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

Australia’s offshore processing regime: The facts

Offshore processing under the Coalition

This policy continued after the Liberal-National Party won the election in September 2013.

As well, the new Government adopted a policy of turning boats back, known as ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’. The Australian navy resumed turning back boats, including by placing people on lifeboats to return to Indonesia. The government claimed that it was conducting ‘enhanced screening’ to ensure that refugees were not turned back to danger.

Operation Sovereign Borders (Australian Border Force Newsroom)

Australian Human Rights Commission, Tell Me About: The ‘Enhanced Screening Process’ (2013)

There were also allegations that the government had unlawfully entered the territorial waters of Indonesia during one operation, and that its officers had paid people smugglers to return people back to Indonesia.

Breaches of Indonesian Territorial Waters (Senate, 2014)

The new government also introduced temporary protection visas. However, it was unable to pass legislation to enable this until the end of 2014. The High Court ruled that its other attempts to introduce these visas was unlawful, but the government succeeded in ensuring only one person received a permanent protection visa before its legislation was passed.

Temporary protection and the right of refugees (Crock & Bones)

Abuse, harm and deaths offshore

There is a wealth of evidence of the abuse and harm caused to people sent offshore. This has included:

  • Sexual and physical abuse, including of children, women and homosexual people
  • Inhumane or degrading conditions, including through overcrowding, poor quality housing and services
  • Exposure to violence and harm, including from the military and the local community
  • Grossly inadequate access to health services
  • Deaths and harm caused by negligence or delays in getting medical treatment
  • Terrible consequences to mental health, caused by indefinite and prolonged detention and the limbo caused by the uncertainty of the policy.

The following reports provide evidence of the abuse, harm and conditions of those in our offshore processing centres.

Our reports on Manus and Nauru

UN factsheets and reports

Reports by NGOs

Parliamentary inquiries

Independent inquiries

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