Today’s release of a new global report on forced displacement highlights the need for the Albanese Government to act on Labor’s pledge to increase Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program, the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) says.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR today released Global Trends: Forced Displacement 2022, which shows that the number of people forcibly displaced by persecution, war, violence and human rights abuses increased in 2022 by 19.1 million to 108.4 million. These include 35.3 million refugees who have crossed an international border to find safety, 5.4 million people seeking asylum and 62.5 million people displaced within their own countries.
“Around the world, communities in low and middle income countries are playing the largest role in welcoming and supporting refugees, collectively hosting 76% of those with refugee status,” RCOA chief executive officer Paul Power said.
“The Australian Labor Party has committed itself to reversing recent cuts to the Refugee and Humanitarian Program and increasing it to 27,000 places a year with 5000 additional places for community sponsorship.
“That Labor commitment has no timeframe attached to it but the alarming growth in forced displacement provides a compelling case for the Albanese Government to act now on its plan to offer more refugee places.
“Later this month, Australia will take over the leadership of the global dialogue on refugee resettlement for 2023-24 when Ireland passes the chairing of the Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR) to the Australian Government. As the NGO co-chair of the ATCR for 2023-24, RCOA is advocating strongly for Australia to lead by example through a significant increase in resettlement places, as we outlined in our recent submission to the Federal Government.
“The previous Coalition Government, when elected in 2013, cut the annual humanitarian program from 20,000 to 13,750 places each year. After a short term increase, the core program is back at 13,750 places, with 4125 additional places each year for four years for refugees displaced by the Taliban’s 2021 takeover of Afghanistan.
“While the UNHCR report released today illustrates that many nations have assisted refugees by allowing them to cross borders without prior notice to seek asylum, Australia has, to our national shame, led the world in policies designed to turn refugees away.
“Australia’s policy is to subject any refugee who seeks asylum on arrival at our national border to indefinite detention – sending them to Nauru if they arrive by boat or to onshore detention centres if they arrive by plane.
“The offshore detention policy is now being copied by the United Kingdom. If every other nation followed suit, the international refugee protection system would collapse and millions of people would be at grave risk of persecution and death.
“This UNHCR report provides a compelling cast not only for a larger refugee resettlement program and also for significant reform of Australia’s asylum and detention policies. It is unacceptable for Australia to refuse to assist people at times of great need while expecting much poorer nations to offer them protection.”