In the last five years, while boat arrivals have come to a halt, more than 95,000 people have claimed asylum after landing in Australia.
And it seems to be happening at an increasing rate.
In the 2015 fiscal year, 8562 asylum seekers arrived by air. That rose to 12,673 in 2016, 18,267 in 2017 and 27,884 last year.
Between July 1 and August 19 of this year — the most recent figures available — there were more than 4000 claims at an average of 80 per day.
To put those numbers in context, about 50,000 asylum seekers arrived by boat under the Rudd and Gillard governments from 2009 to 2013.
The figures were revealed to Labor in response to a question on notice, asked by shadow home affairs minister Kristina Keneally in the Senate.
Ms Keneally released a joint statement with fellow frontbencher Andrew Giles this morning.
“Peter Dutton’s incompetence and recklessness has allowed people smugglers to run riot and traffic record-breaking numbers of people by aeroplane to Australia,” they said.
“There’s nothing wrong with claiming asylum — it’s an important right. However, in 90 per cent of these particular cases, the individuals are not legitimate refugees and are often being trafficked to Australia for the explicit purpose of being exploited.
“The Home Affairs Minister is trying to pretend there is nothing to see here when, in fact, close to 100,000 aeroplane people have claimed asylum on his watch.”
Labor’s suggestion is that people smugglers have adapted their business model in response to the Government’s successful crackdown on boat arrivals.
“There is evidence that what is happening is that criminal syndicates, people smugglers, have shifted their business model from boats to planes,” Ms Keneally told ABC News Breakfast this morning.
“They’re trafficking people here. These people are working in exploitative conditions on farms, in hospitality, sometimes in sexual servitude, sometimes being paid $4 an hour and suffering significant exploitation and abuse.”
The Government says asylum seekers arriving by air are different from those arriving by boat because they usually have a passport and sometimes even a visa.
They also aren’t putting their lives at risk in the same way.
The vast majority of asylum applications from those who arrive by air — more than 80 per cent — are rejected.