Refugee Council of Australia
Three people at microphones

Rebuilding our damaged reputation: A strategy for Australian leadership on refugee protection

Finding answers for people in offshore processing arrangements

As much as the current government likes to tell us that it has stopped the boats, it still hasn’t found an answer for many of the 2200 people now suffering under its offshore processing policy. We all hope that the United States will offer sustainable protection to as many of these refugees as possible but it seems almost certain that there will be hundreds of refugees left behind with nowhere to go.

The Labor Party thinks that, if it gains office, it will be able to find places in other countries for all the people on Nauru and Manus Island. My private discussions with immigration officials in other resettlement countries suggest to me that this is highly unlikely. The view in every other country is that the people on Nauru and Manus are Australia’s responsibility and that it is unacceptable, particularly in the current international environment with so many refugees desperately in need of help, for Australia to be leaning on other nations to help it out of the hole it has created for itself. New Zealand may offer some help but it is difficult to see more than a handful of people, in the most exceptional of cases, going to other countries.

It seems that a future Prime Minister will have to do as John Howard did from 2005 and accept that many of the refugees on Nauru and Manus should be brought quietly to Australia. By the time Mr Howard left office in late 2007, 616 refugees had been resettled in Australia from Nauru and Manus. The final 89 were brought to Australia by the Rudd administration. Of the 1,153 refugees resettled from Nauru and Manus between 2002 and 2008, 705 came to Australia, 401 ended up in New Zealand and only 47 went to other countries (Sweden, Canada, Denmark and Norway).

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