Slow Pace of Resettlement Leaves World’s Refugees Without Answers
Australia and the world’s wealthiest nations have failed to deliver on promises to increase resettlement for the world’s neediest refugees, new figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have highlighted.
With the total number of refugees reaching 21.3 million and forced displacement exceeding 65 million, just 107,000 refugees were given the chance to resettle in 2015 – equivalent to just 0.5% of the global refugee population.
Refugee Council of Australia CEO Paul Power said, “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,”
“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% 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.”
Mr 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.
“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.”
Key points from UNHCR 2015 Global Trends statistics:
- Granting of refugee status: Of the 2.34 million people given refugee status in 2015, only 0.1% (2,377 people) were given refugee status in Australia.
- Refugee resettlement: Australia fell from first to fourth per capita for the resettlement of refugees from their country of asylum, being passed by Canada, Norway and Liechtenstein. Only 9,399 refugees were resettled by Australia in 2015, 2,171 fewer than the previous year. Globally, 107,051 refugees were resettled in 2015, just 0.5% of the world’s refugees. The largest number was resettled to the United States (66,517 people, 62% of the global total).
- 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% were assisted by Australia (11,776 people). By this measure, the truest indicator a nation’s performance during the year, Australia was ranked 25th overall, 32nd per capita and 47th relative to total national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
- Refugees recognised or resettled over the past decade: Looking at the same indicator over the past decade (2006 to 2015), Australia assisted 0.99% of the 14.1 million people given refugee status or resettlement. By this measure, Australia was ranked 26th overall, 31st per capita and 46th relative to total national GDP.
- Applications for asylum: In 2015, 4.91 million applied for asylum around the world, with 16,117 (0.33%) in Australia. Of these global applications, 3.1 million were individual applications with the remaining 1.8 million people applying under the temporary protection and group recognition processes which apply in mass influxes of refugees. As the year ended, 3.22 million asylum applications remained pending, 20,677 (0.64%) of them in Australia.
- Global refugee population: At the end of 2015, there were 16.1 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate and another 5.2 million Palestinian refugees under the mandate of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) – bringing the global total of refugees to 21.3 million. The total number of forcibly displaced people totalled 65.3 million, including 40.8 million internally displaced within the borders of their own country and 3.2 million still seeking asylum.
- Most generous host countries: The countries with the largest refugee populations (under UNHCR’s mandate) at the end of 2015 were Turkey (2.54 million), Pakistan (1.56 million), Lebanon (1.07 million), Iran (979,437) and Ethiopia (736,086). The 506 refugees in Nauru (total population 10,000) make it third per capita for hosting refugees, behind Lebanon and Jordan and just ahead of Turkey and Chad. The biggest increase in refugee population was in Turkey, where 961,955 people were given refugee status.
- Refugees hosted by Australia: UNHCR’s statistics record Australia as hosting 36,917 refugees (0.23% of the global total). However, this figure is less reliable as a guide to Australia’s contribution, as it does not include refugees resettled by Australia.
- Main source countries for refugees: The five main source countries for refugees under UNHCR’s mandate as at 31 December 2015 were Syria (4.87 million), Afghanistan (2.67 million), Somalia (1.12 million), South Sudan (778,697) and Sudan (628,770). The source countries which were responsible for the largest increases in refugee populations in 2015 were Syria, Burundi, South Sudan, Ukraine and Central African Republic.