In a world of misinformed opinions, widespread coverage of right wing populist ideas (think Pauline Hanson, think Donald Trump) and a disturbing trend towards the misrepresentation of statistics and evidence to push political agendas. How much do Australians really know about refugees?
In polls undertaken by Monash University in 2015, when asked how many refugees Australia took each year, 28% indicated that they did not know, 51% guessed extremely far off the actual number (some participants guessing that Australians took as many as 50,000) and 21% indicated that they believed it to be ‘around 15,000’ which was the closest guess to the actual number (the actual intake number of refugees is 13,750). The same study revealed that most of the people surveyed were also unsure of the number of refugees Australia takes in comparison to other nations.
In a poll undertaken by SBS News in 2016, they also found that 46% of Australians surveyed believed that ‘multiculturalism has failed, and caused social division and religious extremism in Australia.’ This is at odds with the fact that Australia’s biggest act of terrorism and violence in recorded history was undertaken by a non-religious white male (the Port Arthur Massacres), but this answer may have been influenced by the Lindt Cafe Hostage crisis in 2014 (again, despite the perpetrator Man Haron Munis identifying as Muslim, police determined he had acted as a ‘lone-actor’ and was not affiliated with any larger religious or political organisations).
In the same poll, only 38% of those surveyed agreed that accepting refugees is something a wealthy nation like Australia should do to help poorer nations, with the majority of 48% indicating that they ‘total disagreed’ with this notion.
These are all pretty disheartening facts and figures, so here are some statistics to help you combat any misinformation (all sourced directly from the Australian Government):
-Over 800,000 refugees and displaced persons have settled in Australia since 1945
-Legally, those who arrive in Australia by boat as ‘unlawful non-citizens’ have a right to seek asylum under international law, and cannot be penalised by their mode of entry
-Only a very small portion of refugees arrive by boat, the majority arrive by air with a valid visa and then pursue asylum claims. In 2014, there was only one boat arrival in Australia and the rest were by air
-Claims that refugees in Australia are entitled to higher benefits than other social security recipients are unfounded
In conclusion, this is a reminder to stay grounded, trust in facts and numbers, and don’t be swayed by the rhetoric.