Boat arrivals in Australia: a quick guide to the statistics

23 January 2014 

PDF version [266KB]

Janet Phillips
Social Policy

  

This quick guide provides statistics on the number of asylum seekers that have arrived by boat in Australia since 1976 when the first wave of boats carrying people seeking asylum from the aftermath of the Vietnam War began to arrive.

It reproduces and updates the appendices of a more detailed Parliamentary Library research paper, Boat arrivals in Australia since 1976. The full research paper includes an overview of the historical and political context surrounding the arrival of asylum seekers by boat, details of Australian government policy responses since 1976, and trends in public opinion.  

It is important to note that, while every effort has been made to ensure consistency, the statistics provided in this guide have been compiled by Parliamentary Library staff over a period of many years from a variety of sources.

For example, since 2008 our financial year figures have been compiled from ministerial or departmental media releases and transcripts. As not all media releases specify the number of crew members versus passengers, and some boat arrivals may not be subject to ministerial or departmental media releases at all, these figures may differ slightly from other sources. While we are confident our financial year figures accurately reflect available Government data, due to the inconsistency of the sources over the years these figures should be regarded as an estimate.

However, our calendar year figures since 2009 have been compiled from a single source—regular advice provided to the Parliamentary Library by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. As a result, we can have confidence in the consistency and accuracy of that data.

Statistics in this guide include:

Table 1: Boat arrivals since 1976 by calendar year

Table 2: Boat arrivals since 1976 by financial year

Graph 1: Boat arrivals by calendar year since 1979 and financial year since 1989-90

Table 1: Boat arrivals since 1976 by calendar year

Year
Number of boats
Number of people
1976
111
1977
868
1978
746
1979
304
1980
0
1981
30
1982–88
0
Year
Number of boats
Number of people  (excludes crew)
1989
1
26
1990
2
198
1991
6
214
1992
6
216
1993
3
81
1994
18
953
1995
7
237
1996
19
660
1997
11
339
1998
17
200
1999
86
3721
2000
51
2939
2001
43
5516
2002
1
1
2003
1
53
2004
1
15
2005
4
11
2006
6
60
2007
5
148
2008
7
161

 

Year
Number of boats
Crew
Number of people (excludes crew)
2009
60
141
2726
2010
134
345
6555
2011
69
168
4565
2012
278
392
17 204
2013
300
644
20 587
2014 (to 17.1.14)
0
0
0

Sources:
  • 1976–1988: K Betts, ‘Boatpeople and public opinion in Australia’, People and place, vol. 9, no. 4, 2001, p. 34. Numbers of boats and crew members not specified.
  • 1989–2008: Department of Immigration advice provided to the Parliamentary Library on 22 June 2009 (excludes crew members).
  • 2009–2014: Customs and Border Protection advice provided to the Parliamentary Library on 17 January 2014.

Table 2: Boat arrivals since 1976 by financial year

Year
Number of boats
Number of people
1975–76
1
5
1976–77
7
204
1977–78
43
1423
1978–79
6
351
1979–80
2
56
1980–81
1
30
1981–82 to 1988–89
0
0
1989–90
3
224
1990–91
5
158
1991–92
3
78
1992–93
4
194
1993–94
6
194
1994–95
21
1071
1995–96
14
589
1996–97
13
365
1997–98
13
157
1998–99
42
921
1999–00
75
4175
2000–01
54
4137
2001–02
19
3039
2002–03
0
0
2003–04
3
82
2004–05
0
0
2005–06
8
61
2006–07
4
133
2007–08
3
25

 

Year
Number of boats*
Number of people (excludes crew)*
Number of people
(includes crew)**
2008–09
23
985
1033
2009–10
117
5327
5609
2010–11
89
4730
4940

 

Year
Number of boats
Crew
Number of people
(excludes crew)
2011–12
110
190
7983
2012–13
403
423
25 173
2013–14 (to 31.12.13)
104
198
7474

Notes
:
  • Data from 2001–02 onwards includes arrivals at both excised and non-excised places, but excludes boats returned from whence they came (boat turnarounds).
  • Deaths at sea in Australian waters may or may not be included in the figures provided by the Department of Immigration, but are included in figures compiled by the authors. Deaths include 5 deceased at sea 16 April 2009; 12 deceased at sea 1 November 2009; 1 crew member who allegedly drowned on 20 November 2011; and the estimated 48 who drowned during the boat tragedy on 15 December 2010 where a boat sank on approach to Christmas Island (42 people were rescued, 30 bodies were recovered and an estimated 18 people drowned). For further details see M Hutton, Drownings on the public record of people attempting to enter Australia irregularly by boat since 1998, sievx.com website, accessed 21 January 2014,
  • Arrival figures do not include; two arrivals in an ‘esky’ on 17 January 2009; four on Deliverance Island with no boat on 29 April 2009; and 78 on board MV Oceanic Viking intercepted in Indonesian waters in November 2009.

Sources:

  • 1975–76 to 2007–08: Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), Submission to the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Immigration Detention Network inquiry (no. 32), Figure 2, p. 18, 1 September 2011, accessed 21 January 2014. Numbers of crew members not specified or not included.
  • 2008–09 to 2010–11: *Ibid. (excludes crew members); and **figures compiled from ministerial and departmental press releases (includes crew members).   
  • 2011–12: figures compiled from ministerial and departmental press releases. Figures include 10 Chinese asylum seekers attempting to travel to NZ by boat in April 2012 who were taken to Darwin after making a distress call and the 18 deceased recovered midway between Christmas Island and Indonesia by Australia search and rescue vessels on 21 and 27 June 2012.
  • 2012–13: figures compiled from ministerial and departmental press releases. Figures include: 1 deceased on board a vessel which arrived on 15 November 2012; 2 deceased recovered from a vessel which capsized on 25 March; and 9 deceased confirmed, but not recovered from the water, from a vessel which capsized on 7 June 2013.
  • 2013–14: figures compiled from ministerial and departmental press releases. Figures include: 1 deceased infant male recovered from a vessel on 12 July 2013; and 4 deceased recovered from a vessel which capsized 16 July 2013. Figures do not include: 5 people believed drowned but not recovered on 20 August 2013.

Graph 1: Boat arrivals by calendar year since 1979 and financial year since 1989–90

Graph 1: Boat arrivals by calendar year since 1979 and financial year since 1989–90 

Source: the statistics provided in this guide are represented in graph format above.

 

 

© Commonwealth of Australia

Title: Creative commons logo - Description: Creative commons logo

Creative Commons

With the exception of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, and to the extent that copyright subsists in a third party, this publication, its logo and front page design are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia licence.

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print
Back to top