee Convention.


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.

Refugee Convention

The 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Refugee status determination

A legal and administrative procedure undertaken to determine whether a person should be recognised as a refugee under national and international law.


A durable solution for refugees which involves their resettlement from the country in which they sought asylum to another country which has agreed to provide them with protection. The offshore component of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program is an example of resettlement.

Stateless person

A person who is not considered to be a national by any country, including persons whose nationality has not been established.


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

Temporary protection visas

TPVs were granted to people who had arrived without documentation and were deemed to be refugees. TPVs allowed the recipient to stay in Australia for three years. After this time they were required to apply for further protection or return to their country of origin. TPV holders had no family reunion rights, no right of return if they travelled out of Australia and limited access to settlement services.


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.

Voluntary repatriation

A durable solution for refugees which involves return to their country of origin, based on a free and informed decision. Voluntary repatriation is only promoted when conditions in a refugees’ country of origin are considered conducive to a safe and dignified return.