Putting asylum seekers in perspective

UNHCR have recently released their latest figures on international asylum seeker trends in industrialised countries.  The report includes 44 industrialised countries.  I will keep saying the words industrialised countries as this is highly significant.  I have very briefly summarised the report and focused on the Australian figures for those who may be interested.

By the way, did I mention that these figures are for industrialised countries only?  If the rest of the world were included the percentages would be very different (i.e. much much much lower).

  • Australia ranked 15th in the asylum seeker receiving countries, the US ranked first (most were Chinese and Mexican)
  • In 2009 and 2010 Australian received only 2% (that’s right, 2%!) of asylum seeker applications.  This is up from 1% in 2006, 2007, and 2008
  • The top five destination countries (industrialised countries) are the US (15%), France (13%), Germany (12%), Sweden (9%), and Canada (6%)
  • When the number of arrivals is viewed as a percentage of national population the top five are Cyrpus, Malta, Sweden, Lichtenstein, and Norway
  • When viewed in terms of GDP per capita the top five are the US, France, the UK, Sweden, and Canada
  • In 2009 the top nine countries of origin were (in order) Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Russian Federation, China, Serbia, Nigeria, Iran, and Pakistan
  • In 2010 the top ten countries of origine were (in order) Serbia, Afghanistan, China, Iraq, Russian Federation, Somalia, Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka (which ranked 13th in 2009)

So we panic about our 2% and lock up asylum seekers so they can’t hurt us.  Here is what UNHCR have to say about that:

“The relatively small number of people coming to Australia – coming largely from the most troubled and conflict-ridden regions of the world – again demonstrates the vital importance and relevance of the Refugee Convention and asylum as the principal means of protecting people who are fleeing persecution and serious human rights violations” UNHCR Regional Representative Richard Towle said today.

“In Australia, the challenge is to maintain fair, humane and expeditious processing of all asylum claimants, irrespective of their method of entry. The current approach to mandatory detention – which involves often long periods in isolated locations and crowded conditions – is a challenge that needs particular attention.”

“Experience shows that people held in such conditions frequently experience high levels of personal stress, including self-harm.”

“UNHCR believes there are ways of managing the legitimate security concerns of States while, at the same time, providing more flexible, community-based arrangements for people in Australia while their asylum claims are being processed.”

Those who would like to read the report can find it here: http://www.unhcr.org/4d8c5b109.html

Here is the article about Australia’s intake http://unhcr.org.au/unhcr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=202&catid=46&Itemid=92

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2 comments
  1. Hannah said:

    I love that this data refutes the myths the wider Australian population seems to believe – that our country takes in “so many” asylum seekers.
    Clearly the fact that we have jumped ONE WHOLE PERCENT means that we are about to be over run with asylum seekers; its an epidemic!

  2. These fears are even more ridiculous when you look at the statistics for the world as a whole. In 2009 (UNHCR’s most recent figures) Australia had, wait for it, 0.26% of asylum seeker applications worldwide.

    0.26%!

    I wrote a blog about that for Amnesty International. If you’re interested it can be found here:
    http://www.amnesty.org.au/refugees/comments/21704/

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