"Currently Australia is 71st per capita in the world in terms of refugees hosted."
Scott Ludlam on Friday, June 21, 2013 in a press release
Greens say Australia rates poorly against the rest of the world on refugee hosting
We appreciate the original ruling, published on June 26, needed clarification. The new parts of the ruling are in bold.
Australia is ranked poorly against the rest of the world when it comes to refugees and needs to increase its miniscule humanitarian intake, according to the Greens.
"Currently Australia is 71st per capita in the world in terms of refugees hosted," said Western Australia Senator Scott Ludlam.
This came as a surprise. We’d heard that Australia recently increased its humanitarian refugee intake program, another marker in a long history of giving homes to those who’ve lost theirs.
And there have been statements by the Labor government that Australia is now second only to the USA with its humanitarian program.
Senator Ludlam went on: "If we are to stop desperate people risking their lives at sea, we need to support the United Nations refugee agency's work in finding people safe havens in a timely way - and we need to increase our own miniscule humanitarian intake."
Giovanni Torre of Senator Ludlam’s office pointed to a June 2012 document, Australia Vs The World, created by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
The centre ranks Australia’s efforts on refugees against the rest of the world using numbers from the UNHCR, the international refugee agency, for 2011.
Of the 10.4 million refugees under UNHCR mandate, most were hosted by Pakistan at 1,702,700, Iran (886,468), Syria (755,445), Germany (571,685), Kenya (566,487) and Jordan (451,009).
These countries account for almost half the total. The report says: "Australia was ranked 47th, hosting 23,434 refugees, or 0.2 per cent of the global total. Taking into account relative population size, that rank drops to 71st."
We have no reason to doubt the centre's maths using 2011 data. But hosting is not the same intake.
The former refers to foreigners who have made their way to another country, having fled terror and fear, while intake measures the number of arrivals formally resettled by the host country. In areas close to war and suffering, with land borders adjacent to hot-spots, many arrivals seek refuge without ever being granted resettlement. They are counted as hosted, but not as intake.
Hosting rates are as much to do with geographical circumstance than Australia's compassion or otherwise.
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has more rankings for Australia: 47th by total number of refugees; 77th by wealth per head (GDP). And compared to other industrialised countries: 21st by population size; 18th by wealth per head (GDP). It’s a long list.
Of course, the centre’s report is dated before Australia’s annual humanitarian intake was increased to 20,000 from 13,750. The USA has 51,500 and Canada 12,900. The move followed recommendations within the Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers in August 2012.
"This increase to the humanitarian program represents the largest single increase to Australia’s refugee intake in 30 years, and will double the refugee component of the program to 12 000 places," according to an Immigration Department information paper.
Although now second only to the USA, Australia’s intake of 20,000 is larger when compared to population. America’s 52,500 is 0.016 per cent of its population. Australia’s 20,000 is about 0.08 per cent.
The Immigration Department’s information paper: "The increase in Australia’s program cements Australia as resettling the largest number of refugees per capita globally, and having the second largest refugee program after the USA."
Since 1945 Australia has resettled more than 700,000 people including thousands during and after World War II.
None of which diminishes the scale of the refugee problem globally of more than 10.4 million people.
All the countries in the top six for hosting refugees -- Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Germany, Kenya, Jordan -- have land borders. Australia does not and it is unlikely to see numbers of asylum seekers in such high numbers as Pakistan, Iran and Syria, a situation driven by major armed conflicts.
The website of the Refugee Council of Australia says: "Worldwide, the most common way that refugees travel to a country of asylum is overland, not on planes or boats. Overland arrivals are impossible in Australia because, being an island, it has no land borders with any other country.
"This factor, combined with Australia’s geographical isolation, makes Australia one of the most difficult countries in the world for asylum seekers to reach."
Senator Ludlam has used a statistic about "hosting" of refugees as an example of Australia’s need to increase humanitarian intake. The two are as far apart as Australia is from Africa and the Middle East where armed conflict is driving refugees across land borders. Australia’s humanitarian intake is ranked high, at the top of the world in one measure, while "hosting" doesn’t really apply to Australia.
Any comparison on Australia's humanitarian program should, to be fair and to give perspective, look at how other countries compare on that issue.
Ludlam, however, cherry picked a high number which showed Australia ranked 71st (or at least did in 2011) in the world for the hosting of refugees.
Ludllam' staff provided a source for that statement.
We initially rated the Ludlam statement Mostly False because we define Mostly False as "the statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression".
Had Ludlam chosen to compare Australia's intake record with the world, Australia would have emerged with a much more generous reputation - the highest intake per capita.
We say Ludlam intentionally chose a figure more disparaging of Australia's reputation because it suited his argument that more refugees should be resettled here.
This makes his statement questionable on grounds of context more than a statistic which is literally correct but contextually irrelevant and misleading.
With hindsight, however, we concede we may have been a tad too harsh on Ludlam and that a rating of Half True would have been more fitting.
We define it as a statement that is, "partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context".
In the truth-o-meter system, Half True and Mostly False do not exclude the possibility that the statement under examination is truthful in itself or has truth within it. In fact, we find that so for many statements.
What matters more is how the statement is used to convey a false or misleading interpretation.
To be Mostly True the statement needs to be accurate but needs clarification or additional information.
But Ludlam's statement requires a lot more than that. It needs appropriate context.
Ludlam used the 71st ranking to promote his case for an increase in the humanitarian program. The hosting statistic has nothing to do with that.
We are not passing comment on his cause.
We rate this statement as Half True.
Published: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 1:42 p.m.
Scott Ludlam. press release, June 21
Refugee Program increased to 20,000 places, August 23, 2012
Australia Vs The World, Refugee Council of Australia , June 2012
Australia’s Humanitarian Program 2013–14 and beyond, December 2012
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