Weekly media round-up No. 31

29 March marked 100 days since an asylum seeker boat reached Australia. An estimated eight boats have been turned back to Indonesia in that time.

The Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee found it may not be possible for boats to be turned around safely without the risk of Australian naval vessels crossing into Indonesian waters. The Committee reported on six incursions into Indonesian waters between December 1 and January 20.

ABC’s 7.30 aired new witness statements alleging Australian personnel purposely inflicted burns on the hands of three men on an asylum-seeking boat in January. The Australian Government maintained the claims are baseless and attacked the ABC’s ‘recycling’ of the story.

Children held in detention in Australia described conditions as ‘hell’. The Australian Human Rights Commission is conducting the inquiry into children in immigration detention in Australia. The Commission made its first visit to children in detention on Christmas Island this week.

The UN refugee agency Asylum Trends 2013 report says there was a sharp rise in asylum claims in 44 industrialised countries last year, driven primarily by the crisis in Syria. According to UNHCR, 612,700 people applied for asylum in North America, Europe, East Asia and the Pacific last year - the highest total for any year since 2001. UNHCR reported (p 6) an increase of 54 per cent (24,300) in asylum applications in Australia compared to 2012 (15,800).

According to the European Union, nearly half a million people sought asylum in Europe last year, the most in two decades. The largest number came from Syria. In total, 434,160 people sought protection in the EU's 28 member states in 2013, an increase of nearly 30 per cent from 2012 when there were 335,000 applications.