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3130.0 - Demography Working Paper 2001/8 - Incorporating Unauthorised Arrivals into Population Estimates, 2001  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/11/2001   
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Comments on this paper would be appreciated by end of January 2002 and sent to Matt Berger at matthew.berger@abs.gov.au . Comments are particularly sought on paragraphs 22 and 26.


SUMMARY

1. It is proposed to incorporate unauthorised arrivals into population estimates from the release of the 2001 Census-based population estimates onwards. Unauthorised arrivals are proposed to be included after they have been in Australia for 12 months, or at the time of their release (or escape) into the community, whatever is earlier. Unauthorised arrivals who are removed from Australia within 12 months will not be included in population estimates.

2. While the number of unauthorised arrivals is relatively small, there has been a sharp increase in such arrivals in recent years. Their inclusion in population estimates will assist in maintaining the accuracy of these estimates.


OVERSEAS ARRIVALS AS A COMPONENT OF POPULATION ESTIMATES

3. Estimated resident population is the official measure of the population of Australia and is based on the concept of residence. It refers to all people, regardless of nationality or citizenship, who usually live in Australia, with the exception of foreign diplomatic personnel and their families. It includes usual residents who are overseas for less than 12 months. It excludes overseas visitors who are in Australia for less than 12 months.

4. Estimates of the Australian population are generated on a quarterly basis by adding natural increase and net overseas migration to the population at the beginning of each period. Net overseas migration accounts for just under half of population growth at the national level and comprises:

    • permanent and long-term (i.e. 12 months or more) arrivals to Australia;
    • permanent and long-term departures from Australia; and
    • an adjustment to reflect changes in travel intentions between short-term movements and long-term/permanent movements ("category jumping").

5. Overseas visitors arriving in Australia for a period of 12 months or more are considered to be part of the Australian population during the period in which they reside here and are included in population estimates. Their inclusion is based on their stated intention (at the time of arrival) to remain in Australia for 12 months or more. If they do not subsequently remain in Australia for a minimum period of 12 months, they are not included in post departure population estimates through the category jumping adjustment noted above. Similarly, overseas visitors who intend to stay in Australia for less than 12 months but actually stay for 12 months or longer are added to the population through the category jumping adjustment.

6. Movement between Australia and overseas countries, whether permanent or temporary, is regulated, and information on the arrival and departure of international travellers is collected and processed by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA). In addition to monitoring authorised travellers, DIMA also works with other Government agencies to control the flow of unauthorised arrivals to Australia. Unauthorised arrivals are those who attempt entry into Australia, either by air or by sea, without going through the official immigration procedures. When intercepted, these people are usually found to have no travel documents or documents that are fraudulent. Unless they are granted visas to remain in Australia, unauthorised arrivals are removed as soon as practicable.

7. Overall, the number of unauthorised arrivals is relatively small, although there has been a sharp increase in the number of such arrivals over recent years. During 1996-97, 739 unauthorised arrivals were detained, compared with 5,918 in 1999-2000 and 4,428 in 2000-01.


7.1 UNAUTHORISED ARRIVALS PLACED IN DETENTION, 1996-97 to 2000-01
Year of initial detention
Air arrivals
Boat arrivals
Total arrivals

1996-97
373
366
739
1997-98
1,003
158
1,161
1998-99
1,534
871
2,405
1999-2000
1,677
4,241
5,918
2000-01
383
4,045
4,428
Total
4,970
9,681
14,651


8. Currently, unauthorised arrivals are not counted in overseas arrivals statistics and therefore are not generally incorporated into post-Censal population estimates, irrespective of whether they remain in Australia for 12 months or more. Unauthorised arrivals held in detention on Census night in either 1996 or 2001 were counted as part of the resident population. Unauthorised arrivals who had arrived and been released into the community during the intercensal period, and who remained in Australia at the time of the Census, were also counted in the Census and subsequently included in population estimates.

9. Although arguably the majority of unauthorised arrivals intend to remain in Australia permanently, it is not necessarily prudent to add them into the population at the time of arrival (or detection) as many are removed from Australia within a relatively short timeframe. For example, DIMA indicate that of 1,695 unauthorised air arrivals refused immigration clearance in 1999-2000, 1,340 (79%) were removed from Australia within 72 hours (DIMA, Protecting the Border: Immigration Compliance, 2000 edition, p. 37).

10. Despite the large number of unauthorised arrivals who are removed from Australia promptly after detection, many others - particularly those arriving by boat - are taken into detention pending resolution of their status. Due to the complexities involved in resolving these claims, some unauthorised arrivals may spend lengthy periods in detention prior to being either removed from Australia or released into the community.

