1990 TO 2001



Australia received more than 100,000 refugees and other humanitarian cases during this decade, mostly from the former Yugoslavia and the Middle East. In 1992, UNHCR estimated the world refugee population stood at 17.8 million.

The Keating Labor government introduced mandatory detention for asylum seekers arriving illegally via the Migration Reform Act 1992. The policy was criticised by international bodies, including the UNHCR and Human Rights Watch.

Following the conflict in Kosovo, Australia provided temporary protection for Kosovar refugees under ‘Operation Safe Haven', the largest humanitarian evacuation Australia has undertaken. This was the first time genuine temporary visas were used to protect refugees, with nearly all Kosovars leaving Australia within one year. In September 1999, 1900 East Timorese refugees were granted Save Haven visas as referendum violence erupted to Australia’s north.

In 1999, the Migration Amendment Regulations created the three-year Temporary Protection Visa, for unauthorised arrivals who were assessed as requiring protection.

The turn of the century saw a marked increase in the number of asylum seekers arriving by boat. In July 1999 the Migration Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1) 1999 was passed to create people-smuggling and related offences. In November, the Border Protection Legislation Amendment Act 1999 was passed providing for Australia's capacity to board, search and detain ships and to detain persons aboard those ships at sea.