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Australia's Humanitarian Program: a quick guide to the statistics since 1947



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ISSN 2203-5249

RESEARCH PAPER SERIES, 2015-16 UPDATED 22 JUNE 2016

Australia’s Humanitarian Program: a quick guide to the statistics since 1947 Janet Phillips Social Policy Section

Australia has a long history of accepting refugees and other humanitarian entrants from all parts of the globe, including those in need of assistance during and immediately after World War II. Since 1945, when the first federal immigration portfolio was established to administer Australia’s post-war migration program, over 800,000 refugees and other humanitarian entrants have settled in Australia. However, it was not until Indochinese asylum seekers, fleeing conflict during the Vietnam War, began to arrive by boat that the Australian Government developed a specific refugee policy. Australia’s first planned Humanitarian Program designed to deal with refugee and humanitarian issues, including the determination of onshore protection claims, was subsequently established by the Fraser Government in 1977.

Since then, permanent migrants have entered Australia via one of two distinct programs—the Migration Program for skilled and family migrants or the Humanitarian Program for refugees and those in refugee-like situations. The Australian Government allocates places, or quotas, each year for people wanting to migrate permanently to Australia under these two programs. Annual statistics on Migration and Humanitarian program

‘outcomes’ (visa grants) published by the Immigration Department since the 1970s, provide the most accurate source of data on the number of people granted visas to migrate to Australia.

It is important to understand that there are two main components of Australia’s Humanitarian Program— offshore and onshore:

• the offshore component of the Humanitarian Program offers resettlement in Australia to refugees and humanitarian entrants from overseas under two categories. Most offshore refugees are referred to Australia by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and are formally accepted and resettled under the ‘Refugee’ category. These entrants have been assessed and accepted as refugees under Refugee Convention criteria. The Special Humanitarian Program (SHP) also offers resettlement to those offshore who, while not necessarily being refugees, face human rights abuses in their home country and have a connection with Australia. Applicants must have a sponsor (e.g. a permanent resident, Australian citizen or organisation). Applications from family members of people already in Australia are referred to as ‘split family’.

• the onshore component of the Humanitarian Program offers protection to people who have arrived in Australia, lodged an asylum claim, and been granted protection. Onshore humanitarian entrants may have been found to be refugees under Refugee Convention criteria or may otherwise engage Australia’s protection obligations under other human rights conventions.

This quick guide includes humanitarian entrant estimates between 1947-48 and 1976-77 (provided to the Parliamentary Library by the Department of Immigration in 2001) and Humanitarian Program visa grants since 1977-78. For more detail specifically on Australia’s Migration Program see Migration to Australia: a quick guide to the statistics.

Australia’s Humanitarian Program: a quick guide to the statistics since 1947 2

Table 1: Refugee and humanitarian entrants by category since 1947-48 Year Assisted refugees*

(estimated)

Unassisted refugees* (estimated) Total

1947-48 to 1974-75 264 053** 33 000 297 053

Year Refugee

(offshore)

Special Humanitarian (offshore)

Special Assistance Category (offshore)

Protection Visas (onshore)

Safe Haven

Total Government planning figures

1975-76 4374 4374

1976-77 8124 8124

1977-78 9326 9326

1978-79 12 750 700 13 450

1979-80 17 677 2277 19 954

1980-81 20 795 1675 75 22 545

1981-82 20 195 1722 21 917

1982-83 16 193 861 17 054

1983-84 12 426 3059 15 485

1984-85 9520 4687 14 207

1985-86 7832 3868 11 700

1986-87 5857 5434 11 291

1987-88 5514 5878 11 392

1988-89 3574 7735 11 309

1989-90 1238 10 451 726 12 415

1990-91 1497 8287 1500 11 284

1991-92 2424 4360 2363 2862 12 009

1992-93 2893 2392 5657 903 11 845

1993-94 4315 2524 5840 1391 14 070

1994-95 3992 3675 5545 1646 14 858

1995-96 4643 3499 6910 1200 16 252 13 000

1996-97 3334 2470 3848 2250 11 902 12 000

1997-98 4010 4636 1821 1588 12 055 12 000

1998-99 3988 4348 1190 1830 11 356 12 000

1999-00 3802 3051 649 2458 5900*** 15 860 12 000

2000-01 3997 3116 879 5741 13 733 12 000

2001-02 4160 4258 40 3891 12 349 12 000

2002-03 4376 7280 869 12 525 12 000

2003-04 4134 7669 2020 13 823 12 000

2004-05 5511 6585 1082 13 178 13 000

Australia’s Humanitarian Program: a quick guide to the statistics since 1947 3

2005-06 6022 6736 1386 14 144 13 000

2006-07 6003 5313 1701 13 017 13 000

2007-08 6004 5110 1900 13 014 13 000

2008-09 6499 4586 2417 5*** 13 507 13 500

2009-10 6003 3233 4534 13 770 13 750

2010-11 5984 2966 4828 13 778 13 750

2011-12 5988 714 7043 13 745

13 750

(revised from 14 750

October 2011)

2012-13 11 985 503 7510 19 998

20 000

(revised from 13 750

August 2012)

2013-14 6499 4507 2753 13 759

13 750

(revised from 20 000

September 2013)

2014-15 6002 5007 2747 13 756 13 750

Sources:

• Data on refugee and humanitarian entrants from 1947-48 to 1976-77 provided by the Department of Immigration to the Parliamentary Library in 2001.

