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  Download factsheet: Refugee status determination in Nauru               

This factsheet describes current arrangements for refugee processing and protection in the Republic of Nauru (Nauru). It introduces Nauru and the offshore processing regime that has been in place there since August 2012, and sets out the arrangements for refugee status determination (RSD), including the relevant legislation, early observations about Nauruan capacity to perform RSD, how RSD is performed in practice, and the search for durable solutions for people found to be refugees in Nauru. The factsheet also sets out more general information about Nauru’s human rights obligations under international and domestic law, key facts and figures, and key dates in relation to refugee processing since 2012.

This factsheet is part of a series on offshore processing, including a factsheet on RSD for asylum seekers on Manus Island, a factsheet on Australia’s responsibility for asylum seekers and refugees in Nauru and Papua New Guinea under international law, and an In Focus brief on the resettlement of refugees from Nauru to Cambodia.


Further information

For more information or queries about offshore processing on Nauru or Manus Island, please contact Madeline Gleeson, Director of the Offshore Processing Project.


  • 1. The information in the following two paragraphs is drawn from: Government of Nauru, ‘Nauru National Assessment Report for the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS)’, 17 May 2013, <, pp. 8-13; Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, ‘Nauru country brief’, undated, <> (accessed 27 May 2016).
  • 2. Department of Immigration and Citizenship, ‘Annual report: 2012-2013’, 24 September 2013, <, p. 205.
  • 3. UN High Commissioner for Refugees, ‘UNHCR monitoring visit to the Republic of Nauru: 7 to 9 October 2013’, 26 November 2013, <>, p. 8.
  • 4. Under the Migration Act, an officer may bring a ‘transitory person’ back to Australia from an offshore processing country ‘for a temporary purpose’, however they must be transferred back offshore ‘as soon as reasonably practicable after the person no longer needs to be in Australia for that purpose’. Transitory persons cannot apply for a visa while in Australia unless given written permission from the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection to do so: Migration Act, ss. 46B, 198(1A), 198AH, 198B.
  • 5. Scott Morrison, ‘Reintroducing TPVs to resolve Labor's asylum legacy caseload, Cambodia’, press conference, Canberra, 26 September 2014, < Commonwealth of Australia, Parliamentary Debates (Senate), 4 December 2014, p. 10,313 (Glenn Lazarus) <
  • 6. Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Asylum Trends 2012 – 2013, < pp. 27-30.
  • 7. Senate Select Committee, Parliament of Australia, ‘A certain maritime incident’, 23 October 2002, <, chapters 10, 11.
  • 8. RSD Handbook, p. 126.
  • 9. RSD Handbook, pp. 129-130.
  • 10. RSD Handbook, p. xi. See also: Refugees Convention Act, definition of ‘refugee’ and ‘complementary protection’. RSD officers are advised that they ‘must interpret the [Refugee] Convention in accordance with the UNHCR model’ (p. vii), meaning in accordance with the UNHCR Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees (and possibly other UNHCR guidelines).
  • 11. RSD Handbook, p. xi.
  • 12. Refugees Convention Act, ss. 6(3), 9.
  • 13. Immigration Regulations 2014 (Nauru), reg 9(6A).
  • 14. RSD Handbook, p. 19; Refugees Convention Act, s. 34(1).
  • 15. RSD Handbook, p. 19.
  • 16. By signing a treaty, a State expresses a willingness to become a party to the treaty in the future and commits to refrain from acts that would defeat its object and purpose in the meantime. States that have signed a treaty may then ratify it in order to become a State party and legally bound by its terms. States can choose to become a party to a treaty either by signing and then ratifying it, or by acceding to it in a single act. Both ratification and accession have the same legal effect of binding the State to the terms of the treaty. For more information see the United Nations’ Glossary of terms relating to Treaty actions.
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