Fact sheet

Fact Check: Alex Hawke says Australia's resettlement of refugees ranks third-highest globally. Is that correct?

Refugee settlement Refugees Australia Afghanistan

Challenged on whether the government was doing enough to assist Afghan refugees fleeing the returning Taliban, the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke, claimed Australia was already among the world’s "most generous humanitarian re-settlers".

"We're one of the most generous resettlement countries in the world for humanitarian places, always, every single year," Mr Hawke said, highlighting the roughly 13,700 places in Australia’s annual humanitarian program. “That’s about third in the world every year”.

However, while Australia "resettles" more refugees than most, this only accounts for people transferred to Australia from other countries that have granted them asylum, including refugees referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Fewer than one per cent of the world's refugees are resettled each year, or roughly 108,000 of the 20 million refugees under the UNHCR's mandate in 2019.

Other countries take in far greater numbers of refugees arriving on their doorstep.

In 2020, and for the fifth year straight, Australia ranked third in the world for the number of its resettlements from other asylum countries, behind Canada and the United States.

In per capita terms, it came in fourth (behind Sweden, Norway and Canada), having previously held second place for several years.

But after accounting for the overall number of refugees taken in each year — those either resettled or offered protection — Australia falls well down the rankings.

In 2020, it ranked 26th. Over the previous four years, it ranked between 13th and 23rd globally. And in per capita terms, Australia ranked between 14th and 30th over the four years to 2019, before slipping to 30th place again in 2020.

Critically, recognition of asylum claims can mean vastly different things in different countries when it comes to the level of support refugees can expect, including whether their protection is permanent or merely temporary.

This makes it near impossible to say with certainty which countries are more generous.

Verdict: Mr Hawke’s claim is cherry-picking.

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