Seeking asylum is not a way of ‘jumping the queue’ but is the normal way to apply for protection as a refugee. Australia also accepts refugees from overseas through its resettlement program, but this is simply a different strategy for different circumstances. It does not mean that resettlement is the better or ‘right’ way to come. In fact, before a person can be resettled they usually must first seek asylum through UNHCR.
Resettlement exists to help people who cannot return home once conditions have improved. It helps those who have moved but have not found effective protection, and those who are especially vulnerable for reasons such as disability, gender, risk of detention, complex health issues and isolation from community support.
Resettlement is offered only by a few countries, and there are very few places for resettlement – less than 1% of the world’s refugees are resettled every year. While resettlement remains an essential solution for some refugees and more resettlement places are certainly needed, it is not necessary, possible or even desirable for all of the world’s refugees to be resettled. For the majority of refugees, returning home once the conditions which forced them to leave have improved or settling permanently in the country where they first sought asylum are far more practical and desirable solutions compared to being resettled in another country.
Even for refugees who are in need of resettlement, there is no orderly resettlement ‘queue’ to join. In practice, the resettlement system works more like a lottery than a queue. While UNHCR aims to prioritise those in greatest need, most refugees – even people in very vulnerable situations – cannot realistically expect to be resettled in the near future, if ever. Many refugees cannot even access UNHCR’s resettlement processes.