• Australia signs deal with Nauru to keep asylum seeker detention centre open indefinitely

    Australia will continue its policy of offshore processing of asylum seekers indefinitely, with the home affairs minister signing a new agreement with Nauru to maintain “an enduring form” of offshore processing on the island state.Since 2012 – in the second iteration of the policy – all asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat seeking protection have faced mandatory indefinite detention and processing offshore.

    There are currently about 108 people held by Australia on Nauru as part of its offshore processing regime. Most have been there more than eight years. About 125 people are still held in Papua New Guinea. No one has been sent offshore since 2014.

    However, Nauru is Australia’s only remaining offshore detention centre.PNG’s Manus Island centre was forced to shut down after it was found to be unconstitutional by the PNG supreme court in 2016. Australia was forced to compensate those who had been illegally detained there, and they were forcibly moved out, mostly to Port Moresby.

    But the Nauru detention facility will remain indefinitely.

    In a statement on Friday, home affairs minister #Karen_Andrews said a new #memorandum_of_understanding with Nauru was a “significant step forwards” for both countries.

    “Australia’s strong and successful border protection policies under #Operation_Sovereign_Borders remain and there is zero chance of settlement in Australia for anyone who arrives illegally by boat,” she said.“Anyone who attempts an illegal maritime journey to Australia will be turned back, or taken to Nauru for processing. They will never settle in Australia.”Nauru president, #Lionel_Aingimea, said the new agreement created an “enduring form” of offshore processing.

    “This takes the regional processing to a new milestone.

    “It is enduring in nature, as such the mechanisms are ready to deal with illegal migrants immediately upon their arrival in Nauru from Australia.”Australia’s offshore processing policy and practices have been consistently criticised by the United Nations, human rights groups, and by refugees themselves.

    The UN has said Australia’s system violates the convention against tortureand the international criminal court’s prosecutor said indefinite detention offshore was “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” and unlawful under international law.

    At least 12 people have died in the camps, including being murdered by guards, through medical neglect and by suicide. Psychiatrists sent to work in the camps have described the conditions as “inherently toxic” and akin to “torture”.In 2016, the Nauru files, published by the Guardian, exposed the Nauru detention centre’s own internal reports of systemic violence, rape, sexual abuse, self-harm and child abuse in offshore detention.

    The decision to extend offshore processing indefinitely has been met with opprobrium from those who were detained there, and refugee advocates who say it is deliberately damaging to those held.

    Myo Win, a human rights activist and Rohingyan refugee from Myanmar, who was formerly detained on Nauru and released in March 2021, said those who remain held within Australia’s regime on Nauru “are just so tired, separated from family, having politics played with their lives, it just makes me so upset”.

    “I am out now and I still cannot live my life on a bridging visa and in lockdown, but it is 10 times better than Nauru. They should not be extending anything, they should be stopping offshore processing now. I am really worried about everyone on Nauru right now, they need to be released.

    ”Jana Favero from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said the new memorandum of understanding only extended a “failed system”.“An ‘enduring regional processing capability’ in Nauru means: enduring suffering, enduring family separation, enduring uncertainty, enduring harm and Australia’s enduring shame.

    “The #Morrison government must give the men, women and children impacted by the brutality of #offshore processing a safe and permanent home. Prolonging the failure of #offshore_processing on Nauru and #PNG is not only wrong and inhumane but dangerous.”


    #Australie #Pacific_solution #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Nauru #externalisation #île #détention #emprisonnement

    • Multibillion-dollar strategy with no end in sight: Australia’s ‘enduring’ offshore processing deal with Nauru

      Late last month, Home Affairs Minister #Karen_Andrews and the president of Nauru, #Lionel_Aingimea, quietly announced they had signed a new agreement to establish an “enduring form” of offshore processing for asylum seekers taken to the Pacific island.

      The text of the new agreement has not been made public. This is unsurprising.

