Australia’s Response to the Rohingya Crisis: An Analysis in the Context of the Responsibility-Sharing Norm

Ms Ishrar Habib1

1University Of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh

According to UNHCR, developing regions continue to bear a “disproportionately large responsibility for hosting refugees”. The forced displacement of the Rohingyas from Myanmar has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in 2017 that continues to affect the poor and developing nations of the Asia-Pacific region. Bangladesh, being one of the Least Developed Countries, is hosting the largest number of Rohingya refugees who fled there to escape persecution in Myanmar. It is in this context that I look at Australia’s response to the crisis. That Australia is the wealthiest country among the signatories of the 1951 Refugee Convention in the Asia-Pacific region, and a co-chair of the Bali Process are important factors in making the country liable to play a major role in the ‘sharing of the burden/responsibility’ of these refugees. This study shows that while Australia shares a fair portion of the financial responsibility of the Rohingyas hosted by Bangladesh, it is frustratingly silent about the Rohingya issue on the diplomatic front. This silent approach is shaped by Australia’s priority to protect its national interest. It challenges the image of Australia as a leader on refugee and asylum-seeker issues in the Asia-Pacific region.


Ishrar Habib is currently a student of M.S.S. degree at the Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. She is pursuing her M.S.S. thesis on Australia’s response to the Rohingya Crisis.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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