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Australia taking a small fraction of global asylum seekers

9 January 20140 comments

refugee-camp_shutterstock_17903113Despite the contentious nature of the asylum seeker issue and the intense political and social debate around it, Australia’s share of world-wide asylum applications remains a small fraction of the total.

Figures included in the recently published Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) report into ‘Asylum seekers, refugees and human rights’ show Australia takes just 2.2% of the global total.

“While we have seen a significant increase in asylum seekers seeking protection in Australia in recent times, Australia’s share of asylum applications remains a very small fraction of the global total,” said AHRC President Gillian Triggs in the report.

The report reveals Australia has resettled around 800,000 refugees since World War II, building one of the world’s most successful multicultural societies.

“Today, Australia continues to have a generous resettlement programme and, along with the United States and Canada, has ranked consistently among the world’s top three resettlement countries,” it says.

The report cited the most recent United Nations figures showing that in December 2012, there were 45.2 million people in the world who had been forcibly displaced from their homes as a result of persecution, conflict, generalised violence and human rights violations – the highest number in 18 years.

During 2012 an average of 23,000 people per day were forced to abandon their homes due to conflict and persecution.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that at the end of 2012 globally there were 15.4 million refugees.

The escalating crisis in Syria was one of the key drivers of the increase in the refugee population in 2012. Last year the conflict in Syria forced 647,000 people to seek refuge in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and other countries in the region.

In 2012 Australia received 15,963 applications for asylum, which constituted 2.2% of the total number of applications for asylum submitted worldwide. The number of persons seeking asylum in 2012 equated to less than 7% of Australia’s immigration intake, and 4% of the overall growth in Australia’s population in that year.

The majority of the people who arrived by boat in Australia and lodged asylum applications were from Afghanistan, the report says. It says the top five source countries for asylum seekers who arrived by boat and made asylum applications were from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Pakistan and Iraq.

The AHRC raised issues of concern over the treatment of asylum seekers, including mandatory detention, third country processing, detention of children and the deterioration of the mental health of detainees.

The report said there were 846 reported incidents of self-harm across Australia’s immigration detention network in 2012-13.

“I urge the Australian Government to ensure that all asylum seekers and refugees are treated humanely regardless of their mode of arrival, and to continue to uphold our proud history of providing protection to some of the world’s most persecuted and vulnerable people,” Ms Triggs said.