How many refugees does Australia take?
With the current crisis around Syrian refugees, Australia is under pressure to “do more” with this global issue. We thought we’d provide some context by analysing what Australia does already, and where our refugee intake comes from.
How many refugees does Australia take?
Australia in calendar year 2014 provided a home and new start in life to 11,970 humanitarian arrivals (refugees).
This represented just under 8% of the total permanent migration into Australia for the financial year, with most of the migrants coming from the other streams such as skilled and family reunion migration. A substantial number also had the stream of migration not recorded. This percentage hovers around 8-10% of total migration most years.
So refugees made up about 10% of migration, and about 3.6% of Australia’s total population growth for the calendar year 2014. Put another way, Australia’s population in 2014 grew by 1.4% of existing population – refugees made up only 0.05% of this. Refugees barely make an impact on Australia’s population numbers.
Which countries do refugees who settle in Australia come from?
The next table shows the top humanitarian arrival countries for the calendar year 2014.
Syria, the source of the largest number of refugees in the current wave of migration into Europe, was the third largest intake in 2014, after Iraq and Afghanistan – countries torn by war who have been a large part of our refugee intake for many years.
At the 2011 Census, Australia was home to only 8,319 people born in Syria, so this one year intake would have increased our population of people from Syria by nearly a quarter. We can expect this population group to at least double by the next Census and possibly more if we increase our intake. The latest announcement by the government is that we will increase our intake from Syria but not the total humanitarian intake – this means that numbers from other countries in need like Iraq would be reduced to compensate for this.
|Humanitarian arrivals in 2014||Number||% of total humanitarian arrivals|
|Source: Department of Immigration, Settlement Reporting System|
Another note about this table – it’s by country of BIRTH – places like Thailand and Nepal don’t generate very many refugees themselves – they mainly represent children who were born in refugee camps in those countries, to families originally from Burma and Bhutan respectively.
Where in Australia do refugees settle?
Many of these migrants have been resettled to regional areas, which struggle to attract new people to their areas, where they have filled labour shortages resulted from declining, ageing populations. A good example is the resettlement of several hundred Karen (Burmese) refugees in Nhill in Hindmarsh Shire, western Victoria. These refugees have become an important part of the local community.
This table shows the areas which, in the last 4 years since the 2011 Census, have added the largest share of their migration from the humanitarian stream. The largest numbers are in culturally diverse metropolitan areas, but the presence of regional areas on the list is quite strong as they get relatively few migrants in the skilled or family streams, so when they accept refugees this makes up a larger share of their total migration.
|Arrivals since Census 2011 (to May 2015) ranked by % of all arrivals who are in the humanitarian stream|
|Mount Gambier SA||187||55.2%|
|Coffs Harbour NSW||552||45.5%|
|Naracoorte and Lucindale SA||91||41.7%|
|Greater Shepparton Vic||401||28.2%|
|Greater Bendigo Vic||252||27.4%|
|Renmark Paringa SA||26||26.8%|
What is the effect of refugees on the economy?
Historically, refugees have provided an important part of Australian migration, and there is a strong tradition of our country opening its borders to those in need – for instance, Vietnamese in the 1970s, who are such an important part of the fabric of Australia’s society and economy now it’s hard to imagine what life would be like without them! Refugees may need support for the first few years, but those starting a new life are often driven and loyal to their new country, typically work hard and contribute a lot to the economy in future years. An ABS publication released just last week on income levels of migrants shows that refugees are more likely than any other migrant category to start their own business. So accepting refugees is a great way to grow the economy long term as well. And of course they provide a cushion against the ageing population, invigorating the population with a generally young workforce with many years of working life ahead of them. Refugees are naturally more spread out in ages than the skilled migrants, but there are many children in this group, and still a larger proportion in their 20s and 30s than is present in the total population.
Source: Department of Immigration, Settlement Reporting System
It’s clear from this data that, while Australia does take a significant number of refugees already, even increasing the intake from Syria to 20,000 people, while not reducing the intake from other countries, would increase Australia’s population by less than 0.1%. It would create a strong new multicultural community in Australia and potentially bolster the economy in years to come.