Tuesday, July 6, 2010
ONLY 6 per cent of recent boat arrivals whose cases have been finalised have been rejected and sent home, official figures reveal.
But the Department of Immigration and Citizenship figures show few arrivals so far this year have had their cases resolved.
Almost 1000 Afghans and Sri Lankans arriving in the past three months have not been processed at all, under a government-imposed freeze. More than 3700 others still wait. Many have been told their applications have been rejected.
The figures depict a system pushed beyond limits. Officials struggle to cope with the number of arrivals — and the government struggles to cope with community hostility to them. Let's look at the facts and figures.
How many asylum seekers have arrived here?
So far this year 75 boats have reached our waters, carrying 3532 asylum seekers. That is already more than for the whole of last year, when 60 boats arrived, with 2726 passengers. Roughly three boats arrive each week, carrying 133 asylum seekers. Those rates have been steady in recent weeks.
Where are they being housed?
At last count, 2571 "irregular maritime arrivals" were being held on an over-capacity Christmas Island, and 1503 asylum seekers and 151 boat crew on the mainland, mostly in Darwin and the north-west.
How many have been granted asylum?
Of 6258 asylum seekers intercepted at sea since the start of last year, only 39 per cent have had their cases finalised. Some 3724 people still await a final decision. Of the 2534 whose cases have been finalised, 2382, or 94 per cent, have been accepted as genuine refugees and granted visas; 152 have been rejected and sent home.
That is similar to the outcomes under the Howard government. Most asylum seekers sent to Pacific islands ended up being accepted as refugees into Australia. So far, just two Afghans have been sent home, while 1622 have been granted refugee status. All 169 Iraqis whose cases are finalised were accepted.
Most of those sent home have been Tamils from Sri Lanka. But even in their community, 79 per cent of applicants were successful — before the government froze processing on April 9.
Are we overrun by queue jumpers?
Hardly. Last year 508,000 permanent and temporary migrants arrived. Asylum seekers made up 0.5 per cent of arrivals. This year it is about 1.5 per cent. The risk comes if that keeps growing.
WHO COMES, WHAT HAPPENS
BOAT ARRIVALS, REFUGEE STATUS
GRANTED SENT HOME (PENDING)
Afghans 3558 1622 2 (1934)
Sri Lankans 1129 324 85 (720)
Iraqis 495 169 0 (326)
Others 1076 267 65 (744)
Total 6258 2382 152 (3724)
DEPARTMENT OF IMMIGRATION