• Data on Humanitarian Program visas granted since 1977-78 sourced from ministerial press releases (various years); and Immigration Department (there have been various name changes over the years) annual reports and Australia’s refugee and humanitarian program, (fact

sheet 60—various years). Data since 2010-11 has been updated from the latest version of Australia’s refugee and humanitarian program fact

sheet. For more historical background and statistics see E Karlsen and J Phillips, Seeking asylum: Australia’s humanitarian program, Background

note, Parliamentary Library, 2011.

Notes:

*The majority of these refugees and displaced persons were ‘Assisted’, that is provided with passage and other Government support. A small

number were permitted to enter and settle as unassisted migrants.

**Includes an estimated 170,700 displaced persons (DPs) who arrived between 1947 and 1954. Displaced persons included those who had been

forced to leave their country of origin, but who were not necessarily considered to be refugees, such as prisoners of war or slave labourers.

***Includes 5900 Safe Haven visas, comprising 4000 grants to Kosovars offshore and 1900 grants to East Timorese onshore; and another 5 Safe Haven visas issued in 2008-09 to people living in IOM facilities in Indonesia for five years or more (Department of Immigration, Annual report 2008- 09).

The increase in humanitarian entrants in the late 1980s and early 1990s reflected a Government decision to allow Chinese nationals affected by the Tiananmen Square incident to remain in Australia.

The increase in refugee entrants in 2012-13 was due to a Government decision to increase the Humanitarian Program to 20,000 in that program year.

The increase in the SHP category in 2002-03 was partly due to the cessation of the Special Assistance Category in 2001 which was then absorbed into the Special Humanitarian Program.

Glossary:

Refugee = an individual found to be a refugee under the UN 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Special Humanitarian Program (SHP) = introduced in 1981 for people who have suffered discrimination or other violations of their human rights,

but are not refugees under the terms of the Refugees Convention.

Special Assistance Category (SAC) = introduced in 1992 to assist groups in vulnerable positions overseas with close links to Australia that did not fit

into traditional humanitarian categories (closed in 2001 and now included in the SHP category).

Safe Haven = a temporary Humanitarian Stay (subclass 449) visa created in 1999 to offer safe haven in a humanitarian crisis (most notably for

Kosovars and East Timorese).

Australia’s Humanitarian Program: a quick guide to the statistics since 1947 4

Table 2: Migration and humanitarian program visa grants compared since 1984-85 Year Migration Program Humanitarian

Program

Family Skill

Special Eligibility Total

Humanitarian as

percentage of total

migration and

humanitarian

intake

1984-85 44 200 10 100 200 54 500 14 207 20.7

1985-86 63 400 16 200 400 80 000 11 700 12.8

1986-87 72 600 28 500 600 101 700 11 291 10.0

1987-88 79 500 42 000 600 122 100 11 392 8.5

1988-89 72 700 51 200 800 124 700 11 309 8.3

1989-90 66 600 52 700 900 120 200 12 415 9.4

1990-91 61 300 49 800 1 200 112 200 11 284 9.1

1991-92 55 900 41 400 1 700 98 900 12 009 10.8

1992-93 43 500 21 300 1 400 67 900 11 845 14.9

1993-94 43 200 18 300 1 300 62 800 14 070 18.3

1994-95 44 500 30 400 1 600 76 500 14 858 16.3

1995-96 56 700 24 100 1 700 82 500 16 252 16.5

1996-97 44 580 27 550 1 730 73 900 11 902 13.9

1997-98 31 310 34 670 1 110 67 100 12 055 15.2

1998-99 32 040 35 000 890 67 900 11 356 14.3

1999-00 32 000 35 330 2 850 70 200 15 860 18.4

2000-01 33 470 44 730 2 420 80 610 13 733 14.6

2001-02 38 090 53 520 1 480 93 080 12 349 11.7

2002-03 40 790 66 050 1 230 108 070 12 525 10.4

2003-04 42 230 71 240 890 114 360 13 823 10.8

2004-05 41 740 77 880 450 120 060 13 178 9.9

2005-06 45 290 97 340 310 142 930 14 144 9.0

2006-07 50 080 97 920 200 148 200 13 017 8.1

2007-08 49 870 108 540 220 158 630 13 014 7.6

2008-09 56 366 114 777 175 171 318 13 507 7.3

2009-10 60 254 107 868 501 168 623 13 770 7.5

2010-11 54 543 113 725 417 168 685 13 778 7.6

2011-12 58 604 125 755 639 184 998 13 745 6.9

2012-13 60 185 128 973 842 190 000 19 998 9.5

2013-14 61 112 128 550 338 190 000 13 759 6.8

2014-15 61 085 127 774 238 189 097 13 756 6.8

Sources: Immigration Department, Migration Program reports, annual reports and Australia’s refugee and humanitarian program, fact sheet 60

(various years). For further historical background and migration statistics see J Phillips, M Klapdor and J Simon-Davies, Migration to Australia since

Federation: a guide to the statistics, Background note, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 27 August 2010; and J Phillips, Migration to Australia: a

quick guide to the statistics, Quick guide, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 4 September 2015.

Australia’s Humanitarian Program: a quick guide to the statistics since 1947 5

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