Australia's response to the Syrian and Iraqi humanitarian crisis

Australia's contribution

On 9 September 2015, the Australian Government announced that it would make an extra 12,000 humanitarian places available in response to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. As of 21 March 2017, visas have been granted towards all 12,000 additional places.  

These 12,000 places are in addition to Australia’s Humanitarian Programme, which totalled 13,750 places for the 2015-16 financial year, and which will increase to 18,750 places in the 2018-19 financial year. Australia’s Humanitarian Programme includes places for people in priority resettlement situations around the world, including people displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

The additional 12,000 humanitarian places are just one element of Australia’s overall response to the humanitarian crisis. Australia has contributed more than $213 million in humanitarian assistance in response to the Syria crisis since 2011, and an additional $220 million will be provided over three years, commencing in the 2016-17 financial year. Australia’s humanitarian assistance in response to the Iraq crisis is $70 million since June 2014.

Monthly update

Between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2017, 22,417 visas have been granted to people displaced by conflict in Syria and Iraq:

  • 12,000 - completing the additional 12,000 places (November 2015 to 21 March 2017)
  • 5567 under the 2016–17 Humanitarian Programme
  • 4850 under the 2015–16 Humanitarian Programme.

In this time, 21,673 people have arrived in Australia:

  • 11,806 as part of the additional 12,000 places (November 2015 to 9 June 2017)
  • 6666* arrivals in 2016–17 to date under the annual humanitarian programme
  • 3201*^ arrivals in 2015–16 under the annual humanitarian programme.

A very small number of people who are granted a humanitarian visa will not resettle in Australia. This occurs for a variety of reasons including resettlement in another country.


* arrivals early in a programme year may have been granted a visa in the preceding programme year.
^ there is a slight variation in the 2015-16 programme year arrival figures due to a time lag between the transfer of arrival data from Home Affairs to DSS systems.

2015-16 outcomes

During the 2015-16 financial year, a total of 8640 Humanitarian visas were granted to people displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

Of these Humanitarian visa grants:

  • 4850 were granted from the offshore component of Australia’s 2015-16 Humanitarian Programme (which comprised 13,750 places in total)
  • 3790 were granted from the additional 12,000 humanitarian places.

More detailed statistics on the 2015-16 Humanitarian Programme can be found on the Humanitarian Programme statistics webpage.

Timeframes for processing and resettlement

The coordinated efforts of Australian Government agencies and international partners have led to a steady flow of visa grants to Syrians and Iraqis from Australia’s annual Humanitarian Programme and the additional 12,000 humanitarian places. As a result, the number of Syrian and Iraqi humanitarian entrants arriving in Australia has also increased.

Most applications take a number of months to process. It is not possible to be more precise than this because processing time varies according to the circumstances of individual applicants.

People who are granted a visa through the offshore Humanitarian Programme generally take some time to settle their affairs in their country of first asylum before travelling to Australia.

Visa processing stages and checks

Applicants must pass a series of processing stages and checks, including health, character and security checks, before being granted a visa and resettling in Australia.

The Australian Government takes our national security extremely seriously. The Department was clear from the outset that security and character checks of people who applied to come to Australia as part of this intake would not be compromised. Rigorous security checks are conducted in consultation with relevant Australian agencies and international partners. Security checks are supplemented by an interview with Australian departmental officers where claims for resettlement and identity are assessed.

Settlement in Australia

The Department of Social Services (DSS) is responsible for providing settlement support and assistance to people who come to Australia under the offshore Humanitarian Programme. The DSS website has information about what people in the Australian community can to do assist.

People resettled under this programme will be eligible to access the same benefits and support provided to other people arriving under Australia's offshore Humanitarian Programme. These include Medicare, income support payments, English language tuition, torture and trauma counselling and settlement services.

Eligibility and prioritisation

Priority for 12,000 Humanitarian Programme places was given to people displaced by the conflict in Syria and Iraq who were:

  • assessed as being most vulnerable – persecuted minorities, women, children and families with the least prospect of ever returning safely to their homes
  • located in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

People in Australia or regional processing countries who travelled to Australia illegally by boat were not offered a place in this intake. The policy of Operation Sovereign Borders has not changed.

Although the additional 12,000 places for Syrians and Iraqis have now been granted, the Government has committed to increasing the size of its Humanitarian Programme from the current level of 13,750 places up to 16,250 in 2017-18 and 18,750 places by 2018–19. Applications for resettlement in Australia by people displaced by conflict in Syria and Iraq will continue to be considered under the increased annual Humanitarian Programme.  

All applications are assessed on an individual basis – in line with Australia’s existing refugee and humanitarian policies. The Humanitarian Programme intake includes people from a broad range of religious and ethnic backgrounds. A person’s religion or ethnicity can be relevant to the nature of their individual claims.

Every year, many more people apply to be resettled under Australia's Humanitarian Programme than Australia can accept. The limited number of places available and the high demand for these places means that not everyone can be accepted.

Visa processing streams

Refugee visa stream

Many of those displaced by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are registered with the UNHCR and are in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. We are working closely with the UNHCR to identify refugees in these countries who are the most vulnerable and in greatest need of resettlement.

Global Special Humanitarian Programme stream

Australian citizens or permanent residents over the age of 18, eligible New Zealand citizens and organisations operating in Australia are able to propose persons for resettlement under the Special Humanitarian Programme (SHP).

Priority for the limited places available under the SHP is generally given to applicants proposed by close family members.

People eligible for resettlement under the SHP can be registered with the UNHCR, but it is not a requirement.

The limited number of SHP places available and the high demand for these places means that not everyone can be accepted.

People who have already applied for a Global Special Humanitarian visa (subclass 202) will continue to be considered and do not need to do anything more.

There is no need for SHP applicants or proposers to contact us unless:

  • we ask them to provide further information or attend an interview
  • they need to tell us about a change in their circumstances.

Applicants and proposers who need to advise us of a change to their contact details can send an email to

People who previously lodged an application for a Global Special Humanitarian visa under the SHP that was refused will need to apply again if they want to be considered.