Refugee Council of Australia
Green mural of figures jumping saying refugees and asylum seekers welcome

Statistics on people seeking asylum in the community

Delays and what happens to them

The gap between grants and lodgements

The low number of visas granted does not mean that all of the other applications have been refused. Under changes to the law made in 2014, the Minister for Immigration can now place a ‘cap’ on protection visas issued to refugees in any year.

This ‘cap’ sets a limit on the number of visas that can be granted. This means that, even if a person is recognised as a refugee in Australia, they cannot be granted a visa until the following year. This does not apply to temporary protection visas, but affects people seeking asylum by plane.

Using this power, the Minister has set a number each year for the number of visas that can be granted to people claiming asylum by plane, and those who are resettled from overseas.

The graph below shows the number of permanent protection visa applications ‘on hand’ (being processed by the Government), broken down by citizenship.

Delays in processing

This means people seeking asylum are now waiting several years for a decision to be made on their case. The monthly statistics reveal that nearly 40,000 people are still waiting for decisions. Even more people are still in the country awaiting deportation after a negative decision.

This is made worse by the fact that times for decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which reviews the Department’s decisions, have significantly increased. In 2019-2020, only 25% of refugee cases were finalised by the Tribunal within a year, with the median time for decision being 109 weeks.

Read more about the challenges faced by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal

What happens while they are seeking asylum?

While people are waiting, they usually live in the community on the same conditions as the visa on which they came to Australia.

For international students and people on tourist visas, this means that people do not have access to Medicare, and may not have the right to work in Australia. Their lack of permanent status also creates many other problems, such as difficulty accessing women’s refuges.

Learn more: Women on temporary visas experiencing violence

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