Refugee Council of Australia
Vietnamese fishing boat

Statistics on boat arrivals and boat turnbacks

Boat turnbacks


Between 2001-2003, Australia adopted a policy of forcibly returning boats, known as Operation Relex. This graph shows the number of people turned back under this policy.

A similar policy, known as Operation Sovereign Borders, was reintroduced in 2013. This graph combines the statistics consolidated by the Parliamentary Library with those from the monthly Operation Sovereign Border updates from the government, and answers to questions on notice from Senate estimates.
Australia’s asylum policies

This graph now includes information on the number of crew and children in each operation, and includes boats that are ‘turned back’ to the country of departure, or ‘taken back’ (where those intercepted are handed over to another government, such as Sri Lanka or Vietnam with which the Australian Government has agreements to return people), and ‘assisted returns’ (where a vessel is in distress).

Read more: Boat turnbacks (Parliamentary Library of Australia)

There are some differences between the different sources of information. The government has explained that not all interceptions are recorded in the monthly updates, and are only publicly made available if it is no longer considered operationally sensitive. This graph includes information made available in Senate estimates in March 2020.

In the latest Senate estimates, the government also provided information about boats that came after September 2013 but could not be safely returned. This is reflected in the graph below.

The government also gave information about where the people on those boats were now.

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