Refugees accepted by Australia
Written by: Aliya Akhmetzhanova (s4560369); Chen Liu (s4563618)
This post was created as part of a university assessment on order to share results of a research. The study focused on Australia Refugees. In this post we do not present all our findings and explain details.
This post aims to show you the main and most interesting resualts that we descovered.
Who are Refugees? and Why does australia take refugees?
Before talking about refugees in Australia, it is important to separate Refugee from an Asylum seeker.
An asylum seeker is a person who has sought protection as a refugee, but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been assessed. Not Asylum seekers are successful in proving the Refugee status.
The definition of Refugees and key issues for the Refugee status were introduced by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as:
“A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group” (Refugee Convention, 1951).
Therefore, a refugee is the person has to be outside their country of origin and who cannot go back to their home country.
The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was declared by the United Nations in 1951. In the same year the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established. Since that, UNHCR is a body responsible for protecting refugees and overseeing adherence to the Refugee Convention.
In 1954, Australia accepted the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees with all obligations following. As one of the outcome, Australia has international obligations to protect the human rights of all asylum seekers and refugees who arrive in Australia, regardless of how or where they arrive and whether they arrive with or without a visa. There were around 700,000 who have resettled in the country since 1945 (see Pic.1. Refugees in Australia – historical perspective).
Pic 1. Refugees in Australia – historical perspective
Another outcome of the adoption the Convention, there are two components of the Refugee and Humanitarian programme in Australia:
- Offshore component aims at people who are outside of Australia. That seems that those people came to Australia with Refugee Status approved. There are two categories of visas in the offshore resettlement programme. The first category is for those people who are under persecution in their own country and who are refugees as defined by the 1951 Refugee Convention. The second is the Special Humanitarian Programme category for people who are not refugees and who are subject to substantial discrimination related to human rights in their home country (Department of Immigration and Border Protection, 2016).
- Onshore The purpose of this programme is to offer a few options for those people who are in Australia and want to apply for protection (or are seeking asylum), and also take a boat to arrive in Australia (Department of Immigration and Border Protection, 2016).
Pic. 2. Offshore and onshore refugees in Australia (visa granted from 1977 to 2015)
Where does the magic number for Australia’s refugee intake come from?
We believe, the number of people who receive the refugee status is relation to a few factors (internal and external). That is likely that number of refugees accepted under those two categories (Offshore and Onshore) will be effected by different factors.
We mainly focused on influence of factors such as: Historical events (wars, political or social crisis) that effect the refugee flow and related changes on Australian legislation.
Refugee arrivals and historical timeline. What was original cause?
As it was mentioned before, a refugee is a person who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence”.
Therefore, on the one hand, the number of people who came as a refugee is related to historical events such as wars, or political or social repression. On the other hand, Australian immigration policy also had an impact on the refugee flow.
Observation of the refugee flow from the perspective of the world history (Pic 1. Refugees in Australia – historical perspective) shows that:
The observation of the general refugee flow, in historical context shows:
- The number of people accepted by Australia each year refers to two types of historical occasions: Armed conflict and wars; Social, political or ecumenical difficulties.
- The effect of changes in legal system on the general refugee flow is not obvious.
For the period from 1977 to 1984, there were two noticeable conflicts as Australians have been involved in peacekeeping operations in: Iran (from 1988 to 1990), Afghanistan (from 1989 to 1993). Also, the government introduced the Special Humanitarian programme (SHP) in response to unrest in Iran. This quickly became a major component of Australia’s humanitarian programme and focused on those who are not strictly Convention refugees. The number of people immigrating as refugees increased significantly.
The greatest part of refugees accepted from 1990 to 2000 were from Yugoslavian countries (See Pic.3 Refugee by origin countries (year 1996)). The Yugoslav Wars (or the Balkans conflict) started in 1992. Australia received several thousand immigrants from that war, the vast majority of whom arrived under the Refugee and Humanitarian programme.
Pic. 3. Refugee by origin countries (year 1996)
From 2000, Australia changed the immigration rules and settled a few limitations, in order to slow down the refugee flow. However, Australia still accepted people from countries with wars, such as the Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan (See Pic. 4. Refugee by origin countries (year 2004)).
Pic. 4. Refugee by origin countries (year 2004)
However, the increase of refugees accepted from 2010 to 2014 may be related to the onshore refugee category (people who came on boats). For example, refugee flows from Indonesia and Sri Lanka are not related to wars (See Pic. 5. Refugee by origin countries (year 2014)). It seems that part of those people suffered not from armed conflict, but from other social, political or ecumenical difficulties.
Pic. 5. Refugee by origin countries (year 2014)
Close look on the Offshore Refugee flow.
