Fact sheet

Boat arrivals in Australia: a quick guide to the statistics

Immigration Right of asylum Australia

Introduction: 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.

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