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Migrant numbers have hit a two-year high, confirming that we are hurtling towards a "Big Australia".

And more than 160 protection visas are being issued to asylum seekers each week as the Federal Government deals with rising numbers of arrivals by boat and air.

About 146,000 permanent settlers came to Australia in the past year, the most since 2010.

There were 14,210 arrivals in January alone - a 41-month high.

But the growth in population is much higher when the number of foreigners given permanent residency visas is taken into account.

Net overseas migration is about 184,000 a year and is expected to reach 204,000 by mid-2015, according to the latest Immigration Department forecasts.

The so-called Big Australia target of 36 million by 2050, disowned by PM Julia Gillard before the last election, is on track with annual net migration of 180,000 and above.

Monash University population expert Dr Bob Birrell said permanent immigration was at a very high level and temporary migration was increasing at an even higher rate.

"This is a sign of what's in store for us given the Government's policy settings," he said.

Separate Immigration Department figures show 4260 asylum seekers were given protection visas in the second half of last year. This compares with 4818 visas for the whole of 2010-11.

About half of the successful visa applicants were from Afghanistan and Iran, while significant numbers also came from Iraq and Sri Lanka, according to the department's latest Asylum Statistics Australia report.

Of those given visas in the second half of last year, 2845 were boat arrivals and 1412 sought asylum after arriving by air.

Adult boat arrivals are initially detained, but the Government's policy is to release people while their refugee claims are assessed.

sIt has been reported the Government will start releasing 400 asylum seekers a month into the community after initially promising to release 100 a month.

The Opposition has branded Labor's asylum seeker policy as "let them in and let them out", but the Government says if the Coalition were truly concerned about boat arrivals it would pass the Malaysia solution legislation.

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