||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (August 2008)|
The Pacific Solution is the name given to the Australian government policy of transporting asylum seekers to detention centres on small island nations in the Pacific Ocean, rather than allowing them to land on the Australian mainland. First implemented during 2001–2007, it had bipartisan support from both the Liberal-National government and Labor opposition at the time.
The Pacific Solution consisted of three central strategies. Firstly, thousands of islands were excised from Australia’s migration zone or Australian territory. Secondly, the Australian Defence Force commenced Operation Relex to interdict vessels carrying asylum seekers. Finally, these asylum seekers were removed to third countries in order to determine their refugee status. There were a number of pieces of legislation supporting this policy. The policy was developed by the Howard government in response to the 2001 Tampa affair and was implemented by then Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock.
Asylum seekers were intercepted at sea while sailing from Indonesia and moved using Australian naval vessels. Detention centres were set up on Christmas Island, Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, and on the tiny island nation of Nauru. Some were also accepted for processing by New Zealand. Most of the asylum seekers came from Afghanistan (largely of the Hazara ethnic group), Iraq, Iran, China, and Vietnam. The last asylum seekers to be detained on Nauru before the end of the policy had come from Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
Under the Pacific solution, 30 percent were sent home, 43 per cent of asylum seekers resettled from Nauru and Manus Island ended up in Australia. The remaining were settled in other countries.
The policy was abandoned by the Australian Labor Party government of Kevin Rudd following its election in 2007. In 2012, the Labor government under Julia Gillard reintroduced much of the Pacific Solution, proposing to reopen both Nauru and Manus Island for offshore processing.
The Pacific Solution was introduced[when?] as a deterrent to asylum seekers travelling by boat to Australia without the authorisation of the Australian government. Prime Minister Howard said that "We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come."
By redefining the area of Australian territory that could be landed upon and then legitimately used for claims of asylum (the migration zone), and by removing any intercepted people to third countries for processing, the aim was to deter future asylum seekers from making the dangerous journey by boat, once they knew that their trip would in most likelihood not end up with a legitimate claim for asylum in Australia.
Arrivals dropped from a total of 5516 people in 2001 to 1 arrival in 2002 after implementation of the policy. The removal of the Taliban from power in Afghanistan may be a factor in this decrease. The lower level of boat arrivals continued throughout the Pacific Solution period. Since the abolition of the policy there has been an increase in the arrivals of so-called "boat people", with over 2700 arriving in 2009.
During the Pacific Solution period, the Howard Government began to close detention centres. Baxter, Woomera and Curtin detention centres were all closed during the Pacific Solution. The Labor government opened Christmas Island detention centre in late 2008, and has since expanded facilities and accommodation there.
The number of asylum seekers assessed as genuine refugees via the Pacific Solution process was lower than onshore processing. 68% of the asylum seekers were deemed genuine refugees and less than 40% of Asylum Seekers sent to Nauru received resettlement in Australia. A 2006 Report by the Australian Human Rights Commission showed that of the 1509 Asylum Seekers sent to Nauru by that time, 586 were granted Australian resettlement (39%), 360 resettled in New Zealand (24%), 19 resettled in Sweden (1.2%), 10 in Canada (<1%) and 4 in Norway (<1%). A total of 482 Asylum Seekers (32%) were deemed not genuine refugees and sent home.
The cost of the Pacific Solution was over A$15.5 million in 2003/2004, taken from the AusAID budget of $69.9 million. The total cost of the Pacific Solution was put at $1 billion dollars spent over 5 Years. In comparison the Labor Federal Government budgeted $1.1 Billion dollars for the 2012/13 financial year budgeted to cover the processing costs for 5400 arrivals per year.
Amnesty International, refugee rights groups and other non-governmental organisations said that Australia was failing to meet its international obligations. The ad-hoc nature in which the policy evolved was also criticised, as it resulted in people being moved to Manus Island and Nauru before facilities were ready. Poor facilities and services including intermittent electricity and fresh water, poor medical facilities and the serious mental impact of detention on people in these conditions without the certainty of being granted refugee status were also strongly criticised.
Suspension of the policy 
During the campaign for the 2007 parliamentary election, Australian Labor Party candidate Kevin Rudd promised to put an end to the Pacific Solution if he were elected. Upon assuming office in December, Rudd confirmed that the detention centres on Manus Island and on Nauru would be closed. The seven asylum seekers from Myanmar and 75 of the 83 from Sri Lanka were determined to be genuine refugees and granted the right to settle in Australia. An additional 6 Sri Lankans had been found to be genuine refugees but had wrongly been charged with sexual assault; those charges were dropped in January 2008, making it possible for the six men to be resettled in Australia (pending standard health and character checks). Of the two remaining Sri Lankans, one is appealing the rejection of his refugee application, while the other is currently (as of January 2008) hospitalised in Australia. The first 21 Sri Lankan refugees arrived in Australia for resettlement in January 2008. The final 21 arrived in Australia on 8 February, leaving the detention camp empty and marking the end of the Pacific Solution.
Nauru was concerned about losing much-needed aid from Australia. Opposition immigration spokesman Chris Ellison said the closure could suggest to people-smugglers that Australia was weakening on border protection.