It seems that those people who received offshore visas are more likely to be from countries suffering from armed conflicts and wars. Moreover, those people would come by boats illegally. In this case, the offshore refugee flow was a response to historical events.
Pic. 6. Categories of offshore refugees in Australia (visa granted from 1978 to 2013)
As it is shown in the graph (See Pic. 6. Categories of offshore refugee in Australia (visa granted from 1978 to 2013)), the number of offshore visa grants increased or decrease depending on historical acquisitions:
- From 1979 to 1988 – the rise referred to the Afghanistan and Iran-Iraq wars;
- From 1990 to 2000 for the Yugoslavian wars;
- From 2001 to 2007 for the Sudan and Iraq wars.
In addition, as was mentioned before, there are three categories of programmes for offshore refugee: Refugee (under the Refugee Convention); Special Assistants Category; Special Humanitarian programme. However, it seems this categorisation does not affect the immigration flow.
Close look on the Onshore Refugee flow.
It seems that those people who received onshore visa are more likely to be from countries suffering from social, political or ecumenical difficulties. For example, during the last 15 years there was an increase of refugees from Indonesia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka (See Pic. 5. Refugee by origin countries (year 2014)). Those countries had not wars, but political or social difficulties.
Another issue of this category is that people who apply for refugee status onshore are usually staying in Australia illegally. The main way to come is by boats. Therefore, it looks like Australia is less welcome to those people compared to the offshore type (See Pic. 2. Offshore and onshore refugees in Australia (visa granted from 1977 to 2015).
Therefore, we assume that the number of immigrants under this category shall be affected by the government’s policy (See Pic. 7. Onshore refugees in Australia (visa granted from 1977 to 2015).
Pic. 7. Onshore refugees in Australia (visa granted from 1977 to 2015)
For example, in 1999 the Australian government introduced Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs). TPVs allow their holders to stay in Australia for up to three years, after which time their protection claims will be reassessed. After that, the number of onshore refugee rocketed. Another noticeable change was in 2001 as then the Pacific Solution programme was implemented. Under the policy, asylum seekers arriving without authorisation were sent to Australian-funded detention camps in Pacific Island states, rather than being allowed to claim asylum on the Australian mainland. As a result, the number of visa grants to onshore refugee dropped.
Pic. 8. Boat arrivals and onshore visas granted (from 1977 to 2013)
However, the government policy was changed in response to a number of people coming. According to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, this means the government says it won’t send back a refugee to his home state against his will. It defines a refugee as someone who has “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion”. Therefore, the country shall accept those people who are capable to prove their refugee status. That means the government will increase the number of visas granted in respect to the number of people coming (See Pic. 8. Boat arrivals and onshore visas granted (from 1977 to 2013)).
What about the refugee resettlement programmes?
That is likely that the number of refugee accepted by Australia effected by the ability of the country to support them.
Relocation of refugee by states is relation to local strategies for the states development. The number of people taken by each state is different (See Pic. 9. Refugee settlements by state (2012-13)).
Pic. 9. Refugee settlements by state (2012-13)
That might be related to abilities of each state to cover the costs associated with the refugee resettlement programmes. Supporting people the government provides refugees with: accommodation, food and clothes, language lessons and other necessities. Therefore, each state estimates their amount of money that they can use to finance the resettlement programme and define the number of people to look after.
Another possible reason is that different states have different needs for workers. The best outcome of settlement programmes should be an increase in skilled labour. Each region assesses their ability to receive a particular number of refugees and aligns it with a strategy of the state development.
Pic. 10. Refugee visa grants by state to unemployment rate
On the other hand, if a state has a high unemployment rate, they may not accept refugees (See Pic. 10. Refugee visa grants by state to unemployment rate). As the bubble chart shows, with an increase in the number of visa grants the unemployment rate rises for many states.
Australia has been participating in programs of protect the refugees from more than fifty years. The country has international obligations to protect the human rights of all asylum seekers and refugees who arrive in Australia, regardless of how or where they arrive and whether they arrive with or without a visa. From this obligations rises two categories of refugees: Onshore and Offshore.
- The biggest part of refugees came under the offshore option. That seems that the number asylum seekers accepted as offshore refuge increase or decrease as a response to a violation of a humans’ rights, wars and prosecution.
- The onshore refugees are less welcome. The number of an asylum seekers received the refugee status is much lower. That is because, many of them came to the country illegally and unexpectedly. Therefore, the government sets quotes for those category.
In addition, Australia has limits for the number of refugee accepted each year. They are different for each state. That seems that the limits are related to the states local development strategies, local unemployment and population of each state.
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Moderator note: Using SAP BusinessObjects Lumira on these visualizations