2012 - TODAY



After several boats sank en route to Australia, the Australian Government appointed an Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers. Following the recommendations of this Expert Panel, in August 2012 the Australian Parliament passed legislation that allows asylum seekers arriving by boat to be transferred to ‘regional processing countries’ designated by the Minister for Immigration while their refugee status is determined. The two countries designated by the minister are Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG).

In July 2013, a Regional Resettlement Arrangement was announced between Australia and PNG. This arrangement provides for asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat to be sent to PNG for assessment of their refugee status. If they are found to be refugees, they would settle in PNG. In August 2013, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Australia and Nauru with broadly similar terms to the arrangements made with PNG.

Upon winning the September 2013 Australian Federal election, the Abbott Government established ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’, a military-led policy that aims to curb arrival of boats carrying asylum seekers. As a result of this policy, boats in Australian waters have been turned back to transit countries and offshore detention and processing has continued.