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Key points

  • There are still 13,218 people waiting for a decision by the Department of Home Affairs
  • Most are still being granted protection, with 72% of people in the Legacy Caseload being granted protection, with a higher rate of 75% for Safe Haven Enterprise Visas
  • Most of them are waiting in Victoria (6,236) and NSW (5,154), with significant numbers also in South Australia (743) and Queensland (630)
  • Most of those still waiting are from Iran (35%), Sri Lanka (17%), stateless (14%), Afghanistan (9%)
  • Almost all of them (13,092) are living in the community on a Bridging Visa E, but there are still 110 of them in held detention

In December 2014, the Australian Government changed the way it determined the refugee claims of people who came by boat. The Australian Government calls this new process ‘fast tracking‘. This affects people who came by boat on or after 13 August 2012.

There are also people who came before 13 August 2012, but did not have their protection visa application finalised by 18 September 2013. These people are assessed under the old process. The two groups are referred to by the Department as the ‘Legacy Caseload’.

The statistics are from the latest Department’s statistics at 31 May 2018.

The processing of applications

By the end of April 2018, there were 13,218 applications still on hand with the Department, compared with 17,642 applications finalised by the Department. Most of those applications still with the Department are fast-track applications. The latest statistics do not break down which cases are from the ‘fast track’ cohort and those from the ‘non-fast-track’ (for people who came before the deadline for fast track, but whose claims were not finalised). In the last available statistics from 4 January 2018, there were 783 people from the non-fast-track group who had not had their claims finalised.

According to an answer on a question to notice at Senate estimates, the average time taken between a claim being lodged and the Department making its decision was 415 days for temporary protection visas, and 316 for Safe Haven Enterprise visas. In comparison, the average time for processing a permanent protection visa was 257 days.

Line chart showing numbers at different processing stages

This graph shows a rapid decline of the numbers of applications not yet lodged in 2017. This was because the Minister announced that any applications not lodged by 1 October 2017 would be barred by law, and through heroic efforts all but 71 people lodged their claims by this date. The Department’s current statistics no longer include any applications not lodged as a result (which is why the chart records zero applications).

According to an answer to a question on notice in Senate estimates, of those 71 people, 34 were from Vietnam, 18 from Iran and 8 from Sri Lanka. The rest were from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Palestinian Authority. They included six females and 25 were in NSW, 18 in Queensland, 11 in Victoria, 9 in South Australia and five in Western Australia (with the location of three being unrecorded).

Are they being recognised as refugees?

Despite the unfairness of the refugee status determination process, most are still being recognised as refugees. At the end of May 2018, 72% were being granted protection visas.

The statistics from January 2018 no longer break down grants and refusals in relation to fast-track or non-fast-track applications. The latest statistics only allow recognition rates to be generated from visa type (whether they have a temporary protection visa or a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa).

Previous statistics show that around 70-75% of people in the fast-track process have been recognised as refugees. The percent of unsuccessful claims being processed under the non-fast-track system has been much lower (between 33-39%), until late in 2017 when the percent being recognised suddenly leapt to around 65%.

Column chart showing recognition rates by visa type
Stacked bar chart showing processing stages by visa type.

Processing by visa type

The May 2018 statistics show that the more than half of the numbers of visas finalised are now for Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (10,123 finalised). Overwhelmingly, most of the outstanding applications are also for Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (11,398 compared to 1,820 for Temporary Protection Visas). This is likely to reflect the fact that the conditions of the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa only became available after the initial applications were made for temporary protection visas, while non-fast-track applications which were prioritised for processing were mostly for temporary protection visas.

Line chart showing onhand applications by State

Where do those still waiting live?

For several months, the largest number of applications still being processed have been in Victoria (6,236), with NSW being the second largest (5,154). South Australia is now the State with the third-largest numbers still waiting (743), surpassing Queensland (630). Perhaps not surprisingly, there are relatively few in the ACT, NT, and Tasmania.

Line chart showing grants by State

Where do those who have been granted protection live?

Since December 2017, the Department has also been publishing statistics on those granted protection. This follows a similar pattern, with NSW and Victoria having the largest number of temporary protection visa holders.

Are they in detention?

Nearly all applicants are currently residing within the community, with almost all of them currently on Bridging Visa E (13,092).

110 applicants are in immigration detention. Another 16 are subject to a residence determination.

Bar chart showing detention status


Our thanks to our volunteers Andrew Lok and Dikea Binch who helped prepare this post.