KUALA LUMPUR: About 50% of applicants to the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) claiming refugee status in the second half of last year were Malaysians.
According to a report in The Australian, a Senate Estimates hearing in Australia was told there had been a significant increase in migration and refugee appeals to the AAT over the past 18 months, largely driven by people from Malaysia.
The United Nation’s 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees states that a refugee is a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country… ”
The AAT is a “one-stop shop” for reviewing decisions made by the Australian government. The report said the AAT’s two largest divisions were migration and refugees, and social security and child support.
The Australian quoted AAT registrar Sian Leathem as saying it had received 51,426 applications across all areas in the 2016-17 financial year, up 24% on 2015-16.
“For the first half of 2017-18 we’ve received a further 29,537 applications.”
In 2016-17 the migration and refugee division of the AAT received 26,604 applications, representing a 41% increase.
Leathem was quoted as saying that from July to December 2017 the AAT received a total of 19,039 applications in the migration and refugee division, a 51% increase over the same period the previous year.
She was quoted as saying: “There has been significant increases in the migration and refugee side of things, but particularly in the refugee caseload a large number of Malaysian applications. I think they represent about 50% lodgements.”
The migration and refugee division dealt with higher numbers of business-related cases and student visa refusals last year.
She said the AAT had set aside 23% of decisions made by ministers and departments so far in 2017-18, down from 26% in 2016-17.
The AAT had set aside 30% of migration cases in the second half of 2017, but only 5% of refugee cases.
“I would say that has been impacted by the high volume of Malaysian matters that are being dealt with, and there’s a significant number of people in that category who often will not turn up for a hearing, so the set aside rate has been effectively a lot lower for that cohort of cases, so I suspect that’s impacting on the overall set-aside number.
“In the refugee division for whatever reason, most of the departmental decisions have been affirmed, have not been set aside,” The Australian quoted her as saying.