The number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has exceeded 50 million for the first time since World War II, a United Nations report shows.
Life in a refugee camp: Marie
Marie Sesay was eight-years-old when she fled war-torn Sierre Leone for a refugee camp in Guinea where food was scarce and sanitation obsolete. Now aged 25 and studying in Sydney, she tells her story to mark World Refugee Day 2014.
Against the backdrop of these figures, Australia's efforts to help alleviate the crisis have stagnated or worsened, with the country sliding backwards in the global rankings according to some measures.
Last year there were 51.2 million people displaced, six million more than in 2012.
Worsening conflicts in Syria, Central African Republic, and South Sudan contributed to major new displacements, the report said.
The staggering figure reflects a continued and increasing demand for international protection throughout the year, the Global Trends report said.
Australia's refugee resettlement program was ranked second in the world in 2013, behind only the US and marginally ahead of Canada. These three countries hosted 90 per cent of resettled refugees in 2013.
However resettled refugees – those admitted through a UNHCR-co-ordinated program – account for less than four per cent of recognised refugees.
When ranked in terms of all refugees resettled and recognised last year, Australia's ranking drops to 17th, compared with a ranking of 10th in 2010, according to figures from the Refugee Council of Australia.
The result worsens when Australia's contribution is ranked by the number of refugees living here. Fewer than 0.3 per cent of the 11.7 million refugees under the UNHCR's mandate live in Australia, placing Australia 48th out of 187 countries. Our ranking slides even further when measured against the size of the population (62nd) and the country's wealth (74th).
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told an audience at the UNHCR-NGO consultations in Geneva this week that he was ''very concerned'' about Australia's offshore processing centres for asylum seekers and Australia should take the ultimate responsibility for people who arrive on its shores.
''Australia is a very strange situation,'' Mr Guterres said.
''It has the most successful resettlement program I can imagine and the community integration is excellent.
''The problem is when we discuss boats and there, of course, we enter into a very, very, very dramatic thing. I think it is a kind of collective sociological and psychological question.''
Australia received 16,000 applications for asylum (including 4200 applications for decision review) in 2013, just under half a per cent of the 3.6 million applications lodged worldwide and a sharp decrease from the one per cent share of applications received in 2010.
This placed Australia 30th for the number of asylum applications received last year and 41st when applications were measured against the size of each country’s population, according to figures from the Refugee Council of Australia.
Commemorating International Refugee Day on Friday, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said that Australia was meeting its international refugee obligations and doing its share of ''heavy lifting''.
He told reporters in Perth that 4000 places in Australia's humanitarian intake had been opened due to the government stopping the boats.
Elaine Pearson, the Australian director of Human Rights Watch, said it was no surprise that more and more people were making their way to Australia.
''This report shows that the entire world is facing a crisis of forced migration at a level never seen before due to persecution, conflict and human rights abuses,'' she said.
''While it's true Australia is comparatively generous when compared to other nations, at the same time, it doesn't have the same number of undocumented people that simply get absorbed into the population as happens in Europe, US and elsewhere," she said.
"Australia should be doing more to take its fair share."