      All the publicly available information indicates Australia’s offshore processing strategy is an ongoing human rights — not to mention financial — disaster.

      The deliberate opaqueness is intended to make it difficult to hold the government to account for these human and other costs. This is, of course, all the more reason to subject the new deal with Nauru to intense scrutiny.
      Policies 20 years in the making

      In order to fully understand the new deal — and the ramifications of it — it is necessary to briefly recount 20 years of history.

      In late August 2001, the Howard government impulsively refused to allow asylum seekers rescued at sea by the Tampa freighter to disembark on Australian soil. This began policy-making on the run and led to the Pacific Solution Mark I.

      The governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea were persuaded to enter into agreements allowing people attempting to reach Australia by boat to be detained in facilities on their territory while their protection claims were considered by Australian officials.

      By the 2007 election, boat arrivals to Australia had dwindled substantially.

      In February 2008, the newly elected Labor government closed down the facilities in Nauru and PNG. Within a year, boat arrivals had increased dramatically, causing the government to rethink its policy.

      After a couple of false starts, it signed new deals with Nauru and PNG in late 2012. An expert panel had described the new arrangements as a “necessary circuit breaker to the current surge in irregular migration to Australia”.

      This was the Pacific Solution Mark II. In contrast to the first iteration, it provided for boat arrivals taken to Nauru and PNG to have protection claims considered under the laws and procedures of the host country.

      Moreover, the processing facilities were supposedly run by the host countries, though in reality, the Australian government outsourced this to private companies.

      Despite the new arrangements, the boat arrivals continued. And on July 19, 2013, the Rudd government took a hardline stance, announcing any boat arrivals after that date would have “have no chance of being settled in Australia as refugees”.
      New draconian changes to the system

      The 1,056 individuals who had been transferred to Nauru or PNG before July 19, 2013 were brought to Australia to be processed.

      PNG agreed that asylum seekers arriving after this date could resettle there, if they were recognised as refugees.

      Nauru made a more equivocal commitment and has thus far only granted 20-year visas to those it recognises as refugees.

      The Coalition then won the September 2013 federal election and implemented the military-led Operation Sovereign Borders policy. This involves turning back boat arrivals to transit countries (like Indonesia), or to their countries of origin.

      The cumulative count of interceptions since then stands at 38 boats carrying 873 people. The most recent interception was in January 2020.

      It should be noted these figures do not include the large number of interceptions undertaken at Australia’s request by transit countries and countries of origin.

      What this means is the mere existence of the offshore processing system — even in the more draconian form in place after July 2013 — has not deterred people from attempting to reach Australia by boat.

      Rather, the attempts have continued, but the interception activities of Australia and other countries have prevented them from succeeding.

      No new asylum seekers in Nauru or PNG since 2014

      Australia acknowledges it has obligations under the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees — and other human rights treaties — to refrain from returning people to places where they face the risk of serious harm.

      As a result, those intercepted at sea are given on-water screening interviews for the purpose of identifying those with prima facie protection claims.

      Those individuals are supposed to be taken to Nauru or PNG instead of being turned back or handed back. Concerningly, of the 873 people intercepted since 2013, only two have passed these screenings: both in 2014.

      This means no asylum seekers have been taken to either Nauru or PNG since 2014. Since then, Australia has spent years trying to find resettlement options in third countries for recognised refugees in Nauru and PNG, such as in Cambodia and the US.

      As of April 30, 131 asylum seekers were still in PNG and 109 were in Nauru.

      A boon to the Nauruan government

      Australia has spent billions on Pacific Solution Mark II with no end in sight.

      As well as underwriting all the infrastructure and operational costs of the processing facilities, Australia made it worthwhile for Nauru and PNG to participate in the arrangements.

      For one thing, it promised to ensure spillover benefits for the local economies by, for example, requiring contractors to hire local staff. In fact, in 2019–20, the processing facility in Nauru employed 15% of the country’s entire workforce.

