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Refugee Response Index Australia Review: Making the international refugee system work (Pillar 6)

The following presents the key findings from the application of the Refugee Response Index (RRI) to the Australia context, focusing on Pillar 6 of the RRI: Making the international refugee system work.

Refugee Response Index (RRI) Australia Review


Overall, the Australian government makes a significant contribution to making the international system work, evidenced by financial commitments to key institutions, participation in global dialogue, and enabling monitoring of its approach. There are, however, some key areas for improvement, particularly in relation to Australia’s regional and bilateral cooperation towards improved refugee protection (component 6.2) and in how it monitors and reports on the experiences of certain cross-cutting groups through collecting and disaggregating data (cross-cutting issues). Financial contributions and monitoring by Australia is relatively good, although there are areas detailed below where there are gaps and improvements could be made.

Pillar Six – Australia (Unweighted Scoring)[1] 

Pillar image

Component 6.1: There is adequate financing for the international refugee response system

This component of the RRI did not involve indicators with scoring, but tabling amounts and percentages of financial contributions to refugee financing and programming using various measures (see Appendix B in the Full report for details). As such, an analysis is difficult to present as the data is more a baseline to aid future comparison. Some points to note in this data:

  • Support for UNHCR and UNRWA: In 2021, the Australian Government contributed USD 22.7 million to UNHCR and USD 7.5 million to UNRWA, with an additional USD 23.7 million raised by private donors in Australia.[2] This total (46.3 million for UNHCR) puts Australia’s financial contribution (both public and private) at 1.02% of UNHCR’s total donor contributions in 2021, which is below Australia’s national share of global GDP (1.61%).[3] Australian public and private contributions to UNRWA represented 0.68% of all contributions received by UNRWA from governments around the world.
  • Overseas aid for refugee and host communities: In addition to funding UNHCR- and UNRWA-coordinated activities, Australia provided at least USD 82.2 million to humanitarian programming for refugees and host communities in other countries through international and local NGO assistance programmes.[4] Data on how Australia is contributing to supporting refugees and host communities in other countries is not readily available, reflecting an overall lack of engagement or clear strategy by the Australian Government on how its aid program contributes to enhancing refugee responses internationally.[5]
  • Supporting multilateral responses: In 2021 Australia contributed a total of USD 3.8 million to two Refugee Response Plans: Syria Regional 3RP and Afghanistan Regional RRP. In addition, Australia’s contribution to multi-donor refugee-related trust funds was USD 12.7 million. This was allocated to four funds: The Trust Fund for Victims, The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund and Women’s Peace & Humanitarian TF.[6] These contributions amounted to 0.49% of Australia’s annual overseas development assistance (ODA) in 2020-21.[7]
  • Support to major refugee host countries: In terms of bilateral aid to countries hosting the largest refugee populations, Australian ODA to low and middle-income countries that were the top 15 refugee recipients was USD 50.1 million. However, country-specific ODA went to only three of these 15 host countries – Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.[8]

Component 6.2: There is global, regional and bilateral cooperation and engagement towards improved refugee responses

Australia scored fairly low on three indicators relating to cooperation at different levels to improve refugee responses (indicators 6.2.1, 6.2.3 and 6.2.6 – see appendix). At a global level, Australia’s cooperation is more robust. For example, Australia is an active member of UNHCR’s ExCom and Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR) and is co-chair of the Global Taskforce on Refugee Labour Mobility. The Australian Government has provided technical and financial support and shared information with a number of countries in the Asia Pacific region and beyond on RSD, reception, resettlement and integration (settlement) processes. However, the impetus for cooperation on RSD, reception and integration in the context of offshore (regional) processing and the assessment of its application in practice, does not shed a favourable light on Australia’s contributions in this area.[9]  Regionally, Australia’s cooperation through the Bali Process and more broadly has been criticised for lack of focus on refugee protection and addressing the causes of people movements.[10]  Bilaterally, cooperation with countries such as Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Nauru has been assessed as undermining refugee protection and responses.[11]

Component 6.3: There is adequate monitoring of the country response to refugees

Monitoring of Australia’s response to refugees is relatively sound. For example, Section F in Australia’s latest report (2021) to the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) specifically contemplates issues relating to refugees and asylum seekers.[12]  Many of the issues previously raised through the UPR process have not been fully addressed in the government’s response as evidenced by the fact that, of the 122 UN member states participating in Australia’s UPR hearing before the UN Human Rights Council on 20 January 2021, 45 states made comments or recommendations on refugee and detention policies.[13]

