Statistical information relating to ministerial intervention in individual immigration cases is now online and will be published every six months, the Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, has announced today.

Under the Migration Act 1958, the minister has a range of powers that allow him to intervene in individual cases, where it is in the public interest to do so.

Bowen said this was the first time ministerial intervention statistics had been published, and followed the release of asylum seeker and refugee statistics in May this year.

'Ministerial intervention powers act as a safety net, allowing me to assist the relatively small number of people whose cases have not been resolved through a visa process and whose circumstances are compassionate and compelling,' he explained.

'The publication of this statistical information about ministerial intervention requests and outcomes will enhance the transparency and accountability of government processes,' he added.

By using the ministerial intervention powers, the minister can grant a visa where there are compelling and compassionate circumstances and other avenues have been exhausted.

Between 15 September 2010 and 30 June 2011, Bowen finalized 2,020 requests for intervention under sections 351 and 417 of the Act. The minister also granted 437 visas, which is a grant rate of 22%.

The publication includes the number of requests for intervention received and finalized, types of visas granted, and the citizenship of people requesting and being granted visas through intervention.

Meanwhile, it has also been revealed that more than 150 overseas students returning to Australia in the last financial year were intercepted by immigration authorities at the airport over visa breaches and put on a plane home within 72 hours.

These included 55 Indians, the largest group, and 37 Chinese. Moreover, of the 470,221 people who arrived on a student visa, almost 9,000 were questioned by immigration officials.

In 2010/11, the most common breach leading to cancellation of a student visa at the airport was failure to maintain an enrolment or no longer attending classes.

'Visa cancellations at the border are conducted under strict natural justice rules. Officers will weigh all relevant factors for and against the cancellation,' said a DIAC spokesman.