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

  1. A major indicator of border integrity has been the number of overstayers in the community, ie those who have no legal right to be in Australia. These figures are very difficult to find in Home Affairs reports.
    While it is reported there were 53,900 in 2010, it is estimated that there are now more than 64,000, just under 20 percent increase in the decade. Analysis of overstayers who are former asylum seekers would be interesting.
    The sad part of the picture painted by Abul is that the genuine asylum applicants have to wait so long to get residence as the agency processes all the non genuine applicants who are simply seeking to prolong their stay in Australia.

    1. According to this report in the SMH
      “There were nearly 10,000 Malaysians recorded as having overstayed visas in 2016-17, along with about 6500 Chinese nationals and 5170 from the United States.
      Countries outside the top 15 most likely to overstay represented nearly 18,000 in the category. About 3700 UK nationals overstayed, ahead of 2780 Indonesians and 2730 Indians.”

      First thing to note is that with the possible exception of China in the above figures, these are not from countries where grounds for ‘asylum’ are to be easily found if at all. They are also mainly from countries which Australia allows a visa to without any formal interrogation.

      Next thing to note is that you cannot get a visa to Australia in order to seek protection under the ‘UN Convention on the Status of Refugees’ and officials issuing visas who suspect that you intention is to claim asylum will not grant a visa. (The are moves to further tighten this.)

      Finally if you arrive in Australia and announce that you want to make a claim for protection, then you are certainly ‘on the radar’ and are not free to wander around country while your claim is investigated. And if unsuccessful you will be deported and won’t be allowed back any-time soon.

      The ‘over-stayers’ are primarily people who entered on ‘tourist’ and temporary ‘work’ and ‘study’ visas.

  2. He always says, border chaos and visa backlogs. Fair enough. But I could equally say, Home Affairs is simply doing its job, delivering on Treasury’s massive net-migration targets.

    And there the targets stay, untouched by fire and water crises. Punching above our weight, I guess.

    1. Net overseas migration is falling sharply and will be a long way below the Budget forecasts. You really do need to try to keep up.

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