Data is made available to a large extent, with statistics regularly published on the Department of Home Affairs website or surfaced through questions published through parliamentary processes.[14] However criticism has been made by civil society about lack of transparency and adequacy of data in some areas, particularly delays in release of data on immigration detention.[15]

In general, the Australian Government supports independent monitoring of refugee rights and how basic needs are being met, including by making data publicly available, allowing immigration detention monitoring by the Australian Red Cross, and publicly disclosing information about refugee and asylum policies and procedures through parliamentary processes. There has, however, been some obstruction of UN monitoring visits, including in 2015 when the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crépeau, postponed his planned official visit to Australia due to the lack of full cooperation from the Government regarding protection concerns and access to detention centres.[16]

Pillar 6 Cross-cutting issues

In terms of how national data-collection efforts and reports on refugees disaggregate and conduct analysis of the cross-cutting groups, data is fairly consistently collected and disaggregated by age, gender and ethnicity/religion.[17]  There is very little disaggregated data available on refugees with a disability and none on sexual minorities.[18]  Data on trafficking victims is collected more broadly as part of the Trafficked Persons Support Program, but is not cross-referenced with refugee population data.[19]

More information

Download the RRI Australia Report Appendix to see a full description of indicators and scores for Pillar 6.

RRI Australia Report_Appendix
Size : 855.3 kB Format : PDF


[1] This bar chart illustrates the unweighted average score for each component within the Pillar Five. A score of 5 indicates the best or highest response, with 1 being an assessment of the lowest or least desirable response. This scoring is indicative only, given that the indicators and components have not been weighted, and should not be used for comparison purposes.

[2] UNHCR (2022). Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme; UNRWA (2021). 2021 Pledges towards UNRWA’s Programmes

[3] Australia’s national share of global GDP was worked out using World Bank (2022) GDP (current US$) data

[4] The exact amount is difficult to ascertain through available data sources, as some transfers listed in the OCHA Financial Tracking Service may be directed towards refugees (e.g. in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan), but some descriptors in the FTS database are not detailed and these and amounts within broader or general funding have been excluded. Source: Financial Tracking Service (FTS) (2021). Australia, Government of 2021

[5] RCOA (2022). Submission on the New International Development Policy

[6] The Trust Fund for Victims (2021). TFV Management Brief Q4/2021; Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (2022). Administrator’s Report on Financial Status; Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office (2022). Trust Fund Factsheet: Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund; Women’s Peace & Humanitarian Fund (2021). Annual Report 2021.

[7] Australia’s ODA was calculated using the Foreign Aid Budget, which reports on the 2020-21 financial year and amounted to AUD 4.335 billion, or USD 3.257 billion. UNHCR funding is reported by calendar year.

[8] Top 15 refugee hosting low and middle income countries: Uganda, Pakistan, Sudan, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Iran, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Cameroon, South Sudan, Egypt, Niger, India. This was determined using UNHCR data of top refugee hosting countries and filtering for low and middle income countries classified using World Bank Country Classifications for 2021.  Country (bilateral) ODA data: The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. (2021). Partnerships for Recovery Australian Official Development Assistance 2021

[9] Gleeson (2017). Offshore processing: refugee status determination for asylum seekers in Nauru; Nethery & Gordyn (2013). Australia–Indonesia cooperation on asylum-seekers: a case of ‘incentivised policy transfer’

[10] Gordyn, C. (2018). The Bali Process and refugee protection in Southeast Asia; McCaffrie, C. (2022). The right tools for a coherent regional response to forced migration; RCOA (2019). Improving refugee protection in Asia-Pacific: How Australia can make a practical difference

[11] Hirsch (2017). The Borders Beyond the Border: Australia’s Extraterritorial Migration Controls

[12] UN Human Rights Council (2020). Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Australia 18–29 January 2021,  A/HRC/WG.6/37/AUS/1

[13] RCOA (2021). UN member states challenge Australia’s refugee and asylum policies

[14] See, for example: Department of Home Affairs. Visa statistics: Humanitarian Program; RCOA (2022). What we have learnt from the responses to 2021-22 Additional Senate Estimates Questions on Notice

[15] Expert opinion

[16] OHCHR (2015). Migrants / Human rights: Official visit to Australia postponed due to protection concerns

[17] Department of Home Affairs. Visa statistics: Humanitarian Program

[18] RCOA (2019). People with disability in immigration detention; FECCA, NEDA, RCOA, SCOA (2019). Barriers and exclusions: The support needs of newly arrived refugees with a disability; Migration Council of Australia & Forcibly Displaced People Network (2020). Gender Responsive Settlement: Broader Learnings from LGBTIQ+ Refugees

[19] Australian Red Cross (2020). Support for Trafficked People Program: Data Snapshot: 2009 to 2019

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