AUSTRALIA’S migration review tribunals are struggling under massive increases in workload

Applications to the Migration Review Tribunal (MRT) are up 26 per cent while applications to the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) are up 32 per cent.

“Our workload is increasing,” tribunals head Denis O’Brien told a Senate estimates hearing.

More than 5900 applications were lodged with the MRT and 1646 with the RRT in the financial year to January 31.

Decisions in the RRT were up 31 per cent in the same period, with 75 per cent made within the recommended 90 day period. The average decision time was 95 days.

But decisions in the MRT were down 28 per cent in the same period, Mr O’Brien conceded.

“The decrease in MRT decision output – despite the increase in lodgements – is principally due to the substantial increase in our RRT work to which we must give priority,” he said.

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“Can I say that our resource difficulties have been exacerbated by the recent loss of a number of experienced RRT members.”

Eight tribunal members had taken leave of absences for placements inside the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, he said.

As at January 31 there were 829 active cases before the RRT and 9731 before the MRT.

“We just can’t afford to let that backlog continually increase without trying to address it,” Mr O’Brien said.

Mr O’Brien said he hoped to have new staff in place by the middle of the year.

The increase in MRT applications was due in large part to a massive increase in student visa review applications sparked by recent law changes, Mr O’Brien said.

The MRT reviews departmental decisions made on general visas while the RRT reviews decisions made on protection visas

Student visa program report

Citizenship (the department). The report has been provided to assist education providers, representative bodies and
It is expected that this report will be further developed over time to increase and improve information sharing about the
student visa program.
It is important to note that the information used in this report comes from a new data source. Consequently, figures for
previous financial years have been revised and may differ slightly from those previously published by the department.
Data is sourced from several departmental visa processing and recording systems. Data can be dynamic and there can
be delays in transmission of information from the department’s global operations. Variations in figures between this
report and previous issues can occur. Due to these issues, the current financial year should always be considered
Further data about the student visa program, including student visa grants by sector and country from 2002-03 to the
latest complete program year is available at the department’s website at
This report is available at and will be updated on a quarterly basis.
Further information about the student visa program is available at