Refugee Council of Australia
Tents in Manus Island regional processing centre

Offshore processing statistics

People transferred to Australia

How many are in Australia?

On 19 July 2013, the Australian Government changed the offshore processing policy to prevent people from being resettled in Australia. By that time around 1,000 people had been sent to Nauru and PNG.

When the policy changed, the then Rudd Government announced that all people sent offshore between 13 August 2012 (when offshore processing began) and 19 July 2013 would be returned to Australia to create capacity for those who would arrive after 19 July 2013. Those returns occurred progressively and were completed in October 2015. This group are not called ‘transitory persons’ by the Australian Government. The Government only calls those ‘transitory persons’ who arrived after 19 July 2013 and can never resettle in Australia under the current policy.

We know that in total 4,183 people have been sent to Nauru and PNG since the start of the offshore processing on 13 August 2012. As of 31 August 2022, there are 1,146 transitory persons in Australia. Transitory persons are mostly here for medical treatment. The Australian Government considers their stay in Australia temporary.

The statistics on this page primarily focuses on ‘transitory persons’. As with other data, because most of these numbers have been provided through Senate estimates at different points in time, the total numbers vary.

The below graph provides an overall picture of the visa status of transitory persons, as of 31 January 2022. Note that the graphs below refer to more detailed information.

This graph breaks down in more detail the number of babies born to people transferred to offshore processing.

Most have been recognised as refugees.

Who are they?

These graphs show the people currently in Australia who have been transferred from Nauru and PNG by nationality and refugee status.

Where are they?

The graph below breaks down the latest information on where people subject to offshore processing are in Australia, by state and territory and by visa status.

People transferred from offshore processing do not have a valid visa, so are subject to Australia's detention policies. This requires them to be detained, unless the Minister exercises a power to release them from detention.

Australia's detention policies

Some people transferred from offshore processing have been released into 'community detention', through the Minister's use of a 'residence determination'. This means that they have to live in specific housing in the community, subject to some restrictions on movement. The graph below shows the number of people in community detention, by age.

Others have been granted 'bridging visas'. These also can only be granted if the Minister allows it. Usually these bridging visas (called Final Departure Bridging Visa) are for 6 months and grant the holder work rights and access to Medicare. People on those visas are usually not eligible for other types of support, like income or casework support.

This graph shows the total number of people transferred from offshore processing receiving support under the Status Resolution Support scheme, including income support.

The two following graphs show how the Minister exercised his or her power to allow people to live in the community over a period of time.

This graph shows the number of bridging visas granted since 1 July 2018.

This graph shows how long these people have been held in detention.

This graph shows how long people have been held in Alternative Places of Detention (such as motels).

Developments in August and September 2020

In August and September 2020, the Minister granted bridging visas E to a significant number of people who had previously been in community detention, including families with children. As mentioned, the support provided on these visas is significantly limited and for people without the right to work for many years, the prospect of securing employment during the COVID-19 pandemic was very low. This left many without housing and income and overwhelmed the already stretched charities and NGOs.

The following graphs provide more information about this group: how many were given bridging visas, the states they lived in and their age and gender.

The Medevac law

In 2019, a major change occurred when Parliament passed a law known as the Medevac legislation, which required the Minister to consider the views of independent doctors in determining whether a person should be transferred for medical treatment in Australia. The law was repealed in December 2019.

While the Medevac legislation was in place, 192 people were transferred to Australia under the legislation, including 8 people who had been separated from their family from a previous transfer.

There were also a number of people who had been approved under Medevac, but had not left Nauru or PNG when the law was repealed. We know that as of October 2020, 14 of them remained in PNG and 7 on Nauru. Of the seven on Nauru, 3 were later approved by Nauru to leave for Australia and 4 were approved to leave for a third country for the purpose of medical treatment. None proceeded with those options.

There have continued to be medical transfers after the repeal of the Medevac law, including some assessed and recommended for transfer under the Medevac law.

As at 31 January 2022, there are no longer any people approved for medical transfers remaining in an offshore processing country.

Where are the Medevac refugees?

Unlike people who were transferred for medical treatment by the Government, those who were brought to Australia under the Medevac legislation remained in closed detention for prolonged periods of time. The places of detention included the so-called 'Alternative Places of Detention' (APODs), for example hotels in Melbourne and Brisbane.

This graph shows the breakdown of people transferred for medical reasons from March 2019 to 31 January 2022, both under Medevac and under the Migration Act, and their current visa status.

In December 2020, five refugees were released from closed detention in Brisbane and Melbourne. This was followed by the release of 68 men from closed detention in Victoria (Park hotel APOD and Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation) in January/February 2021.

Around 70 were released from detention in Brisbane, Sydney and Darwin in early March 2021  (the refugees in Darwin had not been transferred under the Medevac legislation but remained in detention for a long period of time). In August 2021, 37 people were released from detention in Brisbane, Melbourne and Darwin.

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