Asylum seekers and refugees: what are the facts? March 2015 update

2 March 2015

Presents information on asylum claims, unauthorised arrivals and irregular migration in Australia and Europe, to help address some of the popular misconceptions that surround asylum issues.

Introduction

The magnitude and complexity of the issues arising from the flow of asylum seekers and refugees globally pose huge challenges for the world’s destination countries, including Australia. These countries universally struggle to maintain a balance between controlling national borders and offering protection to millions of displaced people.

When the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established in 1951, there were approximately 2.1 million refugees internationally. At the end of 2013 there were an estimated 51.2 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including 16.7 million refugees (11.7 million under UNHCR’s mandate), close to 1.2 million asylum seekers and 33.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). Over half of the world’s refugees under UNHCR’s mandate, approximately 6.3 million, remained in protracted situations (in exile for five years or more) at the end of 2013.

Australia has a long history of accepting refugees for resettlement and over 800,000 refugees and displaced persons, including thousands during and immediately after World War II, have settled in Australia since 1945. However, despite this long-term commitment, there is a great deal of confusion and misinformation in the public debate in Australia particularly around the terms asylum seekers, refugees, ‘illegals’, ‘queue jumpers’ and ‘boat people’ which are often used interchangeably and/or incorrectly.

The purpose of this paper is to present information (in a simplified format) that may help address some of the popular misconceptions that surround asylum issues. It includes information on asylum claims, unauthorised arrivals and irregular migration in Australia and Europe.

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Suggested Citation

Janet Phillips, 2015, Asylum seekers and refugees: what are the facts? March 2015 update, Parliamentary Library (Australia), viewed 26 July 2016, <http://apo.org.au/node/53398>.

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