People seek asylum by boat for many reasons. Australia operates a universal visa system, which makes it very difficult for many people from certain countries to enter Australia by plane with a valid visa. Often, people from countries with a high number of refugees are excluded through strict border controls from entering many countries. It is not always possible for people to seek refuge in a refugee camp, and the number of resettlement places available for refugees is extremely small.
The following graphs show the number of people who have arrived by boat since 1976, by calendar and financial year. (Note that, due to different systems of reporting, the numbers of people exclude crew from a specific year.) They show two peak periods for people arriving: from 1999-2002, and from 2009-2014. The rapid drop in numbers after these periods reflect a policy of forcibly returning boats (‘boat turnbacks’), which is discussed next.