20 February 2012


In his recent visit to Australia the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres has called for moral leadership, and a less populist and polarised debate in Australia about asylum seekers.

In view of the fact that Australia receives around 6,000 asylum seekers each year, a tiny percentage of the global total, and that the burden of assisting the vast majority of the world’s asylum seekers and refugees actually falls to some of the world’s poorest countries, the High Commissioner described Australia’s collective obsession with asylum seekers arriving by boat as being "out of proportion"

Whilst acknowledging that people smuggling had become "a nasty business" linked to organised crime and human rights abuses, which requires a government crackdown, he also said protection had to be extended to the victims, who often had no legal way to escape their situations.

These comments echo those put forward late last year by Phil Glendenning, Director of the Edmund Rice Centre in Sydney who said "our politicians have got to stop playing partisan politics with this issue. The level of leadership displayed by both major political parties on this issue has been simply appalling"

The Centre has also produced a downloadable document entitled 10 Essential Facts About Asylum Seekers to provide community education about this issue.

The Australian Government has also produced a useful Fact Sheet on asylum seekers and refugees.

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