Kristina Keneally’s claims of a crisis at Australia’s airports have been exposed, with official figures showing only 10 people suspected of being victims of human trafficking and slavery have claimed protection.
A new Home Affairs Department report reveals that of the more than 8.8 million temporary visas granted in 2018-19, 0.00078 per cent, or 69 cases, were identified by the Australian Federal Police as potential victims of human trafficking, with only a handful claiming protection.
The figures conflict with comments made by Senator Keneally, the opposition home affairs spokeswoman, that people-smugglers have “changed their business model from boats to planes”.
“What this represents is criminal syndicates and illegitimate labour hire companies are trafficking people into the country to work, and to work often in exploitative conditions, those close to slavery,” she said on October 13.
The Home Affairs administration of the immigration and citizenship program October update said there was “no evidence to support that a large volume of air arrivals are claiming protection and being subsequently exploited”. More than 89 per cent of protection visa decisions in the last reporting period were refusals.
The report, reinforcing comments made by Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo on Monday, countered comparisons between air arrivals and those who arrived in Australia on boats.
“Those who arrive on temporary visas and subsequently apply for protection have arrived with identity documents and been through a visa application process,” the report says. “Those who arrive via boat commonly have little or no identity documentation and have not been subject to health and risk checks.”
The report, showing the number of protection visas applied for between 2014 and 2019 equated to approximately 0.23 per cent of the total of temporary visas granted, said more than 93 per cent of people who applied for protection had departed Australia, been granted a visa or remained in the country while their cases were reviewed.
The department warns that organised crime networks continue to seek to “embed themselves into legitimate supply chains” to exploit visa arrangements for activities including “illegal labour, human trafficking and exploitation”. A US State Department report used by Senator Keneally outlining concerns about the government’s response to human trafficking also listed Australia as a “tier one” nation which fully met the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking”.
Senator Keneally did not answer questions about the Home Affairs data, but argued that in the past five years 95,943 protection visa applications were lodged by people arriving by air. “Senator Keneally agrees with Peter Dutton when he said on Sky News … ‘there are some people who will come from Malaysia … they will embroil themselves in the legal process, so they will go to the AAT not with any prospect of a successful outcome, but they will get another two or three years,” her spokesman said. “She agrees with Mr Dutton that they can be taking Australian jobs, and that Mr Dutton should have added they are depressing wages.”