      And from the beginning, Nauru has required every transferee to hold a regional processing centre visa. This is a temporary visa which must be renewed every three months by the Australian government.

      The visa fee each time is A$3,000, so that’s A$12,000 per transferee per year that Australia is required to pay the Nauruan government.

      Where a transferee is found to be a person in need of protection, that visa converts automatically into a temporary settlement visa, which must be renewed every six months. The temporary settlement visa fee is A$3,000 per month — again paid by the Australian government.

      In 2019-20, direct and indirect revenue from the processing facility made up 58% of total Nauruan government revenue. It is no wonder Nauru is on board with making an “enduring form” of offshore processing available to Australia.

      ‘Not to use it, but to be willing to use it’

      In 2016, the PNG Supreme Court ruled the detention of asylum seekers in the offshore processing facility was unconstitutional. Australia and PNG then agreed to close the PNG facility in late 2017 and residents were moved to alternative accommodation. Australia is underwriting the costs.

      Australia decided, however, to maintain a processing facility in Nauru. Senator Jim Molan asked Home Affairs Secretary Michael Pezzullo about this in Senate Estimates in February 2018, saying:

      So it’s more appropriate to say that we are not maintaining Nauru as an offshore processing centre; we are maintaining a relationship with the Nauru government.

      Pezzullo responded,

      the whole purpose is, as you would well recall, in fact not to have to use those facilities. But, as in all deterrents, you need to have an asset that is credible so that you are deterring future eventualities. So the whole point of it is actually not to use it but to be willing to use it.

      This is how we ended up where we are now, with a new deal with the Nauru government for an “enduring” — that is indefinitely maintained — offshore processing capability, at great cost to the Australian people.

      Little has been made public about this new arrangement. We do know in December 2020, the incoming minister for immigration, Alex Hawke, was told the government was undertaking “a major procurement” for “enduring capability services”.

      We also know a budget of A$731.2 million has been appropriated for regional processing in 2021-22.

      Of this, $187 million is for service provider fees and host government costs in PNG. Almost all of the remainder goes to Nauru, to ensure that, beyond hosting its current population of 109 transferees, it “stands ready to receive new arrivals”.


  • Asylum by Boat: Origins of Australia’s Refugee Policy

    In the late 1970s, 2000 Vietnamese arrived in Australia by boat, fleeing persecution. Their arrival presented a challenge to politicians, but the way the Fraser government handled it, and the resettlement of tens of thousands more Indochinese refugees, marked a turning point in Australia’s immigration history. Turn-backs and detention were proposed, and rejected. Claire Higgins’ important book recounts these extraordinary events. It is driven by the question of how we moved from a humanitarian approach to policies of mandatory detention − including on remote islands − and boat turn-backs.


    #livre #Australie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #histoire #frontières
    cc @reka

    voir aussi:

    #Operation_Sovereign_Borders: a prehistory

    A central component of Australia’s asylum policy has been Operation Sovereign Borders, a naval operation intended to identify, intercept and turn back refugee boats before they reach the country’s shores. Taking its cue from Canberra, the European Union has adopted a more extreme approach, subcontracting the task of interception and return to the Libyan Coastguard and militia groups that detain, abuse, exploit and enslave people seeking to cross the Mediterranean.


  • Persons arriving by unauthorised boat to Australia by calendar year

    –-> bien évidemment, la période avec zéro arrivées (2001-2007) ce n’est pas une période dans laquelle aucun bateau a essayé de débarquer en Australie, mais tous ont été détournés vers l’île de Manus ou sur celle de Nauru...

    #Australie #statistiques #asile #migrations #chiffres #pacific_solution #operation_sovereign_borders #réfugiés #graphique #externalisation
    cc @reka

  • ‘Turning back boats’

    What does a policy of ‘turning back boats’ involve?


