Australia is not the magnet for asylum seekers many assume. New OECD figures show that in 2012, Australia ranked only 11th of the 34 OECD countries in the number of people arriving and applying for asylum.
But Australia is a magnet for workers. Including 505, 000 temporary residents such as students and people on working holidays and section 457 visas, the OECD says 715, 000 foreigners came to stay in Australia in 2011 - the third largest inflow of any Western country, after the United States and Germany.
By contrast, preliminary figures show that of 449, 420 people seeking refuge in Western countries last year, just 15, 790 or 3.5 per cent chose Australia as their destination - fewer than those seeking asylum in much smaller European countries such as Switzerland and Austria.
In proportion to population, Australia ranked in the middle of the rich nations' club. Final figures for 2011 show Australia had 509 asylum seekers per million people, compared with 4024 in Luxembourg, 3140 in Sweden and 2418 in Belgium.
Many of Australia's asylum seekers arrived by air, not boat, as tourists, students or workers. In 2011, most came from Iran (2152), Afghanistan (1720), China (1189), Pakistan (819) or India (769), all of which are much closer to Australia.
Unlike other OECD reports, its annual International Migration Outlook 2013 is largely a compilation of data, and makes no policy proposals.
By Tim Colebatch
June 14, 2013,