Refugees avoiding Australia

Jeff Crisp, director of policy and research at the Global Commission on International Migration, says the number of refugees moving between counties is declining.

But the number of displaced people staying within their own borders has risen, he said.

“The overall trend in refugee numbers globally is going down and has been going down over the last three to five years,” he said.

Refugees stuck

But many of the rising numbers of people displaced inside their home countries are stuck in refugee camps for years at a time.

Between five and six million people are in camps like those in Kenya, where more than 100,000 Sudanese refugees are clustered after fleeing civil war in their own country.

Children are now being born and brought up in these camps, said Dr Crisp, a former senior policy officer with the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.

Knowledge of the local language and legal systems and access to support networks are some advantages to staying put, Dr Crisp said.

“You could say that there are certain advantages in remaining in your own country.”

Risky journey

But tough immigration policies like those in Australia are helping to discourage people from making risky journeys to industrialised nations.

“I think what’s happened since the famous Tampa incident, the authorities in Australia have made it very difficult if not impossible to access the country by boat,” he said.

The Tampa incident ushered in the Pacific Solution for processing asylum seekers in offshore detention facilities outside Australia’s migration zone.

In August, 2001, more than 400 asylum seekers were rescued at sea by the Norwegian freighter, Tampa, which was then turned away from the Australian coast and its human cargo diverted to Pacific island detention centres.

Dr Crisp said the UNHCR needed more money from member countries to establish well-resourced and well-placed refugee camps.

But an expansion of strategic resettlement programs was also needed, he said.

For example, women at risk from sexual exploitation and violence could be targeted for special assistance and resettlement, he said.

Australia accepts around 13,000 refugees every year under resettlement and special humanitarian programs.