Refugees: The Facts



A refugee is someone who has fled war, violence, conflict or persecution and has crossed an international border in order to find safety in another country.

A refugee is defined by Article I of the United Nations’ Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defines a refugee as someone who:

…owing to 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 nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country

The term ‘refugee’ is used to refer to people who enter Australia specifically as refugees as well as those who come from a refugee-like background.

Asylum seeker

The term ‘asylum seeker’ refers to a person who has sought protection as a refugee but whose claim for refugee status is yet to be processed.

We provide services to people who are seeking asylum.


Article 1 of the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment defines torture as:

…any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Foundation House believes torture is a systematic violation of human rights which is, and must remain, unacceptable under any circumstances.

Traumatic events

Foundation House clients experience ‘traumatic events’ which include violence and loss, persecution, human rights violations and forced displacement, often in the context of war or civil conflict. Forced displacement typically features extreme hardship, insecurity and prolonged uncertainty.

Facts & Figures

How many refugees are there worldwide?

According to the UNHCR :

  • A record 70.8 million people have been forcibly displaced
  • 25.9 million people are refugees (with children representing more than 50% of refugees)
  • 10 million people are considered ‘stateless’ or people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement
  • 3.1 million people are seeking asylum
  • 37,000 people a day are forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution

In the year 2018–19, Australia has committed to 18,750 places under its refugee and humanitarian program.

Who are Foundation House clients?

In 2018–19, we supported 4,308 clients who come from more than 70 countries.

The top five countries of origin were:

  • Iraq
  • Iran
  • Afghanistan
  • Burma (Myanmar)
  • Syria

Of our 4,308 clients:

  • 54% were female
  • 46% were male
  • 48% were aged under 30 years

Our clients are either permanent residents, asylum seekers or substantive (temporary) visa holders.

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