Seventeen Vietnamese asylum seekers who claim to be unaccompanied minors are missing from immigration centres.
The Immigration Department has confirmed 36 minors have escaped from custody between July 2010 and January 17 this year.
Nineteen Afghan, Iranian, Iraqi and stateless asylum seekers have since been found but the remaining 17 boys, all Vietnamese, are still missing.
The Refugee Action Coalition says the missing asylum seekers have been taken in by the Vietnamese community after fleeing to sympathetic members of the public.
Spokesman Ian Rintoul says they were scared of detention and deportation.