Refugee Council of Australia
Tents in Manus Island regional processing centre

Offshore processing statistics

On and off Nauru and PNG

The detention centres

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.

The end of the Regional Processing Centres

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.

The Nauru Regional Processing Centre has been empty since the end of March 2019, but in September 2023 11 people were transferred there (p. 59). A further 12 were transferred there in November 2023.

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

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 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.

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).

Medical transfers and 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 The law was repealed in December 2019.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 have continued to be medical transfers after the repeal of the Medevac law, including some assessed and recommended for transfer under the Medevac law.

Emptying Nauru

Medical and other transfers have gradually emptied Nauru of its refugee population. By the time the Labor Government came into power, in May 2022, there were 112 people left on Nauru. This graph shows the number and their nationality.

This number has since decreased significantly, with less than 5 people there between June 2023 and September 2023. However, since September 2023 this population has increased again.

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