Global Asylum Claims Drop As Australia’s Rises

Global asylum claims drop as Australia's rises

B. Glenn Milne
The Australian, February 15, 2010

Kevin Rudd's claim that the spike in asylum-seekers arriving illegally in Australia is a shared global problem due to international 'push' factors has been contradicted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' own figures.

The UNHCR's monthly data on asylum applications shows that while on average such applications globally rose by only 5 per cent in the nine months to September last year, in Australia they increased by more than 25 per cent.

Figures released at the end of January show there were 279,624 asylum applications in 44 key industrialised countries in the nine months to September, only 5 per cent more than in 2008.

This undermines the Rudd government's argument that global 'push' factors, such as war and civil unrest, were being experienced by all developed countries, which were also facing increased illegal migration.

The government says these 'push' factors have been responsible for an increase in illegal boat arrivals to Australia from just one boat and 14 people in the previous nine-month period to 29 boats and more than 1500 people in the nine months to last September.

In North America, the number of asylum applications actually declined by 3 per cent in the nine months to September.

At the same time, in Australia there were 4369 applications compared to 3457 in 2008, an increase of 26 per cent.

Figures are not yet available for all other countries to December, but for Australia, the figures show a 30 per cent increase over the full year.

In September, Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor made the argument that: 'People-smuggling is not just an issue for Australia — it is a global and regional problem.'

But opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the UNHCR figures gave the lie to Mr O'Connor and Mr Rudd's claims. 'There have always been push factors, but Australia has not always been a soft touch for people-smugglers,' he said.

'This is just another example of Kevin Rudd trying to blame forces outside his control for his own policy failures.'