The majority of refugees in the Asia–Pacific region come from Afghanistan and Myanmar.

Afghanistan has been one of the major countries of origin for refugees for over 30 years and Afghans are the second largest refugee population in the world. There were 190,000 Afghans seeking international protection outside of Afghanistan in 2015 and one in four of them were unaccompanied or separated children. While Iran and Pakistan host over 95 per cent of people fleeing Afghanistan, Afghans are also located in close to 70 other countries.

Myanmar’s refugees make up the eighth largest refugee population in the world. Myanmar is also the top refugee-producing country within Southeast Asia and has been a source country for refugees for decades. It is the country of origin for one of the Asia-Pacific’s longest-running refugee situations, forcing an estimated 451,800 refugees of various ethnic groups to flee at different times. Most recently, the Rohingya ethnic group has faced significant protection concerns including statelessness, discrimination and exclusion, causing them to flee.

Other populations of significance in the Asia–Pacific include refugees and people seeking asylum from Iran, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Syria. All of these countries, with the exception of Sri Lanka, featured in the top 10 countries of origin for people accepted in 2015-16 under Australia’s offshore resettlement program.

‘Asia’ featured as a priority area in Australia’s 2015-16 resettlement programme, with 5 of the top 10 countries of origin for resettlement places falling within this region. Only one of these countries, Myanmar, was in Southeast Asia, highlighting the concern that accepting refugees from this subregion may create a pull-factor, attracting more refugees to transit countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

Under the ‘onshore resettlement’ component, where applications are made by persons already within Australia, the top ten countries of origin included the Southeast Asian countries of Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Vietnam. This suggests that pathways to Australia for applicants from Southeast Asian countries are somewhat limited, unless entry to Australia is successful first.

Note that both of the onshore and offshore resettlement programmes exclude persons who arrived by boat, classified as “illegal maritime arrivals”, as they are ineligible to apply for asylum in Australia without special ministerial intervention.

Profiles of key countries of origin for asylum seekers to the Asia–Pacific region are listed in the Countries of Origin section of Asylum Today: Global Context. Click on the links below to be taken to these profiles.

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Last updated March 2017.