Global upheavals dwarf Australia’s refugee numbers

More people around the world were forced to flee their homes every day last year than the total number seeking asylum in Australia during the entire 12 months, according to the annual report on global trends by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

In what amounts to a reality check for the debate in Australia, the report reveals that refugee crises reached levels last year unseen in the previous decade, with an average 3000 people becoming refugees each day and many more seeking asylum.

By the end of the year, about 45.2 million people were considered forcibly displaced because of persecution, conflict and human rights violations, the highest level since 1994.

An estimated 7.6 million people were newly displaced across an international border or within their own country during 2012, the highest number in a year since 1999.

This equates to about 23,000 people around the world fleeing their homes every day, which is more than the total number seeking asylum in Australia throughout 2012.

”This reminds us that the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia remains relatively small by global standards,” said Richard Towle, the UNHCR regional representative for Australia, New Zealand, PNG and the Pacific.

So far this year, 12,194 asylum seekers have arrived on 180 boats.

The number of refugees estimated to be hosted by Australia at the end of last year was 30,083 and the number of asylum seekers 20,010 – compared with 23,434 refugees and 5242 asylum seekers at the end of 2011. Globally, there were 15.4 million refugees last year (up from 15.2 million in 2011) and 936,740 asylum seekers (up from 895,000).

Australia is 49th on the number of refugees hosted last year (Pakistan is the highest with 1.6 million) and 70th in total numbers of ”people of concern”, which includes refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people and those who are stateless (Colombia is the highest with 3.9 million).

But Australia was ranked 11th on the number of asylum seekers who have lodged claims but have not yet had decisions.

The report shows that at the end of 2012, more than 45.2 million people were displaced compared to 42.5 million at the end of 2011. This includes the 15.4 million refugees, 937,000 asylum seekers, and 28.8 million people forced to flee within their own countries.

Fifty-five per cent of all refugees come from five war-affected countries: Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Sudan. The report also charts major new displacement from Mali, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and from Sudan into South Sudan and Ethiopia.

The report highlights a continuing gap between richer and poorer countries when it comes to hosting refugees. Of the 10.5 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate, half are in countries with a per capita GDP of less than $US5000.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.