Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Australia

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Australia , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 21 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At the end of 2003, Australia hosted 22,800 refugees and asylum seekers. These included nearly 11,700 refugees resettled from "offshore" during fiscal year 2002-2003 (which ended June 30); 870 persons granted "onshore" protection visas during the year; 8,400 persons remaining on temporary protection visas (TPVs) granted in previous years; applicants in more than 1,240 pending asylum cases; 380 East Timorese granted visas; and nearly 200 persons with temporary safe haven visas granted in previous years.

For fiscal year 2002-2003, Australia had available about 13,000 admission places for refugees and asylum seekers. Of the 11,700 offshore visas actually granted during the year, 4,400 recipients received visas under the government's refugee categories, and 7,300 qualified under the Special Humanitarian Program (SHP). Many SHP entrants were found to be refugees by UNHCR before applying to the Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA). Accordingly, the U.S. Committee for Refugees counts them among refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. There were no grants under the Special Assistance Category (SAC), which was eliminated in FY 2000-2001. In fiscal year 2002-2003, 47 percent of offshore visas were granted to nationals of African countries with 36 percent coming from Sudan alone. One quarter of offshore visa recipients originated in the Middle East, primarily Iran and Iraq, and nearly 10 percent came from Afghanistan. Ten percent were from European countries.

During FY 2002-2003, Australia received over 5,000 applications for protection visas in its onshore asylum program, a decrease of 42 percent from the previous year. The major countries of origin for new asylum seekers were China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Fiji. DIMIA officers decided 7,200 asylum claims at the primary stage, granting 360 and denying 6,850, for an overall approval rate of 5 percent. The largest numbers of protection visas granted in the first instance went to persons from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and China. No new grants of temporary safe haven were made.

For the fiscal year 2003-2004, the Australian government set aside nearly 13,000 spaces for its resettlement program, including 12,000 new spaces and about 900 carried over from the previous year. For fiscal year 2004-2005, it will increase the annual allotment for its resettlement program from 12,000 to 13,000 new spaces. The total will include 6,000 new places for the refugee category and 7,000 for the SHP.

At the end of 2003, 1,150 asylum seekers were detained in centers including those on Australian territories that are excised from the "migration zone," regions where Australia's immigration and asylum laws do not apply. Nearly 80 percent of detainees were held at three facilities: the Villawood detention center, the Baxter center, and Nauru. During fiscal year 2002-2003, DIMIA processed a total of 6,602 people through all 10 detention facilities.

As part of the so-called Pacific Solution, Australia sent 326 people formerly held in detention centers on Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG) to New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, and Norway during the 2002-2003 fiscal year. The Australian government allowed 311 to resettle in Australia.

For fiscal year 2002-2003, 940 persons arrived without authorization by air. There were no unauthorized boat arrivals.

In July 2003, more than fifty Vietnamese asylum seekers landed on Australia's West Coast. Having arrived on the mainland, they were processed under the onshore category for protection visas and were moved to the Christmas Island processing center.

At the year's end 284 persons remained on Nauru, of which DIMIA processed 236 and UNHCR processed 48. There were no forcible deportations from Nauru. During the year, however, the Australian government transferred three people to Nauru: two Afghans and one Bangladeshi. One of the Afghans returned to Afghanistan.

346 Afghans returned to Afghanistan of which 344 accepted reintegration within 28 days of being denied refugee status and, accordingly, were eligible for cash assistance through DIMIA. Two received assistance through IOM.

At the end of the year, one person remained in detention at Manus, PNG. This person had arrived in PNG on his own and initially sought asylum with the PNG authorities. He subsequently went to Australia but returned to PNG after receiving assurances that he would be given access to asylum procedures.

In June, in response to concerted lobbying by the government of East Timor and the Catholic Church, Immigration Minister Ruddock announced that 379 East Timorese would be allowed to stay in Australia. The announcement constituted a significant reversal of DIMIA's firm intention to deport the remaining 1600 East Timorese in Australia who had been seeking asylum for more than a decade. Ruddock also announced an intention to review 200 more East Timorese cases that had been previously denied and noted that the Refugee Review Tribunal was processing an additional 1,000.

In November, 14 Kurdish asylum seekers from Turkey arrived on Melville Island. DIMIA attempted to apply regulations to these arrivals that would exclude the island and 4,000 other islands from the migration zone. The regulation came into effect on November 4, the exact day that the vessel arrived, but opposition parties defeated it in the Senate on November 24. The Australian government forcibly returned them to Indonesia, their last point of departure, and denied that they had sought asylum in Australia. DIMIA reported that the returns were voluntary. The Indonesian authorities planned to return them to Turkey but later agreed to allow those claiming asylum to be interviewed by UNHCR for refugee status determinations.

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