May 30, 2013
The immigration department says it will start processing the 19,000 asylum seekers who arrived by boat after August 2012 in the coming weeks.
Immigration department secretary Martin Bowles told a Senate budget estimates hearing on Tuesday that the would-be refugees, spread out across regional processing centres and the Australian mainland, would be processed from June.
There had been speculation that the department had stalled their claims because of the government’s ‘no advantage’ principle, introduced in August 2012. Under this principle, asylum seekers gain no benefit by coming to Australia by boat.
Previously, it’s been suggested this could see boat arrivals detained for up to five years.
Mr Bowles denied the delay was due to the no advantage principle, saying the department had always expected processing of the 19,000 would take time.
‘We’re getting there and we will start (processing) shortly,’ he told the committee.
He said applications had not been frozen or stopped.
‘It’s not as though we just leave these people in a grey world around processing,’ he said.
‘We are in contact with them, we have a case management system.’
Mr Bowles said while the no advantage principle would not affect the initial processing stages, it would delay the issuing of a visa by a couple of months or ‘a little bit longer’.