ASIO and Australia's border security

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) helps to protect Australia’s national security through the collection and analysis of intelligence which helps to inform policy development advice and disrupt people smugglers, and by conducting visa security assessments to control the movements of people.

Information on its border security activities is provided in the 2020-21 annual report.


Policy development advice

The ASIO provides advice on countering serious threats to Australia’s border integrity to key stakeholders, and this advice helps inform border security policy development. For example, Home Affairs modified its threat prioritisation matrixes after incorporating the ASIO’s advice.

Key stakeholders include DFAT and Home Affairs portfolio agencies such as the AFP and Australian Border Force (ABF). The ASIO’s advice can also influence assessments and reports by the Office of National Intelligence, including the Prime Minister’s Intelligence Daily.

In addition to influencing policy, advice provided by the ASIO is also highly actionable. For example, during the reporting period, ASIO provided practical investigative input which prompted ongoing National Intelligence Community activities related to potential irregular immigrants located in Indonesia.


Disrupting people smugglers

Key to the work of the ASIO is conducting investigations into people smuggling activities. For example, in March 2021, the ASIO collaborated with partner agencies to determine the location of two offshore-based people smugglers by identifying the landmark which appeared in the background of images. Results of this work were used to support ongoing investigations.


Visa security assessments

The ASIO’s advice also impacts border-related operational activities such as the conducting of visa security assessments. Throughout 2020-21, ASIO conducted the following assessments:

Type of entry No. of assessments
Temporary visas 506
Permanent residence and citizenship 24
Onshore protection (air) 7
Offshore refugee/humanitarian 43
Illegal maritime arrivals 4
Other referred caseloads 909
Resolution of national security border alerts 4478
Total 5971


The total number of referrals for visa security assessments was significantly lower compared to the previous reporting period (11,045 in 2019-20) due to reduced travel because of COVID-19, combined with operational efficiencies.

The ASIO also issued a number of adverse and qualified assessments, informing stakeholders’ decision-making on the issuing or cancelling of visas, or the refusal of citizenship, to mitigate a range of national security risks.

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