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

Australia’s offshore processing regime: The facts

Key incidents

In July 2013, after the Australian Government announced it would no longer resettle people in Australia, there was unrest at the detention centre in Nauru. An independent review was commissioned.

Executive Report of the Review into the 19 July 2013 incident at the Nauru Regional Processing Centre (Department of Immigration and Border Protection, 2013)

A 23-year-old man, Reza Barati, was killed in February 2014, and others injured, during violent clashes at Manus Island detention centre. Two men were later jailed for his murder.

On 5 September 2014, Hamid Kehazaei died after being transferred to Australia too late for medical treatment.

The day my friend Hamid Kehazaei died (Behrouz Boochani, 2016)

Inquest into the death of Hamid Khazaei (2018)

On 26 April 2016, Omid Masoumali died after setting himself on fire in front of UNHCR staff and delays in transferring him for treatment in Australia.

Burned refugee would have had 95% chance of survival in Australia, inquest hears (Australian Associated Press, 2019))

On 10 August 2016, the Guardian published a harrowing cache of ‘incident reports’ on Nauru, referred to as the ‘Nauru files’. These files detailed hundreds of incidents of abuse, including sexual abuse, self-harm and the abuse of children.

The Nauru files: the lives of asylum seekers in detention detailed in a unique database – interactive (The Guardian)

On Good Friday in 2017, shots were fired during an incident involving PNG soldiers on Manus Island detention centre.

In the firing line: Shooting at Australia’s refugee centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (Amnesty International, 2017))

By June 2018, 12 people had died in offshore processing.

Deaths in offshore detention: the faces of the people who have died in Australia’s care (The Guardian)

Another person, a young doctor, also died after being transferred from Manus Island to Brisbane in October 2019.

Australian Border Deaths Database (2015))

Interception of boat from India

In June 2014, the Australian Navy intercepted a boat travelling from India carrying 157 people seeking asylum. The government secretly attempted to return those on board, mostly Sri Lankan Tamils, to India. Their secret detention at sea was unsuccessfully challenged in the High Court. They were eventually transferred to Nauru.

Asylum seekers: a timeline of the case involving 157 Tamil asylum seekers intercepted at sea (ABC, 2014))

CPCF v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (High Court, 2015)

Closure of Manus Island detention centre

In May 2017, the PNG government told refugees it would close the Manus Island centre on 31 October, and that those there would be rehoused in a transit centre near Lorengau. Hundreds, however, did not want to leave, because of fears of being attacked and of being abandoned by the Australian government.

The PNG government pressured them to leave over weeks, including by withdrawing power, water and medical services. Eventually, officials including police evicted those remaining.

Diary of disaster: the last days inside Manus Island detention centre (Behrouz Boochani, 2017)

It became clear that much of the new housing was not yet ready or was too full. They had less access to healthcare, and they were confined to their housing during a curfew.

UNHCR fact sheet on situation of refugees and asylum-seekers on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2017)

Some people, however, had been refused refugee status, including several who did not participate in the process. They were held by the PNG government in Bomana prison, without access to the outside world, for several months. Those who did not leave were finally released in 18 January 2020.

Leaked photos of Papua New Guinea prison reveal “torture” of 18 asylum seekers cut off from the world (The Guardian, 2020))

On 19 August 2019, all those still on Manus Island were offered voluntary relocation to Port Moresby.

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