Refugees and people seeking asylum

Advocating for refugees and people seeking asylum

Since the start of his pontificate Pope Francis has expressed particular concern for people fleeing war and persecution. He continues to call on the global community to welcome and protect them.

Read a summary of our policy position

A photo of a man and woman sitting next to each other on a bench with blankets and sheets around them, in casual clothes. They are looking up to the camera.

What we do 

The St Vincent de Paul Society has a long history of providing help to people seeking asylum and refugees in Australia and of advocating to Government on their behalf.  

Help is available through the Vinnies centres and the home visitation program. We help by providing emergency relief to cover food, accommodation, transport, medical and utility costs. Information and referral to other services is also provided.  

In some locations, the Society provides direct, specialist help to people seeking asylum who have been refused access to any form of income support and have little or no work and are unable to make ends meet.   

Need help?

Advocacy – Vincentian Refugee Network 

Our advocacy is informed by the Society’s Vincentian Refugee Network (VRN), which comprises members who have advocated on behalf of refugees and people seeking asylum for many years. 

The role of the VRN is to: 

  • Provide advice to the Society’s National Council Social Justice Advisory Committee 
  • Share information and knowledge of refugee and asylum seeker issues in Australia 
  • Provide a forum for Vincentians to organise and inform coordinated advocacy and services for refugees and people seeking asylum. 

The VRN comprises 14 members from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT and is guided by its Terms of Reference (pdf file).  

The VRN also works closely with other organisations to further its advocacy efforts.

We call for

An adequate safety net and fairer process

for all asylum seeks and those affected by the unjust fast-track process


of all people still subject to offshore processing and movement of people held in PNG to Australia while they await resettlement

Legislation to make detention a last resort

with detention limited to a maximum of 90 days and improvements to the living conditions of those that must be detained for security reasons

Increases to the annual humanitarian intake

to 27,000 places by 2025-26, increases to the community support program to an additional 10,000 places and acceptance of refugees in South-East Asian countries and reform to the family reunion process

A parliamentary inquiry

into offshore and onshore immigration detention starting in 2023

A more humane approach is needed 

In the last decade, Australia has failed in its legal and moral duty to welcome or protect people who have sought asylum in our country. Under international law all people have the right to seek asylum. They can travel by all means of transport, including boats. 

About 30,000 people who arrived in Australia by boat have been subject to special, unfair treatment in their refugee (fast-track) assessment process. Even if found to be refugees, they were only granted temporary visas, while of the thousands still involved in the process, many are suffering destitution, with no access to a social safety net when they are unable to work.

Several thousand others were sent to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru for processing.  Many are held in arbitrary, indefinite detention in breach of our obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. 

Detention is only legal when it is deemed that a person poses an unacceptable risk to the community and that risk cannot be addressed in a less restrictive way, and even then, detention must be time-limited and proportionate.  

Learn more

Policy Statement

Since the start of his pontificate, Pope Francis has expressed particular concern for people fleeing war and persecution.

Refugee Statement

We have a long history of providing help to, and advocating for, people seeking asylum and refugees in Australia.

Our international impact

Learn about the work our Overseas Partnership Program does in Asia and the Pacific.

Interested in helping us?

There are lots of ways to make a meaningful contribution.

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