Update on statistics for boat arrivals

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Update on statistics for boat arrivals

Posted 28/06/2012 by Rebecca de Boer

The Parliamentary Library produces a number of publications about asylum seekers and immigration. The publication, Boat arrivals in Australia since 1976 provides a brief overview of the historical and political context surrounding boat arrivals in Australia. An update of the statistical appendix on boat arrival figures is provided below. Please note that the publication has not yet been formally updated.

Other relevant Parliamentary Library resources:

Can Oakshott’s Bill end the asylum impasse?
Bills Digest for the Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures Bill) 2011 – this is the Bill the Government first introduced into the House of Representatives on 21 August 2011.
Asylum levels and trends 2011
Refugee resettlement to Australia – what are the facts?

Boat arrivals by financial year since 1989
YearNumber of boatsNumber of people
1989–903 224
1990–915 158
1992–934 194
1993–946 194
1994–9521 1071
1995–9614 589
1996–9713 365
1997–9813 157
1998–9942 921
1999–0075 4175
2000–0154 4137
2001–0219 3039
2002–030 0
2004–050 0
2006–074 133
2007–083 25
2008–09 23* 1033*
2009–10 118*5609*
2011–12 (to 27/06/12)1047832**


Data from 2001–02 onwards includes arrivals at both excised and non-excised places.
* Figures include crew members plus the 5 people killed following an explosion on board a boat on 16 April 2009 and the 12 deaths from the boat sinking on 1 November 2009. Figures do not include the 2 men found drifting in an esky in the Torres Strait on 17 January 2009, the 4 people found on Deliverance Island with no sign of a boat on 29 April 2009, or the 78 on board the Oceanic Viking intercepted in Indonesian waters in October 2009; or the 5 who reportedly drowned before the boat was rescued and towed to Cocos Islands in May 2010. Figures include the 42 survivors and 30 bodies recovered after the boat sinking at Christmas Island on 15 December 2010.
**(Includes 10 Chinese asylum seekers attempting to travel to NZ by boat in April 2012 who were taken to Darwin after making a distress call). This figure does not include the deceased and peoples unrecovered or unaccounted for on 21 and 27 June 2012.


• 1989–90 to 2000–01: DIMIA, Unauthorised arrivals by air and sea, fact sheet no. 73, October 2004

• 2001–02 to 2007–08: Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Immigration Portfolio, Additional Estimates 2008–09, 24 February 2009, pp. 48–51; and Answers to Questions on Notice, Question no. 16, viewed 29 May 2009, http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/legcon_ctte/estimates/add_0809/diac/index.htm Notes: These figures include arrivals at both excised and non-excised places. The document referred to by Senator Fierravanti-Wells in QON no. 6 is material taken from our chronology on 2 December 2008, according to phone conversation with Petro Georgiou on 22 June 2009. Document was not tabled and we were not able to locate a copy from either the committee or DIAC.

• 2008–09, 2009–10 and 2011-12: figures compiled by the authors from ministerial press releases and press reports. Note: not all boat arrivals are reported by the media and not all may be subject to ministerial press releases. As a result there are discrepancies with the calendar year data and the financial year. For example, DIAC states there were 16 boats as at 11 June for the 2009 calendar year. Ministerial press releases only reported 14 boats as at 11 June 2009.


  • 21/01/2014 2:48 PM
    Rebecca de Boer said:

    Thanks Martin. Due to the complexities of the data, an average number of people per boat has not been calculated. During the past two years, the lowest number of people on a boat was 8 and the highest was 185.

  • 21/01/2014 2:48 PM
    fmark said:

    Hi Rebecca, Thanks for the useful post. Do you know if quarterly statistics since 1989 are available or could be produced with some effort from public sources? Regards, Francis

  • 21/01/2014 2:48 PM
    Janet Phillips said:

    Thank you for your comment Francis. I am not aware of any quarterly statistics, but there have been a few official documents providing arrivals by month for most years since 1989. For example 1989 to 2004: *Fact sheet 74a. BOAT ARRIVAL DETAILS (on Australian Mainland); 1997 to 2001: **Senate Estimates answer to question number 265; and 2008 to May 2012: **Senate Estimates answer to question number 262. *http://sievx.com/articles/psdp/DIMIA74a_boatarrivals.pdf **http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate_Committees?url=legcon_ctte/estimates/bud_1213/diac/index.htm

  • 21/01/2014 2:48 PM
    Martin Butterfield said:

    Interesting post as always. How do these numbers appear if put as a graph? The average number of peoiple per boat appears to fluctuate quite a bit. Could that be added to the table (or a graph)? Best regards Martin

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