    A policy of ‘turning back boats’ was introduced by the Howard Government on 3 September 2001. Under this policy, named Operation Relex, the Royal Australian Navy was directed to intercept and board ‘Suspected Illegal Entry Vessels’ (#SIEVs) – that is, boats that were suspected of carrying people seeking to come to Australia without a visa – when they entered Australia’s contiguous zone (24 nautical miles from the Australian coast).1 The Navy was directed to return these boats to the edge of Indonesian territorial waters, either by operating the boat under its own engine power or attaching the boat to an Australian vessel and towing it.2 The aim of Operation Relex was to deter people from arriving in Australia by boat by denying them access to Australia.3

    Operation Relex ended on 13 March 2002 to enable information relating to the operation to be made available to the Senate Select Committee’s Inquiry into a Certain Maritime Incident.4 It was succeeded by Operation Relex II, which commenced on 14 March 2002 and ended on 16 July 2006.5


    The Abbott Government’s policy is to turn back boats ‘where it is safe to do so’.6 This is a key component of ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’, the government’s military-led inter-agency border security initiative.7 News reports indicate that since 5 January 2014 asylum seekers attempting to reach Australia by boat from Indonesia have been intercepted, loaded on to single-use lifeboats and towed back to just outside Indonesian waters.8 At a Senate Estimates hearing in February 2014 it was revealed that $2.5m had been spent to purchase the lifeboats. 9

    In late June 2014, Australian authorities intercepted two boats of Sri Lankan asylum seekers. The first group, comprised of 37 Sinhalese and four Tamil asylum seekers, was returned directly to Sri Lankan authorities at sea after a cursory ‘enhanced screening’ process to determine whether or not they raised any ‘credible’ protection claims.10 The second group, comprised of 157 Tamil asylum seekers, had set sail from a refugee camp in India. They, too, were subjected to enhanced screening, and then were detained on an Australian Customs vessel for four weeks while the Australian government negotiated with Indian authorities about their possible return. When India refused, they were taken briefly to the Australian mainland and then transferred to offshore detention on Nauru.11 A case was brought before the High Court of Australia on behalf of one of the asylum seekers. Among other things, it was argued that the Australian government had unlawfully detained the asylum seekers at sea.12

    The case was heard in October 2014, and the judgment was handed down in January 2015.13 By a narrow 4:3 majority, the High Court held that the detention was not contrary to Australian law. It is important to stress that the decision turned on an interpretation of the scope of powers conferred on Australian officials under a domestic statute (the Maritime Powers Act). The judges did not engage in any detailed analysis of whether such detention was lawful under international law.14

    In November 2014, Australian authorities intercepted a boat carrying 38 Sri Lankan asylum seekers.15 The asylum seekers were assessed under the enhanced screening process, which took place on board the Border Protection Command vessel.16 All but one asylum seeker were handed over to the Sri Lankan navy, with that one individual being transferred to an offshore processing facility to further investigate their asylum claims.17

    A total of 15 boats were turned back between 19 December 2013 and January 2015,19 with four of these turnbacks involving the use of Australian-supplied lifeboats.20 Another boat was intercepted in early February 2015. The four asylum seekers on board that boat were subjected to enhanced screening at sea and then transferred to Sri Lankan authorities.21

    On 20 March 2015 a boatload of 46 Vietnamese asylum seekers were intercepted by Australian authorities and returned directly to Vietnam on 18 April, after being subject to an interview process known as ‘enhanced screening’.22 The Commander of Operation Sovereign Borders, Major General Andrew Bottrell, described this return as a ‘take-back’ rather than a ‘turn-back’, as it was a situation in which Australia worked ‘with a country of departure in order to see the safe return of passengers and crew’.23 In May 2015 news outlets reported that a boatload of 65 asylum seekers had crashed onto a reef off West Timor after being intercepted, transferred to another boat and taken back to Indonesian waters by Australian authorities.24

    #push-back #refoulement #asile #migration #réfugiés #Australie #Indonésie