11. Given the number of such arrivals, and in the interest of maintaining the accuracy of population estimates, it is proposed to commence incorporating unauthorised arrivals into population estimates based on the 2001 Census. The remainder of this paper will outline the size and characteristics of the population of unauthorised arrivals and the framework proposed to be used in incorporating them into population estimates.


THE POPULATION OF UNAUTHORISED ARRIVALS

12. Information on the detention, removal and release of unauthorised arrivals is compiled and maintained by DIMA. Information provided to the ABS includes date of detention, State/Territory of initial detention, date of birth, sex, nationality, country of birth, occupation, method of arrival (air/sea), release date and reason for release.

13. Between 1 July 1996 and 30 June 2001 there were 14,651 unauthorised arrivals taken into detention, of whom 3,546 (24.2%) had been removed (as at 12 October 2001), 9,675 (66.0%) had been released into the community, 84 (0.6%) had escaped, and 1,345 (9.2%) remained in detention. Of those remaining in detention as at 12 October 2001, 373 (27.7%) had been detained for a period of 12 months or more.


13.2 CURRENT(a) STATUS OF UNAUTHORISED ARRIVALS DETAINED DURING 1996-97 TO 2000-01
Year of initial
detention
Removed
Released
Escaped
In detention
Total

1996-97
379
345
14
1
739
1997-98
438
703
15
4
1,161(b)
1998-99
1,144
1,200
27
34
2,405
1999-2000
1,256
4,463
18
181
5,918
2000-01
329
2,964
10
1,125
4,428
Total
3,546
9,675
84
1,345
14,651(b)

(a) As at 12 October 2001.

(b) Includes one person now deceased.

14. In the 12 months to June 2001, almost 5,000 detainees left detention facilities. The vast majority of these (91%) were released into the community, while 9% were removed from Australia (2% after spending 12 months or more in detention).

14.1 PERSONS LEAVING DETENTION DURING 2000-01

Reason for release
Number
Percent

Removed
438
8.8
Released into the community
4,497
90.7
Escaped
24
0.5
Total
4,959
100.0


15. The number of people leaving detention can fluctuate quite markedly from month to month. Data for April to September 2001 shows there were 2,144 people who left detention centres in total, ranging from a low of 263 people in April to a high of 473 people in August. Of these, 147 (7%) had been in detention for 12 months or more at the time they left.

15.1 PERSONS LEAVING DETENTION DURING APRIL TO SEPTEMBER 2001, TIME SPENT IN DETENTION
Removed
Released
Escaped
Total
Month of
release
12 mths
or more
Less than
12 mths
12 mths
or more
Less than
12 mths
12 mths
or more
Less than
12 mths
12 mths
or more
Less than
12 mths

April
13
25
16
207
2
0
31
232
May
13
22
11
234
0
1
24
257
June
15
31
11
245
0
0
26
276
July
21
42
7
327
16
6
44
375
August
14
35
6
418
0
0
20
453
September
1
19
1
385
0
0
2
404
Total
77
174
52
1,816
18
7
147
1,997



PROPOSED FRAMEWORK FOR INCLUSION OF UNAUTHORISED ARRIVALS

16. At the national level, the base population of unauthorised arrivals will be obtained from the ABS Census of Population and Housing. Those unauthorised arrivals who had been released into the community prior to Census night were in scope of the 2001 Census, and will automatically be included in subsequent population estimates; those being held in detention facilities will have been counted as a resident in a non-private dwelling, and will be included in population estimates on the basis of question 7 in the 2001 Census (Where does the person usually live?).

17. Ongoing updates will be made using data from DIMA. Relevant data items include date of initial detention, date of release, and reason for release (ie. removal or release into the community), and are proposed be used in accordance with the following guidelines:
  • unauthorised arrivals being held in detention will be included in population estimates as long term visitor arrivals after their period of detention reaches 12 months;
  • unauthorised arrivals granted visas and released into the community will be included in population estimates after their date of release (unless they had previously been held in detention for 12 months or more, and had therefore already been included in population estimates); holders of temporary protection visas and other visas of limited duration will be counted as long term visitor arrivals, whilst holders of permanent protection visas will be counted as migrants arriving;
  • for estimation purposes, unauthorised arrivals who escape from a detention facility will be treated as if released into the community;
  • unauthorised arrivals who are held in detention for periods of 12 months or more who are subsequently removed from Australia will be removed from population estimates at the time of their removal (as long term visitor departures); and
  • unauthorised arrivals released into the community who subsequently leave Australia will be recorded in overseas departure statistics, and will subsequently be automatically removed from the population through net overseas migration.
  • the data of effect is proposed to be the date of arrival in Australia.

