In August 2012, Australia reintroduced ‘regional’ or ‘offshore’ processing arrangements in Nauru and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG) for asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat without valid visas. Since then, asylum seekers have been liable to offshore processing in two cohorts: a first cohort of people who arrived in Australia between August 2012 and July 2013, some of whom were sent offshore and then brought back to Australia to be processed through the ‘fast track’ processing system; and a second cohort who arrived in Australia after 19 July 2013, were sent offshore for processing, and are subject to a permanent ban on settlement in Australia. This project explores the international and domestic legal implications of Australia’s arrangements for offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea since 2012. In particular, the project examines legal issues relating to detention, extraterritorial human rights obligations, refugee status determination in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, and the search for durable solutions.

In addition to the selected publications below, more information on this topic can be found on our Factsheets, Research Briefs, Submissions and Casenotes pages. We have also collated a list of Australia's bilateral agreements regarding offshore processing arrangements.

This project explores various aspects of the offshore processing arrangements in Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG) with a focus on their international and domestic legal implications, including how legal responsibility for people transferred to Nauru and PNG from Australia is divided and shared between the relevant countries, and where the limits lie on Australian governmental power over refugees and people seeking asylum who are subject to offshore processing. The project also examines refugee status determination in Nauru and PNG; the search for durable solutions for people transferred to Nauru and PNG; international legal obligations relevant to the transfer and treatment of asylum seeker and refugee children in Nauru, and domestic legal challenges to the offshore processing arrangements.

The big questions it seeks to answer are: 

1. What are the content and scope of Australia’s obligations, under domestic and international law, towards people subject to offshore processing arrangements?

2. What mechanisms exist to hold Australia accountable for failures to comply with its obligations under domestic and international law towards people subject to offshore processing arrangements, and are they effective? and

3. What pathways to protection are available to refugees subject to offshore processing?


Evidence to the UK House of Commons Home Affairs Committee

Read the transcript, watch the video and review the written submissions from Kaldor Centre Senior Research Fellow Madeline Gleeson and affiliate Professor Natalie Klein.

  Madeline Gleeson, Monitoring places of immigration detention in Australia under OPCAT, (2019) 25(1) Australian Journal of Human Rights
Madeline Gleeson, Offshore: Behind the wire on Manus and Nauru (UNSW Press, Sydney, 2016)
See also video from the book launch with author Madeline Gleeson and barrister Julian Burnside AO QC
Research brief: The Australia Cambodia Refugee Deal 
  Factsheet: Offshore processing - an overview
The Kaldor Centre plays a vital role in developing legal, sustainable and humane solutions for displaced people around the world.