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Australia Breaking Promises to Refugees Says NFP

22 June 2016 at 4:33 pm
Wendy Williams
The world’s wealthiest nations, including Australia, have failed to deliver on promises to increase resettlement for the world’s neediest refugees, according to the Refugee Council of Australia.

Wendy Williams | 22 June 2016 at 4:33 pm


Australia Breaking Promises to Refugees Says NFP
22 June 2016 at 4:33 pm

The world’s wealthiest nations, including Australia, have failed to deliver on promises to increase resettlement for the world’s neediest refugees, according to the Refugee Council of Australia.


Photo: Lukasz Z /

New figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), released during Refugee Week, revealed global forced displacement had reached a record high, with an  average of 24 people being displaced from their homes every minute during 2015.

According to UNHCR’s latest Global Trends report, by the end of 2015, 65.3 million people had been forcibly displaced worldwide – a tally greater than the population of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined.

I24 refugees every minutet marks an increase of 5.8 million people from the previous year, with 21.3 million refugees worldwide, more than half of which were children.

Meanwhile just 107,000 refugees were given the chance to resettle in 2015 – equivalent to 0.5 per cent of the global refugee population.

Refugee Council of Australia CEO Paul Power said the government had broken its pledge and Australia had fallen behind in terms of resettlement.

“Despite the Australian Government’s pledge in September to add 12,000 additional places to the number of Syrian and Iraqi refugees resettled, UNHCR’s figures show that Australia, in fact, helped fewer refugees in 2015 than the previous year,” Power said.

“The 9,399 refugees Australia resettled last year represented a decrease of 2,171 places on the previous year.

“Even within the very limited pool of resettlement places available, Australia has fallen behind on a per capita resettlement basis. In 2015, our nation’s efforts were surpassed by Canada, Norway and even Liechtenstein.

“For the 99.5 per cent of refugees who were not given the chance to resettle in 2015, Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon remained the most generous hosts of refugees. Each of these nations are hosting more than one million refugees each, with Turkey alone hosting 2.54 million.

“In 2015, the global refugee population increased by 2.34 million, with the civil war in Syria alone being responsible for half of this increase. Large numbers of refugees also fled Burundi, South Sudan, Ukraine and Central African Republic.”

According to the report, which tracked forced displacement worldwide based on data from governments, partner agencies and UNHCR’s own reporting, Australia fell from first to fourth per capita for the resettlement of refugees from their country of asylum.

2m asylum applicationsOf the 2.34 million people given refugee status in 2015, only 0.1 per cent (2,377 people) were given refugee status in Australia, while only 9,399 refugees were resettled by Australia in 2015 2,171 fewer than the previous year.

In terms of recognition of refugee status and resettlement, of the 2.45 million refugees who had their status recognised or were resettled in 2015, just 0.48 per cent were assisted by Australia (11,776 people).

By this measure, Australia was ranked 25th overall, 32nd per capita and 47th relative to total national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Looking at the same indicator over the past decade (2006 to 2015), Australia assisted less than 1 per cent of the 14.1 million people given refugee status or resettlement.

Power said he hoped the dire nature of the new UNHCR figures might provide a wake-up call to Australia’s political leaders.

“For too long, our nation has focused on promoting detention and deterrence, wasting billions of dollars on keeping a small number of people in cruel conditions to discourage other persecuted people from seeking our help,” he said.

“Tragically, the global situation has become much worse. Now, more than ever, we need leaders prepared to work together for better answers for displaced people, addressing critical issues such as refugees’ lack of access to legal protection or the right to work, the constant fear of arrest and detention and exclusion from education and essential health services.

Top host“There is no better time than Refugee Week to reflect on how Australia can make a strategic difference, through increased resettlement, constructive diplomacy, improved conditions in countries of asylum and working to build peace in countries from which refugees have fled.”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said that not only were more people being displaced by war and persecution but the factors that endanger refugees were multiplying too

“At sea, a frightening number of refugees and migrants are dying each year; on land, people fleeing war are finding their way blocked by closed borders. Closing borders does not solve the problem,” Grandi said.

“The willingness of nations to work together not just for refugees but for the collective human interest is what’s being tested today, and it’s this spirit of unity that badly needs to prevail.”

It comes as the government confirmed on Wednesday that a group of 21 asylum seekers had been returned to Vietnam, in the Coalition’s 28th boat turn-back operation.

Speaking at a media conference in Brisbane, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the passengers were flown home after their claims for protection were rejected.

“They claimed that they were wanting protection, it was found that they were not owed protection and they were returned to Vietnam,” Dutton said.

Meanwhile, a new online platform which details MPs’ views on immigration detention of children has been launched to coincide with World Refugee Week.

The End Child Detention Coalition, which comprises a number of Australian secular, church, and non-government organisations, said the Vote for Free Kids website was a useful tool to find out who thinks what on the issue of children in detention in the lead up to the federal election on 2 July.

Co-chair of the End Child Detention Coalition Jenny Collins-White said the platform was launched with the intention to educate and inform the public regarding the position of each candidate.

“We’ve seen this situation before, when almost all children were free from detention in 2005,” Collins-White said.

“And then we saw things change drastically because we had no long term solution to protect children’s rights.

“This new website informs the public about which MPs are willing to take steps towards long term sustainable change for the rights of all children, so that we never see the situation again where Australia is detaining thousands of kids.

“Voting for a candidate who is committed to ending the detention of children will provide more support within the parliament for releasing children into the community.

“We believe there is a crucial need for informed public debate on this issue and ultimately by launching this platform we hope to assist the voting public to make an informed decision when heading to the polls on 2 July.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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