An ethics academic says numbers of refugees and asylum seekers accepted by Australia are small when compared on an international scale.
Papua New Guinea and Australia agreed on Friday that all boat people reaching Australia who are subsequently found to be genuine refugees will be resettled in PNG.
The chair of Melbourne's Victoria University's research ethics committee, Deborah Zion, says Australia's world ranking by total amount of refugees in 2012 is 49th, and compared to population size per capita is 62nd.
Dr Zion says the numbers of asylum seekers are also comparatively low.
"Asylum seekers world ranking by total number of asylum claims is 20th, compared to population size is 29th, and compared to GDP per capita its 52nd. So really we are looking at a very very very small number of people."
Dr Zion says it is unclear why Australia expects low and middle income countries with their own burdens to take on refugees, when a wealthy country like Australia will not.
She says Australia is a signatory of the United Nations Refugees Convention, whereas Papua New Guinea has only partly ratified it.
She says the facilities in PNG are already overcrowded, and their conditions have been described by the United Nations as unacceptable.