It has been seven years since 19 July 2013. On that date, the Australian Government announced that anyone who arrived in Australia by boat to seek protection and was taken to offshore processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island, would never be resettled in Australia even if they were processed and recognised to be a refugee.
In the seven years since, the Australian Government has spent $7.6 billion for just over 3000 people and to maintain a harmful policy. The Government justified it by stating that it ‘saves lives’ and stops people from drowning at sea. What it fails to mention is that our offshore processing policy is not saving lives – instead, we are killing people more slowly and more remotely, starving them of hope, and denying them a future.
12 people lost their lives on Nauru and in PNG. People also died in Australia where they were kept in perpetual limbo under the cruel title of ‘transitory person’ ineligible for any support and with no future. Several people died when they were returned to their home countries, several more injured.
The Australian Government no longer provides regular statistics on offshore processing. So we worked to collect the latest information through the analysis of Senate Estimates, the documents released under Freedom of Information laws, budget papers, Operation Sovereign Borders updates and media reports.
We believe, however, that in a democratic country like Australia, getting a clear understanding of what is happening to the people we have sent to offshore facilities should not be this complicated. We should not need to go through hundreds of Senate questions on notice, hundreds of pages of the Senate Estimates Hansard, documents and media reports to be able to understand what is happening to very small group of people. Our Government can do much better. It is imperative that this information is provided in a simple format and language and in a central location on the Department of Home Affairs website, as it is through scrutinising this data that we can hold our elected officials accountable.
In the absence of this, we hope that this report provides a snapshot of where we are at, seven years after the 19 July 2013 announcement. Our aim is to provide the key figures related to offshore processing policies: how many people have been sent offshore, where people are now, where they were from, how many returned or were forcibly removed, how many needed to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment, where in Australia they are now, and how much we have spent.