Up from 4735, those with unspecified nationalities seeking temporary asylum has now ballooned to more than 37,000 — and the Department of Home Affairs refuses to reveal this group’s identity.
The overall amount of people on bridging visas is also at a record high at 195,000, up from more than 40,000, with most being from India and China.
They are the same visas given to the Commonwealth Games athletes wanting to stay in Australia and are given to migrants while their applications are being processed.
A month after the Commonwealth Games finished up, at least 250 athletes and staff who arrived in Australia for the Gold Coast event are asking to stay permanently.
The bridging group makes up a chunk of the 2.2 million people on temporary visas in Australia, which is also at a historic high, according to Department of Home Affairs figures.
The number of temporary visas is also higher than the figure the Australian Government wants to get to for its 170,000 permanent migration intake target, down from its usual 190,000 a year.
It has rolling out an overhaul of both temporary and permanent migration programs in the past year.
Those on temporary visas, including foreign students, backpackers and bridging visa holders, are able to work while here.
The government has granted temporary bridging visas to 200 athletes and support staff.
Authorities are still on the hunt for 50 people who remain illegally in Australia, in what the Home Affairs Minster has labelled a ‘great frustration’.
‘If you are on a bridging visa there are benefits available, and some of the cases can go on for a period of time,’ he said.
‘This is one of the great frustrations that I have.’
Migration consultancy agency Granger Australia’s director John Granger told the ABC the program was “chaotic” and said the spike in bridging visas was likely because there were more applications due to major program changes and resource cutbacks at the department.
“The resources available to the department are limited every year by Government, and yet Government rolls out reform agendas that are not well thought through, that require transitional arrangements and require multiple layers of processing against regulations in the same visa areas,” he said.
Mr Granger said processing times had grown considerably in recent years and as a result the number of refusals and those that ended up at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
“This results in a significant rise of unwarranted refusals, and transfers time delays and costs over to the Appeals Tribunal,” he told the ABC.
“The Appeals Tribunal is wasting resources on expensive tribunal members deciding on simple visa matters.”
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal’s average processing times for temporary work visas was 381 days over the past six months, up from 286 for the same time a year ago.
Authorities have been on the hunt missing people from the Commonwealth Games who remained illegally in Australia, in what Home Affairs Minster Peter Dutton labelled a “great frustration”.
“If you are on a bridging visa there are benefits available, and some of the cases can go on for a period of time,” he said.
“This is one of the great frustrations that I have.”
The Department of Home Affairs declined to provide more explanation about the ‘not specified’ bridging visas group.
A spokesman told news.com.au processing times were driven by a range of factors including the volume of applications received, completeness of the application, how promptly applicants respond to any requests from the Department and the complexity of assessments in relation to health, character and national security requirements.
“The Department monitors feedback, trends, and fluctuating processing times each month to identify issues in specific caseloads, opportunities for continuous business process improvement and client service efficiencies,” they said.