To be a refugee in Australia, an asylum seeker must be assessed as meeting certain legal criteria.
The definition is forward-looking. Even if a person has suffered persecution in the past, they are not a refugee by the meaning in the Act unless they have a well-founded fear of persecution and there is a real chance they will be persecuted in their home country now, if they were to return. However, past events could establish a real chance of persecution if the person were to return.
A person might become a refugee after arriving in Australia. This could occur if there is a change of circumstances in their home country or a change in personal circumstances after they left that gives them a well-founded fear of persecution if they were to return.
The five reasons you could be determined as a refugee
To have a well-founded fear of persecution, a person must fear serious harm because of their:
- membership of a particular social group, or
- political opinion.
A person who leaves their home country for reasons of war, famine or because they are seeking better economic opportunities might not be a refugee according to the definition in the Act. They must have a well-founded fear of persecution for one of the above reasons to be a refugee and must meet other requirements.
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