New Policy Brief on 'Sharing Responsibility, Not Shifting Responsibility'

How Australia can improve refugee protection in Asia-Pacific

by Amy Nether (Deakin University) and Asher Hirsch (Refugee Council of Australia)

Australia implements a range of refugee policies that deny asylum seekers and refugees access to Australian territory. These policies, known as externalisation policies, include maritime interception and the interdiction of sea vessels; extraterritorial detention and processing; third-country disruption and interception; carrier sanctions; and public messaging campaigns. These policies operate ‘offshore’, and require the partnership of other states in the Asia Pacific region. Refugee externalisation policies prevent people from reaching territory where they can apply for protection under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (the Refugee Convention). Without safe pathways to protection, approximately 8 million refugees in the Asian region are stuck in states that do not recognise their special status under international law. Refugees are vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking, police crackdowns, arbitrary detention, and refoulement. These conditions have been exacerbated by COVID-19. Australia’s policies contribute directly and indirectly to a humanitarian tragedy in the Asia Pacific region. A different policy approach is urgently needed. This Policy Briefing Paper recommends that:

  • Australia’s current offshore processing policy must be immediately dismantled, and the people still confined to Nauru and Papua New Guinea be given the option of transferring permanently to Australia or New Zealand
  • Australia must leverage its international relationships to work with Asian states to provide safe pathways and durable solutions for refugees, supported by equitable sharing of responsibility for refugees, based on national capacity

Download the Policy Briefing Paper