Refugee Council of Australia
Nauru, long part of Australia's offshore detention policy, from the air

Australia’s offshore processing regime: The facts

The return of offshore processing

Offshore processing resumes

In July 2010, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that it would resume offshore processing. This followed a spike in people coming by boat.

The Australian Government had first proposed a ‘refugee swap’ with Malaysia. Australia would send people seeking asylum to Malaysia. In return, it would take some refugees from Malaysia. However, the High Court ruled this was unlawful.

Malaysia solution case (2011)

On 13 August 2012, an Expert Panel recommended measures, including offshore processing, to deal with the increase in people coming by boat. Three days later, laws were passed restoring offshore processing.

Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers (2012)

Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing and Other Measures) Act (2012)

People began to be transferred to Nauru on 14 September 2012 and to PNG on 21 November 2012.

Other policy changes

On 21 November 2012, the government said that it could not send everyone to Nauru or PNG. Some people who had come by boat would instead be allowed to live in the community on a ‘bridging visa’, but they would not have the right to work. They would only receive a protection visa once they had lived in Australia for the same time as if they had applied to be resettled from overseas. This was called the ‘no advantage’ rule.

Laws were later passed extending the bar on people applying to be a refugee in Australia to those who made it to mainland Australia. The government resumed processing refugee claims on 3 July 2013.

Migration Amendment (Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals and Other Measures) Act (2013)

No way to Australia, no way out

After Kevin Rudd returned as Prime Minister, he changed this policy. From 19 July 2013, the government would send everyone who came by boat to Nauru or PNG. None of them would ever be allowed to live in Australia. This announcement led to unrest in the Nauru detention centre.

Joint press conference with PNG (Parliamentary Library of Australia)

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