On 13 August 2012, the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers released its report containing a suite of measures and recommendations to the Government on how best to deal with asylum seeker issues in the short, medium and long term. One of the short-term measures recommended was a proposal to re-establish offshore processing facilities in Nauru and Papua New Guinea in order to provide a ‘circuit breaker to the current surge in irregular migration to Australia’. The practice of transferring asylum seekers intercepted at sea to third countries in the Pacific for processing was first introduced by the Howard Government in 2001—this policy became known as the ‘Pacific Solution’.
The Gillard Government endorsed, in principle, all of the recommendations of the Expert Panel. In response to the recommendation to reintroduce offshore processing in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, the Government resumed debate on the Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2011 (originally introduced in the House of Representatives on 21 September 2011). The amended Bill, the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2012 was subsequently passed by the House of Representatives on 15 August 2012 and the Senate on 16 August 2012. As a result, the Government is now in a position to re-establish offshore processing facilities in the Pacific if the governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea agree.
This background note provides a brief overview of the ‘Pacific Solution’ and also outlines some of the concerns expressed by many on the practice of accommodating asylum seekers in offshore processing facilities in the Pacific.
However, the primary focus of this paper is to provide a guide to the statistics on the asylum seeker caseloads on Nauru and Manus Island between 2001 and 2008. The data in this paper has been drawn from a range of sources, including committee reports, ministerial press releases and advice provided to the Parliamentary Library by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).