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Home > Publications > Reports > Is Australia’s response to refugees generous? An analysis of UNHCR Global Trends statistics from 2013 to 2022

Is Australia’s response to refugees generous? An analysis of UNHCR Global Trends statistics from 2013 to 2022

Since the Australian Government first started receiving international criticism of its hardline responses to people arriving by boat to seek asylum, Australian politicians have responded by claiming that the nation has one of the most generous refugee programs per capita. Others have rejected this, pointing to the much larger numbers of refugees hosted by countries such as Türkiye, Iran, Germany, Pakistan and Uganda. What do global statistics tell us about the extent of Australia’s support of refugees?

This Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) briefing looks at 10 years of statistics released by the UN refugee agency UNHCR, noting changes in the numbers of refugees and people seeking asylum between 2013 and 2022 and assessing how Australia compares. The figures are drawn from statistical annexes released with UNHCR’s annual Global Trends reports.

Key points

  • The number of refugees under UNHCR’s mandate has grown dramatically over the past decade, from 11.7 million in 2013 to 29.4 million in 2022.
  • Asylum applications also increased, from 3.4 million in 2013 to 6.9 million in 2022. The number of pending asylum applications increased from 1.17 million at the end of 2013 to 5.33 million at December 2022.
  • In refugee resettlement, over 10 years Australia was third overall and second on a per capita basis, receiving 13.1% (132,180) of the 1,008,934 refugees resettled.
  • However, of the 22.98 million people given refugee status over 10 years, Australia recognised only 0.21%, just 48,523.

The scale of Australia’s international contribution can best be seen when refugee recognition and resettlement are considered together. Over the 10 years to December 2022, Australia recognised or resettled 180,073 refugees, 0.75% of the global total of 23.99 million refugees recognised or resettled in that period. On this measure, Australia was ranked 30th overall, 41st on a per capita basis and 77th relative to national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The largest overall contributions were made by Türkiye, Germany, Uganda, Sudan, Lebanon, Poland, Jordan, Ethiopia, United States and Bangladesh, with Lebanon ranked first per capita and relative to GDP.

Download the report below or continue to read the report.

Global Trends 2013-22
Size : 1.3 MB Format : PDF

Cover photo: People on the move in the Darien region of Panama in early 2023. © UNHCR/Melissa Pinel

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