In May 2011, the Gillard government announced plans to address the issue of asylum seekers arriving by boat with an asylum seeker 'swap' deal for long-standing genuine refugees in Malaysia. Refugee lawyers asked the High Court to strike down the deal, arguing that the Immigration Minister did not have the power to send asylum seekers to a country that has no legal obligations to protect them.
There were calls on the government to revisit the Pacific Solution by re-opening the detention centres on Nauru. Several of these came from former outspoken critics of The Pacific Solution. Refugee lawyer Marion Le, who had demanded the facility be shut down in 2005, said that it was "time for Labor to bite the bullet and reopen Nauru", while human rights lawyer Julian Burnside agreed, saying "asylum-seekers would receive better treatment in Nauru than Malaysia."  This echoed the sentiment of Independent MP Andrew Wilkie who several days previously, while stopping short of calling for a return to the previous arrangement, noted that "John Howard's Pacific Solution was better."  The Malaysian people swap deal was deemed unlawful by the High Court.
Regional processing centre 
Reintroduction of Offshore Third Country Processing 
In August 2012, a government-appointed expert panel recommended a number of changes to the current policy including the reintroduction of the Pacific Solution after an increase in boat people and deaths at sea. This is expected to cost A$2 billion over four years for Nauru and $900 million for Papua New Guinea.
The bill to do so was passed on 16 August 2012. Asylum seekers who arrive by boat to Australia are now to be transferred to remote Pacific islands indefinitely while their claims to refugee status are being processed.
The Labor Government announced on 21 November 2012 that they were recommencing onshore processing with bridging visa's. Labor also announced it was re-opening the Pontville Detention Centre despite previously promising that the detention centre would only be opened temporarily.
See also 
- "Sri Lankans to be sent to Nauru". BBC, 15 March 2007
- Crock, Mary; Daniel Ghezelbash. "professor of public law at the University of Sydney and an accredited specialist in Immigration Law". Why fight today's wars with yesterday's battle plans. ABC. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
- "Labor considers reopening Nauru". The Australian.
- "Liberals accused of trying to rewrite history . Australian Broadcasting Corp". Abc.net.au. 21 November 2001. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- UNHCR. "Welcomes close of Australia's Pacific Solution". United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/BN/2008-09/BoatArrivals.pdf[dead link]
- "Abbott revives Howard's boat people cry". The Sydney Morning Herald. 31 March 2010.
- http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22261352-29277,00.html. Missing or empty
- "Detention centres to be scaled down". The Age (Melbourne). 11 April 2002.
- Topsfield, Jewel (19 December 2008). "Boat influx opens Howard's 'white elephant'". The Age (Melbourne).
- AHRC. "MIGRATION AMENDMENT (DESIGNATED UNAUTHORISED ARRIVALS) BILL 2006". AHRC. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
- "Asylum seekers, the facts in figures". Crikey.com.au. 17 April 2009. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- Kerin, Massola and Daley (15 Aug 2012). "Boat arrivals a budget blowout threat". Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
- Pacific solution ends but tough stance to remain », Craig Skehan, Sydney Morning Herald, 8 December 2007
- Burmese detainees granted asylum. Cath Hart, The Australian, 10 December 2007
- "Rape charges vs refugees in Nauru dropped", Marianas Variety, 16 January 2008
- "Sri Lankan refugees arrive in Australia from Nauru", Radio Australia, 16 January 2008
- "Howard's 'cynical' Pacific Solution over", Herald Sun, 18 February 2008
- Nauru fears gap when camps close. The Age, 11 December 2007
- Maley, Paul (9 February 2008). "Pacific Solution sinks quietly". The Australian.
- "Malaysia Swap Deal For Asylum Seekers Ruled Unlawful By High Court". Sydney Morning Herald. Smh.com.au. 31 August 2011. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- Kelly, Joe (4 June 2011). "Labor urged to revive Pacific Solution by refugee activists". The Australian (Sydney).
- Jones, Gemma (31 May 2011). "Julia Gillard's asylum seeker solution damned by independent MP Andrew Wilkie". The Telegraph (Sydney).
- "Malaysian swap deal ruled unlawful". Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney). 31 August 2011.
- Salna, Karlis (6 July 2010)" Gillard unveils 'East Timor solution'". The Age. Retrieved 25 December 2010
- "Gillard's Timor solution: reaction". The Sydney Morning Herald. 6 July 2010.
- Abbott to talk to Nauru on reopening camp, Yuko Narushima and Kirsty Needham, The Age, 8 August 2010, accessed 25 December 2010
- Updated 14 August 2012, 18:18 AEST (14 August 2012). "Australian parliament to vote on Pacific Solution". Radioaustralia.net.au. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- Bill Frelick, refugee program director (17 August 2012). "Australia: ‘Pacific Solution’ Redux". Human Rights Watch(Hrw.org). Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- "Government reopens Pontville Detention Centre". ABC News. 21 November 2012. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- Oxfam Community Aid Abroad - Adrift In The Pacific
- Nauru Wire
- Refugee Action Australia: Information on the Pacific Solution
- Radio program "This American Life" featured a 30-minute story on Nauru, including the Pacific Solution.
- UNHCR note on Pacific Solution.