In December 2014, the refugee status determination system for people who came by boat after 13 August 2012 changed. The new process, called ‘fast tracking’, replaced the previous independent merits review system with a new body, called the Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA).
Under new rules, the IAA would no longer hear directly from people claiming asylum, and would generally be restricted to information before the Department of Immigration. The Refugee Council and its members have consistently expressed strong concerns about the fairness of this process and the significant risks it creates that people will be returned to persecution or other serious harm.
This page summarises the IAA’s statistics about its processes.
How many cases are being dealt with?
The ‘fast tracking’ system was introduced into legislation in December 2014, but review decisions didn’t start for a long time. This graph shows that the number of decisions by, and referrals to, the IAA have remained relatively steady. However, in 2017 the number of active cases on hand increased significantly.
How long is it taking them to decide?
Consistently with this increase, the median time to make a decision almost doubled in 2017. The median time for a decision has gone from 50 days in January 2017 to 104 days by December 2017.
Which cases are being referred to the IAA?
Half of the cases being referred to the IAA are for people from Sri Lanka. Many of these would be people of a Tamil background. This is likely to be because of the Australian Government’s view that the situation for people of Tamil background in Sri Lanka has improved. This is despite a recent UN Special Rapporteur’s report concluding that Tamil people should not be returned to Sri Lanka, where they still face a risk of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
What are they deciding?
One of the key concerns about the IAA was that it would significantly decrease scrutiny of the Department’s decision. The usual rule with the IAA, unlike the former RRT, is that it will consider the Department’s decisions ‘on the papers’ without hearing directly from the people involved. The IAA is also only able to consider information that had not been provided to the Department earlier (for example, late disclosures of sexual assault) in exceptional circumstances.
The IAA’s remittal rates by country of origin currently vary between 9% (for Sri Lankans) and 31% (for Iranians).
Is it a rubber stamp for the Department?
The statistics show that between only between 10-32% of decisions are being returned (‘remitted’) to the Department because it was made incorrectly. In contrast, the last available statistics from the previous review system (for people claiming asylum by boat between 2009-2013) show much higher rates of remittal, ranging from 60-90% for the same nationalities.