In July 2013, after a significant spike in the number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat, newly restored Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declared a dramatic change to the nation's asylum seeker policy.
At the end of January, 2013 the 7875 people were held in one of three types of immigration detention:
- 4562 people in a mainland immigration detention -- including detention centres, residential housing, transit accommodation or alternative places of detention -- (3549 men, 367 women, 646 children)
- 1135 people in detention or alternative place of detention on Christmas Island and Cocos Keeling Island (555 men, 226 women, and 354 children),
- 2178 people in a residence determination to live in the community (781 men, 474 women, and 923 children),
During 2011-12, while 12,967 people were TAKEN into immigration detention, 19,370 people were HELD in immigration detention during 2011-12.
Out of the 19,370 detained people, 14,438 (or 74.5 per cent) were asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat, unlawfully, at an excised offshore place.
During the same year, 4,932 people were held in immigration detention for arriving in Australia by plane without authorisation, or breaching visa conditions -- such as overstaying their visas or having their visa cancelled.
WHO HAS BEEN GRANTED A VISA IN 2011-12?
As at April 4, 2013, 1186 protection visas had been granted. The onshore/offshore breakdown is not released until the end of the 2012/13 year.
Now let's take a look at how many asylum seekers were granted a visa over the past financial year, and why.
Under Australia's Humanitarian Program, there are 13,750 refugee and protection visas granted every year.
In 2011-12, 13,759 visas were granted under Australia's Humanitarian Program. (6,718 under the offshore component, and 7,041 under the onshore component).
The offshore component offers resettlement to people overseas who have been determined to be refugees or in humanitarian need by UNHCR, while the onshore component offers protection for people already in Australia who are found to be refugees.
Under the offshore component, 821 visas were granted to Woman at Risk applicants in 2011-12.
In 2011-12 14,415 people applied for a visa under the onshore program. Half of them (7,041) was granted asylum.
Almost half of the 14,415 people who applied for a visa under the onshore component had arrived in Australia by plane (7,036), while 7,379 had arrived by boat.
Under the onshore component, most visas went to people who arrived by boat (4,766), an increase from the previous year. Meanwhile, 2,272 visas were granted to people who arrived by plane.
COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN OF AUSTRALIA'S REFUGEES
At January 31, 2013, 47 per cent of detainees were Sri Lankan nationals, 13 per cent from Iran and 11 per cent from Afghanistan.
Of those in community detention, the largest group were Iranian nationals (34 per cent), followed by Sri Lankans (18 per cent) and Afghan nationals (15 per cent).
Note however, that these figures are for people in immigration detention, not for visas granted.
COMPARISONS WITH OTHER TYPES OF MIGRATION INTAKE
To put these numbers into perspective within the broader Australian migration intake, it is worthwhile to note that in 2011-2012 some 71,819 people got a visa under the points tested skilled-migration program, with the biggest group coming from India and the UK.
Meanwhile, 68,310 visas were granted under the Temporary Business (Longstay) subclass 457 visas, with the biggest group coming from the UK.
For the year 2012-13 up to the end of February, the number of 457 visa applications lodged was 8.3 per cent higher than the same period last year. 4.8 per cent more visas were granted.
The biggest group of visas granted went to citizens of India (20.9 per cent) followed by the United Kingdom (20 per cent).
The number of 457 visa holders becoming permanent residents or provisional visa holders was down 13 per cent at 22,280 granted in the 2012-2013 year up to February 28.
The number of primary visa holders in Australia as at February 28, 2013, was 107,510.
(Immigration Detention Statistics Summary - January 31, 2013. Department of Immigration and Citizenship)