There has been an upsurge in temporary workers from the Pacific and Timor-Leste absconding over the last couple of years. The government has counted 1,181 Seasonal Work Programme (SWP) absconders from July 2020 to June 2021 (2020/21), up from 225 the previous year. The dominant explanation is that workers have left their employers due to exploitation or lack of work.

Overlooked has been the fact that many workers have absconded to claim asylum. Government figures indicate that 545 SWP and Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) workers put in asylum applications in 2021/22. Since there are many more SWP than PLS workers, presumably most of these applications are from the former group.


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