SYDNEY—Australia attracted the largest number of immigrants for a decade in the past financial year and is among the top three countries in resettling asylum seekers, despite its tough refugee policies, new data showed on Monday.
More than 111,000 people arrived and settled in Australia in the financial year to June 2004, a rise of almost 20,000 on the previous year and the largest number for a decade, according to the immigration department data.
It showed that by the end of this fiscal year Australia would have granted refugee visas to more than 13,000 people, an eight-year high, surpassed only by the United States and Canada, Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said in a statement.
Australian immigration authorities granted almost 5,000 refugee visas between July and November 2004, most to asylum seekers from Africa, she said.
“The coming years will see Australia maintain its position as one of the leading countries in the world in providing refugee and humanitarian resettlement assistance,” she said.
Prime Minister John Howard’s conservative government has faced criticism from civil rights groups over its policy of mandatory detention for all illegal immigrants and its refusal to allow asylum seekers to land in Australia, diverting them instead to offshore holding camps for processing.
Vanstone said the record number of people settling in Australia did not signal a return to the practice under previous Labor governments of accepting high numbers of immigrants.
“We’ve shifted very much to a skilled migration intake bringing in people who are under 45, are qualified and can very quickly get a job and contribute to the Australian economy,” she said.
She said the increase in new migrants was in line with a general upwards trend in the past decade.
“This means that in the past 10 years arrivals have increased by 60 percent, with well over 200 countries represented,” she said.
The bulk of the migrants came from Britain and Ireland, 18,000 coming in the past year, followed by New Zealand, China, India, South Africa, the Sudan and the Philippines.