Refugee Council of Australia
Tents in Manus Island regional processing centre

Offshore processing statistics

How many people are on Nauru and PNG?

Since offshore processing began on 13 August 2012, the Australian Government has sent 4,183 people to Nauru or Papua New Guinea. There is a slight discrepancy between this figure, provided by the Australian Border Force on 14 July 2019, and the figure of 4,177 people, provided by the Department of Home Affairs in April 2019 to the Senate estimates.

Of these, 3,127 people have been sent to Nauru or Papua New Guinea (PNG) since 19 July 2013, when the Australian Government changed its policy so that people who are transferred offshore can never resettle in Australia.

It should also be noted that these figures do not include people born in those facilities. Between 19 July 2013 and March 2021, 46 children were born in Nauru, less than five children were born in PNG and 153 children were born to those transferred from Nauru to Australia.

How many are still on PNG and Nauru?

As of 31 May 2021, there were 125 people still in PNG and 108 on Nauru.

The majority of those still in PNG now live in Port Moresby. However, according to the Department of Home Affairs, a small number also live in Goroka, a town 423km from Port Moresby. All those previously detained in Bomana Detention Centre have now been released.

On 28 February 2019, the last four children on Nauru departed for the US. According to Senate estimates, in March 2020 there was only one woman left on Nauru, after seven out of eight women left there were transferred to Australia in February 2020.

Children on and off Nauru

In 2018, there was a strong and belated push to transfer children out of Nauru, in large part in response to the Kids Off Nauru campaign. On 28 February 2019, the last four children on Nauru left the island.

The graph below shows the rapid decline in the numbers of children on Nauru, from 122 at the end of the 2017-2018 financial year to 0 as of 28 February 2019 (note, the numbers are reported irregularly, so there are large gaps).

Where are they living?

For the first few years, people were housed in detention centres, called ‘Regional Processing Centres’ (RPCs) by the government. 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. The trend on Nauru was similar. The numbers there peaked at 1,233 people in August 2014.

Currently, refugees on Nauru are all living in the Nauruan community, with no one living in the RPCs since the end of March 2019.

The Manus Island RPC in Lombrum was forcibly closed in October 2017, when there were still 690 men there. When the Centre was closed, the men were transferred to three centres near Lorengau town on Manus Island. Those centres were East Lorengau Regional Transit Centre, West Lorengau Haus and Hillside Haus. On 19 August 2019, the PNG government offered to relocate them all to Port Moresby. Currently, people subject to offshore processing still living in PNG are all in Port Moresby.

It should also be noted that in July and August 2019, a total of 53 men were detained by PNG in a detention facility called Bomana Immigration Centre.  They were held incommunicado without access to their lawyers, visitors or scrutiny bodies. They reported that they were pressured to ‘voluntarily’ return to their home countries. In January 2020, the last 18 men held in that facility were released.

When those men were detained in Bomana Detention Centre, the Australian Government excluded them from the statistics, as it considered the Centre to be run by the PNG Government. In October 2020, during the Senate estimates, the government confirmed there were no longer any people in the immigration detention facility in Bomana (pp.33-34 of the document).

The graph below shows the changing number of people in the RPCs on Nauru and Manus over time.

The graph only shows the number of people in the RPCs. This is why the number drops to zero from November 2017 for Manus Island RPC and from 2019 for Nauru. This does not mean, however, that there are no people subject to offshore processing in those countries.

 

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