A project to examine the implications of policies which see asylum seekers forcibly transferred ‘offshore’ to have their protection claims processed in the territories of States such as Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Rwanda.
For most of the past two decades, ‘offshore processing’ has been a hallmark of Australia’s approach to deterring people from seeking asylum by sea. This policy involves forcibly transferring people elsewhere to have their protection claims processed in the territories of third States – specifically, Nauru and Papua New Guinea. It is not a new phenomenon. However, whereas it was long viewed as a significant exception to normal practice, now other countries are looking to Australia’s ‘model’ to see if it might be replicated abroad. This development carries grave human, legal and financial risks.
The Kaldor Centre works to improve Australian policy and to ensure that bad laws pioneered here are not replicated elsewhere. For instance, Senior Research Fellow Madeline Gleeson has presented hard-hitting evidence to a UK House of Commons committee about Australia’s experience of offshore processing. Our intervention prompted the Scottish National Party to demand absolute assurances that the UK government would never consider following the Australian model. In Australia, our submissions and evidence to parliament has contributed to life-saving medical transfers of people held offshore, and our policy briefs, media commentary and shareable content helps to galvanise change. By bringing solid evidence, knowledge and experience to a debate that is too often politicized, we strive for better Australian policy and to avert copycat policies abroad. You can explore more of our work on offshore processing below.
The Kaldor Centre promotes lawful, humane, effective and sustainable alternatives to offshore processing. We focus in particular on the international law relevant to ‘offshore processing’ policies in Australia, where the possibility of future transfers to Nauru persists, and abroad, where policy diffusion – particularly to the United Kingdom – remains a real risk.
The Kaldor Centre seeks to stop the spread of offshore processing policies that violate international law by:
Madeline Gleeson’s research focuses on Australia’s practice of offshore processing in Nauru and Papua New Guinea since 2012, with a particular focus on its international law implications. She also studies the proposed spread of these policies elsewhere, and provides advice to government and civil society about proposals to adopt comparable laws and policies in other countries.
Daniel Ghezelbash’s research focuses on examining the origins of offshore processing and boat push-backs at sea, examining the initial development these policies by the United States, and their emulation in Australia. He also examines legal challenges to these policies in Australia, the United States and Europe, and the lessons that these experiences hold for other countries considering adopting similar models.
For an easily accessible overview of how Australia’s policy of offshore processing has unfolded since 2012, see our selection of factsheets:
See also our collation of the key bilateral agreements underpinning offshore processing here.
For deeper analyses of key aspects of the policy, see our selection of research briefs:
Madeline Gleeson, 2016, Offshore Behind the wire on Manus and Nauru, NewSouth
On the nine-year anniversary of offshore processing in 2021, Kaldor Centre researchers Madeline Gleeson and Natasha Yacoub released a Policy Brief which critically assessed this policy against its stated objectives and other indicators of success or failure, including its cost, lawfulness and impact on the people subject to it.
Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee Inquiry into the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2019 [Provisions]
Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee Inquiry into Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016
Submission to the Senate Select Committee on the Recent Allegations relating to Conditions and Circumstances at the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru
Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee on the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 (Cth)
Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee on the Inquiry into the Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 to 18 February 2014
Submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights Migration Legislation (Regional Processing and Other Measures) Act 2012