This guide contains statistics on the number of asylum seekers at Offshore Processing Centres, the number who are children, the number who are found to refugees, and more.
On 8 February 2008, some seven months after Kevin Rudd was sworn in as Prime Minister, the former Labor Government announced that the last remaining asylum seekers on Nauru had been transferred to Australia ending the Howard Government’s controversial so-called ‘Pacific Solution’, which had begun in 2001 in response to rising numbers of asylum seekers arriving by boat.
However, by July 2010, then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard announced in her first major policy speech that the Government had begun having discussions with regional neighbours about the possibility of establishing a regional processing centre for the purpose of receiving and processing irregular entrants to the region. Whilst only 25 asylum seekers had travelled by boat to Australia to seek asylum in the 2007–08 financial year by the time Gillard made her announcement in July 2010, more than 5,000 people had travelled by boat to Australia to seek asylum.
Whilst Gillard acknowledged that the number of asylum seekers arriving by boat to Australia was ‘very, very minor’ and that at the current rate of arrival it would take about 20 years to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) with asylum seekers, she identified a number of reasons why the processing of asylum seekers in other countries was again considered necessary:
Though it took another two years for her Government to secure the statutory and practical arrangements for asylum seekers to be sent to third countries, people began to be transferred to Nauru on 14 September 2012 and to PNG on 21 November 2012.
It was not until two months before the 2013 federal election and in the wake of growing support for the Opposition’s tougher border protection policies, newly appointed Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd made a surprise announcement on 19 July 2013 that Australia had entered into a Regional Resettlement Arrangement with Papua New Guinea (PNG). Under the Arrangement, all (not just some) asylum seekers that arrive by boat would be transferred to PNG for processing and resettlement in PNG and in any other participating regional State. He subsequently made a similar Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Nauru.
Notwithstanding Prime Minister Rudd’s announcement, the Australian Labor Party was unable to secure another term in office and on 7 September 2013, the Liberal and National parties were voted in to form a Coalition Government, led by Tony Abbott. The current Coalition Government continues to implement the former Government’s offshore processing arrangements. However, the offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and PNG has in due course proved contentious for a number of reasons, including:
This publication contains statistics provided by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection from commencement in 2012 (where available) until September 2015.