The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is predicting its already heavy litigation workload will grow as the government begins processing the 30,000 outstanding asylum seeker claims before the department.

A total of 30,000 asylum seekers who came to Australia by boat under the former Labor government between 2012 and 2013 have yet to have their asylum seeker claims processed. The government had been waiting the passage of the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Act. The legislation, among other things, reintroduced temporary protection visas and fast-tracked processing of refugee applications for those who arrived in Australia by boat, with limited grounds for review of decisions made on asylum seeker claims.

The claims are assessed by a new authority known as the Immigration Assessment Authority. In introducing the legislation, then-immigration minister Scott Morrison said the new system was designed to stop asylum seekers “exploiting” the review process.

“This new approach to review will discourage asylum seekers who attempt to exploit the current review process by presenting manufactured claims or evidence to bolster their original unsuccessful claims only after they learn why they were found not to be refugees by the department. This behaviour has on numerous occasions led to considerable delay while new claims are explored. These measures will support a robust and timely process, better prioritise and assess claims and afford a differentiated approach depending on the characteristics of the claims.”

After the legislation passed in April, the government had said that 4500 of the 30,000 claims had begun to be processed, but according to an internal DIBP document seen by Crikey, very few of these cases have yet to make it to the courts.

As of the end of September, the department stated there were 3858 cases before the courts or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. These cases can range from matters regarding citizenship and immigration to freedom of information and more. There had been a “sustained upward trend” in active legal matters being handled by the department since December 2010, and it will only be getting worse.

Although there are, as of the end of July, fewer than 1000 cases related to “illegal maritime arrival (IMA) litigants” before the courts, the department stated this would rise significantly as the 30,000 outstanding claims began to be processed:

“In relation to the relatively low number of illegal maritime arrival (IMA) litigants, it is noted there has been no procedure in place for the processing of IMA protection claims since 13 August 2012. The IMA litigation caseload is expected to rise significantly following processing of approximately 30,000 IMAs, under the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Act 2014.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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