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Do asylum seekers and refugees choose destination countries? Evidence from large‐scale surveys in Australia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka


International Migration

Published online on


Some literature depicts refugees as more passive than active when selecting a destination country. We draw on surveys of over 35,000 people in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia, to show that most potential asylum seekers and refugees of Hazara, Rohingya, Muslim and Tamil backgrounds prefer some destination countries over others and that many refugees from these groups surveyed in Australia specifically had Australia in mind as a destination country. We show how Australia's asylum seeker policy was a key reason why many refugees chose Australia in 2011 and 2012 and that subsequent restrictive asylum seeker policy changes appear to be reflected in potential asylum seeker considerations in 2014. We find that despite the restrictive asylum seeker policy changes, perceptions of Australia as a highly functioning civil society, relative to other potential destination countries, may explain why Australia remains a country of choice for asylum seekers from west and south Asia.