Global asylum trends 2012: how does Australia compare?

Parliament house flag post

Global asylum trends 2012: how does Australia compare?

Posted 9/04/2013 by Janet Phillips

Afghan girl ina refugee camp near Kandahar
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently released its latest report on the number of asylum applications lodged in the 44 industrialised countries that provide statistics to the UNHCR.

The 2012 report, Asylum levels and trends in industrialized countries, recorded the second highest number of applications this decade with 479 300 asylum applications lodged (the highest level was in 2003 when there were 505 000 applications). Afghanistan remained the main country of origin of asylum-seekers in 2012, followed by Syria with a 191 per cent increase in asylum claims.

The High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, noted that both new (Syria) and old (Afghanistan) conflicts were contributing to the rise in claims and that wars were ‘driving more and more people to seek asylum’. However, Guterres also pointed out that the asylum claims lodged in industrialised countries were only a drop in the ocean compared to the levels of displacement experienced closer to the regions of conflict:
In most cases people seeking refuge from conflict choose to remain in countries neighbouring their own in hope of being able to return home (an example is Syria, where the figure of 24, 800 Syrian asylum claims in industrialized countries compares to more than 1,100,000 registered Syrian refugees currently in neighbouring countries). 
Australia compared

Although Australia experienced a rise in asylum applications largely due to a rise in the number of boat arrivals, the total number of applications registered in Australia in 2012 was a relatively modest 15 800 compared with the 355 500 claims received in Europe and the 103 900 received in North America.

Since 1999–2001, when Australia last experienced a surge in boat arrivals during the Howard Government, irregular maritime arrivals lodging asylum claims have consisted primarily of people from Afghanistan followed by Iraq, Iran and Sri Lanka. However, Australia has not shouldered a significant burden of asylum flows from these countries—much higher asylum caseloads have featured prominently in the UK and other destination countries for many years.

In fact, as Guterres notes, none of the industrialised countries, Australia included, shoulders a significant burden compared to the developing countries neighbouring most of the world’s conflict zones. The vast majority of asylum seekers and refugees are hosted in such countries such as Pakistan, so the burden of assisting the world’s asylum seekers and refugees actually falls to some of the world’s poorest countries.

It is unlikely that the current levels of asylum applications, including those lodged by Afghans, will decrease any time soon. Recent analysis of the situation in Afghanistan predicts that there will be continuing instability, causing increased displacement to neighbouring countries, particularly Pakistan and Iran. The UNHCR agrees and notes that while more than 5.7 million refugees have voluntarily repatriated to Afghanistan in the last 10 years, ‘due to the continuing volatility, returning refugees struggle to achieve sustainable reintegration’ with the result that internal displacement in Afghanistan and asylum flows from the region have continued to increase over the last three years.

Given that the majority of Australia’s boat arrivals have originated from Afghanistan over the last decade, it is quite possible that Australia may also experience increased, not decreased, asylum flows if the instability in Afghanistan escalates.

For further analysis of these issues from the Parliamentary Library see Asylum seekers, refugees and people smuggling—links to the key Parliamentary Library papers.

Image source:

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




immigration refugees elections taxation asylum Parliament criminal law Indigenous Australians election results Australian Bureau of Statistics social security disability citizenship income management political parties United Kingdom UK Parliament Census statistics banking early childhood education Middle East Australian foreign policy OECD Australian Electoral Commission voting mental health Employment welfare by-election election timetable China; Economic policy; Southeast Asia; Africa housing Speaker; House of Representatives; Parliament Productivity Defence asylum seekers High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title Senate ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories leadership aid Papua New Guinea emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding Electoral reform politics refugees immigration asylum Canada procurement Australian Public Service firearms Indigenous health constitution High Court e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament women 2015 International Women's Day public policy ABS Population Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade skilled migration Private health insurance Medicare Financial sector EU national security fuel China soft power education violence against women domestic violence Fiji India Disability Support Pension disability employment welfare reform Tasmania Antarctica China Diplomacy Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency Sport ASADA Federal Court WADA ADRV by-elections state and territories terrorism terrorist groups Bills corruption anti-corruption integrity fraud bribery transparency corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform science innovation research and development transport standards Afghanistan Australian Defence Force NATO United States social media Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism higher education Higher Education Loan Program HECS welfare policy pensions social services ASIO Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Australian Secret Intelligence Service intelligence community Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 sexual abuse online grooming sexual assault of minors labour force workers

Show all
Show less
Back to top