Australia Says Last Asylum-Seeker Children Will Soon Leave Nauru

By Reuters
February 3, 2019 Updated: February 3, 2019

The Australian government announced on Feb. 3 that there will soon be no children held in its immigration detention camps on the Pacific island of Nauru.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement that the final four asylum-seeker children in the Australia’s offshore processing camps on Nauru have all had their claims to be resettled in the United States processed.

“Every asylum-seeker child has now been removed from Nauru or has had their claim processed and has a clear path off the island,” Morrison said, in a joint statement with Immigration Minister David Coleman and on Twitter.

Epoch Times Photo
Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison speaks on the new federal government’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy during a press conference in Sydney on September 23, 2013. (William West/AFP/Getty Images)

Under Australia’s strong border protection policies, illegal immigrants who are intercepted at sea, including genuine asylum seekers, trying to reach the country are sent to offshore processing camps, like those established under the Gillard-Rudd Labor government in the neighbouring states of Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

While all asylum seekers that come to Australia illegally by boat are in the eyes of the law “unlawful non-citizens,” Australia is a nation that chooses to offer refuge and humanitarian assistance to refugees according to the 1951 Refugee Convention through four offshore refugee visa categories; refugee, in-country special humanitarian, emergency rescue, and women at risk, as well as its global special humanitarian visa.

For 2018-19, Australia has said it will take in another 18,750 refugees.

Australia has stopped publishing data on the number of refugees held in the offshore processing centres since the number of boat arrivals has been dropping steadily since the Abbott government introduced its policy Operation Sovereign Borders in 2013 to combat the spike in illegal arrivals that started in 2009.

Australia immigration detention
The number of people in immigration detention in Australia from 1990 to December 2018. The trend had a consistent rise of people in immigration detention from January 2009 to January 2013 but has since had consistent decline. (Department of Home Affairs/Commonwealth of Australia)

According to statistics released by the Department of Home Affairs, as of Dec. 31, 2018, only 1,285 asylum seekers remain in detention, of which less than 20 percent are in offshore facilities. At the end of 2013, 6,122 people were being held in immigration detention.

Of the 1,285 asylum seekers currently in detention, the majority remaining are from New Zealand (150), followed by Iran (138), Vietnam (110), Sri Lanka (84), and Sudan (57). There were also significant numbers of detainees from India, the UK, Afghanistan, Iraq, and 45 detainees who are stateless.

In addition to those detained, another 15,674 are living in the community on a bridging E visa and another 696 are living in the community after being approved for residency determination.

By Will Ziebell. Epoch Times writer Alan Cheung contributed to this article.


Support for Australian Government Rises Ahead of Election

Support for Australia’s conservative government edged higher over the last two weeks, a widely watched poll showed on Jan. 29, boosting Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s reelection prospects less than four months out from the next election.

The Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper showed the Liberal-National coalition government trails the main opposition Labor party by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent on a two-party preferred basis under Australia’s preferential voting system, where votes from minor parties are redistributed.

Epoch Times Photo
A woman arrives to vote past electoral placards featuring photos of Bill Shorten, Leader of the Australian Labor Party and Malcolm Turnbull, Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia outside of a pre-poll voting centre for the 2016 federal election on June 16, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

While still on course for an election defeat, the Newspoll is the best result for Morrison’s government since the ousting of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in August 2018.

The removal of Turnbull, which ushered in Morrison as the sixth different prime minister in the last decade, saw voters abandon the government amid widespread anger at the ousting of the popular liberal lawmaker.

Morrison’s government was quickly plunged into minority form after voters selected an independent to replace Turnbull, who quit politics shortly after his removal.

Morrison must return to the polls by May 2019, an election that is poised to be fought over inequality.

Morrison’s government, which late last year delivered its strongest fiscal outlook in 10 years, is expected to promise tax cuts and sweeteners in the final budget in April.

Labor has pledged to cut capital gains tax discounts and scrap a favorable tax scheme for owners of multiple properties, known as negative gearing, amid soaring house prices.

By Colin Packham