Refugee and asylum policy in Australia: Between resettlement and deterrence

10-11-2016

Australia has established a refugee policy which has proved highly effective in deterring irregular migrants, but has attracted much criticism from human rights organisations. Its main drivers have been mandatory detention and offshore processing of irregular asylum-seekers arriving by boat. Since it was enacted, drownings at sea no longer occur and irregular migration by boat to its shores has completely stopped. However, the conditions in the offshore centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, where people arriving by boat have been sent, have been criticised as inappropriate by civil society organisations, and these people's indefinite detention there was deemed to constitute arbitrary detention under international law. Further to such criticism, recently, the two countries have decided to allow asylum-seekers to move freely and, if determined to be refugees, to settle in the community. However, the situation of the refugees in the two countries remains extremely precarious and no lasting solution is yet in sight, despite Australia's efforts to secure resettlement agreements with other third countries. At the same time, Australia has remained open to asylum-seekers and refugees who enter through official channels, and is one of the countries admitting most refugees resettled through the UNHCR. This briefing is an extended and updated version of an earlier publication, from October 2015.

Australia has established a refugee policy which has proved highly effective in deterring irregular migrants, but has attracted much criticism from human rights organisations. Its main drivers have been mandatory detention and offshore processing of irregular asylum-seekers arriving by boat. Since it was enacted, drownings at sea no longer occur and irregular migration by boat to its shores has completely stopped. However, the conditions in the offshore centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, where people arriving by boat have been sent, have been criticised as inappropriate by civil society organisations, and these people's indefinite detention there was deemed to constitute arbitrary detention under international law. Further to such criticism, recently, the two countries have decided to allow asylum-seekers to move freely and, if determined to be refugees, to settle in the community. However, the situation of the refugees in the two countries remains extremely precarious and no lasting solution is yet in sight, despite Australia's efforts to secure resettlement agreements with other third countries. At the same time, Australia has remained open to asylum-seekers and refugees who enter through official channels, and is one of the countries admitting most refugees resettled through the UNHCR. This briefing is an extended and updated version of an earlier publication, from October 2015.