+ What does referral by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR) mean?
Subclass 203 visa is used primarily for cases referred to the Department of Immigration by UNHCR. In June 2003 the Department and UNHCR signed an arrangement setting out the procedures for managing Emergency Rescue cases. Under this arrangement, UNHCR undertakes to refer only those cases:
- in which the need for evacuation is so urgent that priority refugee processing would be inadequate and
- where the reason for emergency evacuation is not medical and
- that do not have a clear connection to another country offering emergency resettlement and
- that prima facie would not fail character or security requirements.
The agreement further states that UNHCR refers cases by submitting a Resettlement Registration Form (RRF) to Humanitarian Programme Management Section via its Canberra regional office and to the relevant processing centre, called the post. Humanitarian Programme Management Section will consult the post and, depending on the individual case, may also seek advice from the Country of Origin Information Services Section, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Minister’s office and areas of the department involved in public interest checks and settlement. Humanitarian Programme Management Section will make an in-principle decision to accept or decline the referral and advise UNHCR accordingly within two working days of receipt of the RRF.
If the referral is accepted, UNHCR assists the applicant to complete and lodge an application form at the post. If possible, the application should be processed and finalised to enable the applicant to travel within three working days of the date UNHCR is notified that the referral has been accepted.
If the referral is declined and it is appropriate to do so, the post may invite a Class XB application for consideration under another subclass.
+ Persons not referred by UNHCR
Each authorised post may receive approaches from organisations other than UNHCR or from individuals who wish to be considered under emergency rescue provisions. In such cases the organisation or individual should be advised to contact the local UNHCR office in the first instance. If the case appears to meet Class XB criteria and warrants emergency processing the post should also contact Humanitarian Programme Management Section for further advice. In such cases it may also be appropriate to consult with the local office of UNHCR.
+ What are Assessment procedures?
Emergency rescue cases are assessed by the relevant post in close consultation with Humanitarian Programme Management Section. The local UNHCR and IOM offices will also assist the post if required. The assessment procedures to be followed largely depend on the individual circumstances of each case and officers may be required to make decisions on the basis of minimal documentation. In all cases, however, the applicant must submit a completed and signed Form 842 with photographs (full details of the applicant’s claims will be set out in the RRF). Wherever possible the post should interview the applicant before granting a visa.
Although the Assistant Secretary, Refugee and Humanitarian Programme Branch, decides whether to accept a UNHCR referral for processing as an emergency rescue case, once a Class XB application is lodged the decision to refuse or grant the visa rests with the s65 delegate at the post. Humanitarian Programme Management Section is responsible for policy advice and overall coordination of the areas of the department and the agencies involved in emergency resettlement. Refugee and Humanitarian Assistance Section liaises with IOM as necessary to expedite travel.
+ What are Public interest criteria checks?
Humanitarian Programme Management Section liaises with the post and relevant areas of the department to facilitate health, character and security checking (if required).
Wherever possible, posts should arrange for the applicant to undergo normal health checks with a panel doctor and radiologist. IOM may be able to assist with health checks for applicants in remote areas. Due to the urgency of Subclass 203 applications, a flexible approach to health checks may be required and the procedures will vary according to the circumstances of each case. In all cases, a finding must be made that PIC 4007 (the health requirement) is satisfied before a visa can be granted.
The post should also attempt to obtain penal clearances in the usual manner, but if this is not possible or would delay visa grant to the point of endangering the applicant, a character statutory declaration by the applicant can be considered. This document should be scanned and emailed to Humanitarian Programme Management Section via the Humanitarian Helpdesk to seek waiver of the penal certificate requirement.
If a security check is required, posts should initiate it in the Security Referral System (SRS). Humanitarian Programme Management Section will liaise with National Security, Assessment and Counter Proliferation Operations Section to expedite the checking process. If a war crimes check is necessary, advice may need to be sought by emailing War Crimes Screening.
If there is no Australian Government presence in the country where the applicant is living, UNHCR will endeavour, within its guidelines, to assist with character and security checking by interviewing the applicant with questions provided by the post.
+ What is Persecution?
The applicant must be subject to persecution in the home country. The Applicant must demonstrate that they are subject to persecution in their home country. The term, ‘persecution’ is given its ordinary meaning. Oxford Dictionary defines ‘persecution’ as:
"Hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs; oppression"
Persecution requires repeated or persistent oppression, injury, maltreatment or harassment. The Applicant will be assessed on the available provided evidence to determine whether they are open to, exposed to, or under the domination of persecutory acts in their home country. Evidence of persecution includes, but is not limited to:
- Threats to the Applicant’s life, liberty or security;
- Continued periodic harassment, detention or arrest
- Arbitrary arrest, detention or exile
- Exile from the home country or to a remote area within that country
- Torture, or cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment
- Servitude without compensation
- Confiscation of property or assets
- Indoctrination or re-education
+ What are Urgent and compelling reasons for travel?
Subclass 203 visa may be granted only if there are urgent and compelling reasons for the applicant to travel to Australia.
To satisfy this criterion the applicant must, under policy, be in exceptional circumstances whereby there is an immediate threat to their life or personal security that can only be avoided by emergency travel. For example, the applicant may be in a country of first asylum and facing an immediate threat of arrest and refoulement to their home country. Subclass 203 is used for cases only if the need for the applicant's evacuation and resettlement is so urgent that priority processing under other subclasses would be inadequate.