Data Analysis Reveals South Africa's High Rejection Rate For Asylum Requests

Syria now accounts for 3.8 million refugees and people in a refugee-like situation, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). To put this in perspective, more than one in every four of last year’s refugees was Syrian. Most of them fled to Turkey. By the end of 2014, the country hosted more than 1.56 million Syrian refugees.

Lebanon and Jordan also shared the burden, hosting 1.15 million and 623 thousand refugees respectively. Syrians fleeing their homeland aren’t always granted the refugee status and the protection that comes with it, however. In this regard, Russia and Italy share a worrying record. They are the only two countries that refused the refugee status to more than a third of the Syrian asylum seekers whose applications were processed in 2014.

Here’s a deeper look at UNHCR’s latest report. (You can change the filters in the interactive charts of the following paragraphs to explore the data further).

South Africa Rejecting Asylum Seekers

South Africa is one of the leading countries with the highest rejection rates at 90%+.

South Africa rejected between 90% and 100% of all the asylum applications processed in 2014 from Mozambique, Lesotho, Malawi, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ghana, India, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Burundi and Uganda.

According to UNHCR, the asylum system in South Africa is overwhelmed and can’t offer good quality operations. Partly, it’s because the country lacks a comprehensive immigration system.

This pushes all migrants to try to gain access to the country by applying for asylum. Yet the effects of this impact also refugees and asylum seekers.

The majority of them “have fled the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the security situation in Somalia or are individuals who claim to have faced persecution in Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Zimbabwe”.

In July 2014, South Africa's government applied new regulations. The law now poses new obstacles for immigrants and has also made asylum applications harder. This might explain the high rejection rates of the country.

For example, asylum-seekers who arrive in the country are given only five days to present their applications. The situation is further exacerbated with the fact that the whole country has only three reception offices where first-time migrants can do so.

Australia Among Top Four For Rejecting Asylum Seekers

According to UNHCR data, Australia is the fourth country in the world for rejection rates. And the first among Western countries.

It rejected the refugee status to almost 80% of the thirteen thousand asylum applications processed in 2014.

Australia has a strict law on unauthorized immigration. Even when it comes to refugees, asylum seekers and people fleeing from persecution. Other than the high rate of rejected asylum applications, the Australian stance on immigration has been criticized largely by the UN and human rights organizations like Amnesty International.

Sometimes, migrants fleeing from persecution eventually manage to file an asylum application. And are recognized as refugees by Australian authorities. Yet, they still won’t make it to Australia. In 2013, the Prime Minister Rudd announced that

“from now on, any asylum seeker who arrives in Australia by boat will have no chance of being settled in Australia as refugees”.

International law requires the Australian government to give protection to refugees. But the country has its own way of complying with these obligations. Currently, people Australia recognizes as refugees are given “protection” by being resettled in camps.

These facilities aren’t in the country though. There are some in Nauru, Papua New Guinea and from this year also Cambodia.

This practice is setting a troubling precedent. It’s shifting the burden of the refugee crisis on less developed countries, where it’s harder to sustain.

Studies suggest that migrants boost more advanced economies. But when they arrive in less stable ones, they also break fragile balances. Social and economic infrastructures of less developed countries face the risk of collapsing under this flow. And this is likely to cause more problems. Yet, last year about 42% of the world’s refugees were hosted by countries where the GDP PPP per capita is less than $5,000.

You can find all the data and more interactive charts at: The Refugee Crisis in Data.

Cover Image: Burundian refugee afraid of re-integration into South African society living rough, 2009 | Tawe/Zplit