As Ukrainians flee, Australia marks its lowest refugee intake in half a century

Media Release

28 February 2022

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) welcomes the Morrison Government’s announcement that additional humanitarian intake for Ukrainians is likely, but there must be direct and swift action as well as clear commitments. The ASRC is calling on the Morrison Government to immediately offer additional humanitarian intake to people fleeing Ukraine as well as fast-tracking of family reunion and permanent protection to those from Ukraine in Australia.

The Morrison Government has presided over the dismantling of Australia’s refugee intake, leaving Australia unable to adequately respond to emergencies, with this year marking the lowest refugee intake in nearly 50 years.

The Morrison Government has only accepted 4,558 refugees in 2020-2021, a quarter of what was accepted in 2016-2017. While COVID-19 has contributed to this uniquely low figure, even Australia’s refugee intake cap has been slashed to 13,750 people in 2020-2021, down from 18,750 places in 2018-19.

The systematic cuts to Australia’s refugee intake and refusal of the Morrison Government to provide any additional intake to people from Afghanistan following the fall of Kabul are symptoms of Australia’s decline in providing protection to the world’s most vulnerable.

Australia over the previous two decades has been involved in conflict or provided weapons to Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, East Timor, Sri Lanka and many more. The announcement of the Morrison Government providing ‘lethal aid’ to Ukraine means that another country is added to this list. In almost all previous cases refugees and people seeking asylum have not been appropriately welcomed to Australia despite the Government’s involvement.

Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM is the CEO and founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said: “The Morrison Government has systematically reduced its refugee intake and in doing so created artificial scarcity. Talk of moving some applications ‘to the top of the pile’ pits the most vulnerable against each other. This is a moral aberration and completely out of step with the Australian public.”

“War does not pick and choose victims, war does not operate within ‘floors and ceilings’ of who it affects, nor should Australia’s response to war. All we have right now are empty words. We have been here before, people from Afghanistan six months on have nothing. All refugees deserve protection, all want peace, freedom and safety.”

“The Morrison Government must rectify the damage it has done to our refugee intake, offer permanent asylum to all people from Afghanistan and Ukraine that are in Australia, grant additional humanitarian places and provide family reunion.”


Media contact: Sam Brennan 0428 973 324 or

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