18. Unauthorised arrivals who are removed from Australia within 12 months of their date of initial detention will not be included in population estimates.

19. Data on date of birth and sex provided by DIMA will be used to update population estimates by age and sex. This information is generally well documented in DIMA's data holdings. For example, full date of birth information is available for 84% of all unauthorised arrivals initially detained during 1996-97 to 2000-01. A further 15% of these records have information on year of birth only, while 0.6% contain both month and year of birth. Date of birth is missing entirely from just 0.2% of these records. All records contain information on the sex of the detainee (82% male; 18% female).

20. DIMA have emphasised that their data holdings are not set up as an accounting system - that is, it is not possible to provide a snapshot of the exact status of every detainee at any one moment. All of the components of the data provided to the ABS have variable lags associated with them, and therefore there will be inconsistencies in the snapshots provided to the ABS. For example, a detainee may show up as a release before being removed from the detainee data, and for a short time be double counted. Similarly, a release may show up before the record is removed from the list of detainees. Further, an incomplete or partial record may be re-created when verified information becomes available, and this may result in anomalous records existing temporarily within the system. With regard to the typical length of delays, DIMA have advised that:
  • there is a lag between detention and record creation of around three weeks;
  • at the time of release into the community, there is generally a lag of around two weeks to record creation; and
  • the correction of the creation of anomalous records takes around three weeks.

21. While the lag between an event (either detention or release/removal) and the creation of the associated record is unfortunate, it is not critical in terms of its effect on producing population estimates. Adjustments can be made to compensate for this lag effect, and similar adjustments are already being made to some other components of population estimates.

22. Incorporation of unauthorised arrivals into population estimates may mean that migration estimates calculated from Overseas Arrivals and Departures (OAD) data differs from the migration estimates used in the production of population estimates. There are several approaches here which may be considered:
  • incorporate unauthorised arrivals into monthly OAD estimates (difficult given the date of effect referred to in paragraph 17); or
  • report unauthorised arrivals as a new, separate, component in the production of population estimates; or
  • allow OAD data and population estimates net migration data to differ, with the difference explained and detailed as part of explanatory material.

23. The decision regarding which approach is adopted by the ABS will be made after receiving feedback from key users.


STATE AND TERRITORY LEVEL ESTIMATES

24. While unauthorised arrivals do not comprise a large proportion of the total Australian population, they are not evenly distributed throughout the States and Territories. Detention facilities are located primarily in WA, NSW and SA, and most unauthorised arrivals will be located in these three States throughout their period of detention.

24.1 STATE OF INITIAL DETENTION, 1996-97 to 2000-01

State/Territory
Number of
detainees
Proportion of
all detainees

NSW
3,475
23.7
VIC
1,064
7.3
QLD
71
0.5
SA
3,013
20.6
WA
7,006
47.8
NT
22
0.2
Total
14,651
100.0


25. While data is provided on State of initial detention, reliable information on transfer of detainees between detention facilities, and information on State of release for those detainees released into the community, is not currently available. This has an obvious bearing on estimates at the State and sub-State level, as detainees released into the community are free to reside in the State or Territory of their choice and this will not necessarily accord with their State of initial detention.

26. It is understood from advice by DIMA that unauthorised arrivals are generally released into their home ethnic community. Information on nationality and country of birth for unauthorised arrivals is provided to the ABS by DIMA, and further information on the State/Territory distribution of different birthplace groups is available from the Census. In the absence of reliable information on State of destination at the time of release, it is proposed that information on country of birth is used to allocate State/Territory of usual residence to each individual released into the community on a pro-rata basis. For example, those unauthorised arrivals from Afghanistan will, at the time of release, be pro-rated among the States and Territories in accordance with the proportion of the Afghanistan-born population living in each State and Territory at the last Census.

27. Once released into the community detainees are eligible to enrol for Medicare benefits, and future interstate movements will be identified (and subsequent adjustments made to population estimates) from Medicare change of address records, as currently occurs for interstate movements generally.

Demography Program
Australian Bureau of Statistics
November 2001

(1) Unless otherwise acknowledged, the statistics relating to unauthorised arrivals which are quoted in this article come from the data supplied directly to the ABS by DIMA as at 12 October 2001. This data does not correspond with the data published by DIMA in their various publications and on their web site, for the reasons outlined in paragraph 20. In addition, DIMA have advised that this database is not a comprehensive record of all unauthorised arrivals as it excludes, for example, many unauthorised air arrivals that are returned within 72 hours.


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