ABUL RIZVI. No end in sight to growth in Dutton’s backlogs-the asylum seekers who came by air.

Jan 27, 2020

End December 2019 data shows the backlog of asylum applications at the primary stage, at the AAT and those who have been finally refused and have become overstayers continues to grow.

The ham-fisted measures to increase refusal rates for visitor visas from source countries has had only minimal impact. The honeypot for scam labour hire companies and people smugglers just keeps getting bigger.

The backlog of asylum applications at the primary stage is now 36,777 with Home Affairs having received 2,219 new applications in December 2019 and processed only 997 applications. Thus the primary stage backlog grew by 1,222. The overall grant rate was 7.5%. It was again much lower for asylum seekers from Malaysia, China and India.

The number of new applications in December may be understated due to the Christmas/New Year period.

Department of Home Affairs reports the backlog of asylum seekers who were not granted a permanent protection visa but have not been ‘deported’ or more correctly removed, increased to 46,365. That figure appears to include the backlog of asylum applications at the AAT which reached another record at 25,104. The AAT backlog increased in December 2019 by 545 with no sign of the AAT processing more applications than it receives.

That means there are approximately 21,000+ asylum seekers who have been through both primary and review stages but have not yet departed (less any that are seeking judicial review). Home Affairs reports that in December it removed 18 unsuccessful asylum seekers, 17 voluntarily and one involuntarily.

The bridging visas of most of unsuccessful asylum seekers would have expired or will soon expire. This means they would now be working without work rights placing them in an even more vulnerable situation as employers will know they can exploit these people with impunity.

Home Affairs’ attempts to stem the flow of asylum seekers by ramping up refusal rates for visitor applications from relevant source countries appears to be having minimal effect but is costing the tourism industry an estimated $500 Million per annum in lost revenue and over 100,000 tourists per annum. This is at a time the Prime Minister says the tourism industry is facing its biggest challenge in living memory.

Peter Dutton continues to insist this issue is a ‘red herring’. How large must these backlogs become; how big must the costs to the budget be and what detrimental impacts must the tourism industry suffer before he takes the issue seriously?

Abul Rizvi was a senior official in the Department of Immigration from the early 1990s to 2007 when he left as Deputy Secretary. He was awarded the Public Service Medal and the Centenary Medal for services to development and implementation of immigration policy, including in particular the reshaping of Australia’s intake to focus on skilled migration. He is currently doing a PhD on Australia’s immigration policies.

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