The Department of Home Affairs (formerly the Department of Immigration and Border Protection) publishes monthly updates on Operation Sovereign Borders, which began in September 2013. These provide information on how many people are in our processing centres, boat turnbacks, refugee status determination and returns from offshore processing centres and detention in Australia.
From October 2017, the Department no longer publishes information about refugee status determination on Nauru or Papua New Guinea.
This page summarises some of the key data.
How many people are there, and where are they?
The early days of Operation Sovereign Borders saw a rapid increase in the numbers sent to Manus Island. In January 2014, the numbers peaked at 1,353 people. Since then, there has been a slow decline until October 2017, when there were 690 men before the centre was closed.
The trend on Nauru was similar. The numbers there peaked at 1,233 people in August 2014. The changes in the numbers of women and children are similar to those for the population as a whole. However, the rate at which children left Nauru is slower.
The graph only shows the number of people in the offshore processing centres. People who we have sent to Nauru, but who are no longer in the centres, are not included in the statistics. The men who were forced to leave Manus Island are also not included now in the statistics.
Note: The number of people for August 2016 includes 16 people in Port Moresby for medical reasons.
The turning back of boats has not been as regularly reported, with many details still unclear to the public. While the number of boats and crew being irregularly turned back is low, the numbers of people on the boats varies significantly. However, the apparent ‘peaks’ in this graph are partly caused by unknown data for some boats.
Note: As of 17 October 2016, it was confirmed in Senate estimates that there were 29 boats turned back with 740 people turned back. However, the graph only includes details of the 27 boats to the extent which there is public information.
Refugee status determination on Manus
Even with the unfair refugee status determination process on Manus Island, the percentage of decisions (initial and final) recognising these people as refugees was 71%, at 31 October 2017. These statistics are no longer being reported by the Department.
The making of decisions took a long time to start, and increased very quickly in the first quarter of 2016. Since June 2017, there have been no new decisions.
Refugee status determination on Nauru
The process on Nauru has reportedly been much fairer, and this is reflected also in the very high number of decisions recognising them as refugees: 1,062 positive decisions, with only 154 negative decisions (as at 31 October 2017). These statistics are no longer being updated by the Department.
Similarly to Manus, the processing on Nauru rapidly increased in August 2015. There has been relatively little change since 2016.
Returns from Australia and offshore processing centres
The Department’s monthly updates do not say whether a person is returned from Nauru or Manus Island. There has been a consistent, small number of people who ‘voluntarily’ leave the offshore processing centres. The graph also illustrates returns from detention in Australia (voluntary or forced).
This work was made possible by our volunteers, past and present, including Amna Bakhtiar, Stephen Fodorocy, Michael Li and Andrew Lok.