Much political mileage has been made in Australia from the turning back of ‘boat people’. Travel by boat is the cheapest means of getting to this island continent, and the most dangerous. Boat travellers are the poorest and the most likely to be caught and deported or sent to an offshore camp. But their number is less than half of those who arrive by air as tourists and apply for refugee protection: some 100,000 have done so during the seven years of this Coalition government.
In January 2020 alone, 1,931 air travellers sought asylum; more than twenty of them were deported. The rest wait for their cases to be decided. Among those who applied, 255 came from India, 309 from China, and 546 from Malaysia. The work of assessing these claims is tedious and slow, and Australians at the Refugee Review Tribunal say privately that most of them are false. Some ninety per cent of applications for protection visas are rejected, the highest rate being for Chinese, of whose claims only 3.3 per cent succeed.