Bob Carr and the ghost of Philip Ruddock

Right of asylum

IT IS ALWAYS difficult to make direct comparisons between refugee determination procedures in different countries with different legal systems, but the most recent figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees suggest that Australia’s asylum record is entirely unremarkable.

The UNHCR Statistical Year Book 2011 lists the outcome of refugee applications in each country of asylum. It shows that 42 per cent of the asylum seekers who sought refugee status in Australia during 2011 were granted protection (by immigration department officials) in the first instance. When rejected applicants sought a review at the Refugee Review Tribunal (and not all of them did), 30 per cent of them were recognised as refugees.

These numbers are much lower than the 90 per cent approval rates commonly cited for maritime arrivals because they also include asylum seekers who arrive by plane on valid visas and then seek protection. “Plane people” are rejected at much higher rates than “boat people.”

If the decisions made at the primary and appeal stages are combined, then in 2011 Australia granted protection in 39 per cent of cases. In global terms, this puts Australia close to the average: the UNHCR estimates that, worldwide, 38 per cent of asylum seekers who had their cases determined in 2011 were granted refugee status or some other form of protection. According to the UNHCR data, Australia granted protection to a significantly smaller proportion of asylum seekers than Finland (67 per cent) but a much larger proportion of asylum seekers than Italy (20 per cent). Australia’s refugee recognition rate was broadly comparable to that of Canada, Britain, Spain and Sweden ...

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