The man sitting opposite us says he has found happiness. He lives in a small rented room in an outer Sydney suburb. He works a 60-hour week in a low-paid maintenance job from which he could be fired at any minute. He travels three hours a day on trains and buses to get there. He has no Medicare cover should he get sick. And it’s a whole lot better than where he came from.

We’ll call him Raymond (we can’t use his real name, for reasons which will become obvious). He arrived at an Australian airport from Malaysia four years ago on a tourist visa. Within a month he applied for refugee status. His claim -- that he feared religious persecution back home -- was not believed by assessors from the Department of Home Affairs. He lodged an appeal against the department’s decision, as is his right. But more than two years later he still doesn’t have a hearing date. The odds are that his appeal will fail, but in the meantime he’s got the protection of a bridging visa. This means he can remain in Australia and work until his legal avenues run out.