Australia is a state party to the 1951 Refugee Convention. The Migration Act 1958 (Commonwealth) forms the legislative basis for all forms of migration and visa applications in Australia, including humanitarian assistance. The Department of Home Affairs is the government department that administers the law, as well as the immigration program.
If outside Australia and want to claim asylum: contact the United Nations High Commissioner (UNHCR) office in the country currently in.
If inside Australia and want to claim asylum: apply to the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection. UNHCR does not assist with determining asylum claims in Australia. Contact Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection here.
UNHCR Australia help for refugees and asylum seekers.
Factsheets: Who can apply to be a refugee and how in English, Arabic, Dari, Farsi and Tamil.
A person may need legal or migration advice for refugee applications. Agents providing advice must be a registered migration agent. Search here to see if registered.
Government financial help: Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS). This is only available to a very small number of eligible people, usually with exceptional circumstances.
In the absence of a comprehensive legal aid framework, there are a number of organisations that provide people seeking asylum free legal advice. Below is a list of pro bono organisations that support refugees in Australia and provide them legal aid.
Refugee Council Australia
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Head Office Suite 4A6, 410 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Tel: 02 9211 9333
Email: adminrefugeecouncil [dot] org [dot] au or inforefugeecouncil [dot] org [dot] au
The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) is the national umbrella body for refugees and the organisations and individuals who support them. It has more than 130 organisational members and 250 individual members. The priority activities for RCOA are set by its members, as represented by an elected Board. Members of the Council are involved in many areas of refugee support including assisting refugees in countries of first asylum and when they repatriate to their homelands; providing settlement support to refugees in Australia; providing protection and legal advice to refugees and asylum seekers; advocating on behalf of a particular refugee community.RCOA endeavours to support its Members in these endeavours. Another of the Refugee Council’s roles is to provide training to service providers and groups. RCOA can design training packages specifically to meet your needs on a wide range of refugee-related areas. RCOA's own work is centred around five key areas: policy, support for refugees, support for its Members, community education and administration. RCOA is a member of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN).
New South Wales (NSW)
Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS)
At RACS, we provide critical free legal advice, assistance and representation, for financially disadvantaged and vulnerable people seeking asylum in Australia.
Asylum Seekers Centre
Becher House, 43 Bedford Street, Newtown, Sydney NSW 2042
Tel: 02 9078 1900
Email: contactusasylumseekerscentre [dot] org [dot] au
Opening hours: Mon-Fri, 9am - 4pm
If you are an asylum seeker living in the community in Sydney, NSW, subject to your eligibility, we can assist you with a range of services including getting legal advice on your application for protection, accommodation and financial relief.
Immigration Advice and Rights Centre
Level 5, 362 Kent Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: +61 (02) 8234 0700
Email: iarcadminiarc [dot] asn [dot] au
IARC’s legal advice is free and confidential. Telephone interpreters are available if required. Can help people who do not have enough money with refugee and immigration visas. Does not help people if they are going to court (judicial review or appeals) or fill in forms.
New South Wales Legal Aid
Tel: (02) 8713 6725
Email: refugeeservicelegalaid [dot] nsw [dot] gov [dot] au
We assist clients who:
- are on a Refugee or Humanitarian Visa (I.e. 200, 201, 202, 203, 204 and 866 visas),
- have arrived in Australia within the last six years, and
- have not previously seen a lawyer regarding their issue.
Refugee and Immigration Legal Service (RAILS)
Level 1, 170 Boundary Street, West End QLD 4101
Tel: (07) 3846 9300
Email: adminrails [dot] org [dot] auadminrails [dot] org [dot] au ()
We provide free immigration advice, legal assistance and legal education to immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Queensland.
Asylum Seeker Clinic - Salvos Legal
Appointments are required, please email slhgoodnasalvoslegal [dot] com [dot] au to make an appointment for a telephone meeting.
ASC continues to provide assistance to fast track applicants to:
- attend Federal Circuit Court directions hearings;
- attend the Department of Home Affairs (DOHA) interviews;
- respond to requests from the DOHA;
- provide further information in the form of a statutory declaration; and
- provide penal clearance information.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
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ASRC Footscray (Upstairs), 214-216, Nicholson Street, Footscray VIC 3011
Tel: 03 9326 6066
Email: adminasrc [dot] org [dot] au
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 10am – 5pm (call before arriving at the centre)
For Legal Help by phone: 0478 700 605 – keep trying if busy (Monday & Thursday, 10:30am-12:00pm)
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) is Australia’s largest human rights organisation providing support to people seeking asylum. Helping to support and empower people seeking asylum by providing access to casework, counselling, food bank, health and legal support. Other services include English classes and employment support.
Level 6, 20 Otter St, COLLINGWOOD, VIC 3066
Tel: (03) 9413 0101
Advice Line: (03) 9413 0100
Email: refugeelegalrefugeelegal [dot] org [dot] au
Wednesday & Friday 10am-2pm
Refugee Legal is Australia’s largest not-for-profit provider of free legal services in its specialist field of immigration and refugee law. Please tell us if an interpreter is needed. You must call the telephone advice line service to access any of our advice and casework services.
South Australia (SA)
Australian Refugee Association
Underdale Office: 304 Henley Beach Rd, Underdale SA 5032
Tel: 08 8354 2951
Email: receptionausref [dot] net
Salisbury Office: 1 Brown Terrace, Salisbury SA 5108
Tel: 08 8281 2052
Email: receptionausref [dot] net
Our team of registered migration agents provides advice and assists people in applying for visas, residence and citizenship applications.
Western Australia (WA)
Circle Green Community Legal
Ground Floor, 445 Hay Street, Perth
Tel: (08) 6148 3636
Email: enquiriescirclegreen [dot] org [dot] au
Circle Green Community Legal is the merger of three specialist community legal centres in Western Australia: The Humanitarian Group being specific to refugees. We help people new to Australia who need professional legal migration advice and are disadvantaged in accessing legal services. We help recently arrived migrants, including refugees, living in Australia to bring their family to Australia.
Legal Aid Western Australia
Tel: 1300 650 579
Opening hours: Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm
Legal Aid WA offers free or low-cost legal services to the community. We can help if you have questions about the law, if you are going to court, or if you need advice on a legal problem.
Northern Territory (NT)
Multicultural Council of Northern Territory
Shop 15, Malak Place, Malak NT 0812
Tel: 08 8945 9122
Email: adminmcnt [dot] org [dot] au
Opening hours: Mon-Fri, 8.30am-5pm
The MCNT’s long running migration advice service is provided in partnership with the Migration Institute of Australia. Migration Advice is open to everyone, and is held on the first Wednesday of every month from 6-8pm and volunteer registered migration agents provide free advice sessions.
Refugee Legal Service Tasmania
Level 1, 319 Liverpool Street, Hobart TAS 7000
Tel: (03) 6169 9473
Email: infotrls [dot] org [dot] au
Our team of lawyers and volunteers aim to assist people of refugee background, people seeking asylum and humanitarian entrants with all aspects of migration law.
Our free and confidential legal services include:
- face to face, social media or telephone advice, regarding refugee, asylum seeker and/or humanitarian entrant related issues;
- casework assistance, such as, but not limited to:
- helping you with your visa application;
- accompanying you to your interview with the Department of Home Affairs;
- preparing and advocating for you before the Immigration Assessment Authority or Administrative Appeals Tribunal;
- preparing and representing you in your Judicial Review before the Federal Circuit Court; and
- assisting you with your Ministerial Intervention Request