Australia and Refugees, 19012002: An Annotated Chronology Based on Official Sources

Chronologies ONline

Social Policy Group

Dr Barry York - Social Policy Group

Last updated 16 June 2003

This Chronology is issued electronically. It will be kept up-to-date online. The date of the latest update is noted clearly above.


Part 5 of 10

Table of Contents

Previous Page

Next Page


Chronology 1992-1996


Details

Source Documents

1992

Four thousand places are allocated in January under the new Special Assistance Category (SAC) to applicants belonging to ethnic minorities from the former Soviet Union, and to Yugoslav, Slovenian, Croat, East Timorese and Lebanese applicants. The SAC was announced in April 1991 to give Australia flexibility in helping people in need who did not fit the UN definition of a refugee. Selection is based on degree of distress suffered by an individual or their membership of a disadvantaged or repressed minority and also the extent of the person's link with Australia.

Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Review '92, Annual Report 199192, AGPS, Canberra, 1992, p. 397

1992

Minister Hand visits Thailand, Cambodia and Hong Kong between 14 and 23 February with a view to discussing refugee and asylum matters with the UNHCR, the International Organisation for Migration and government representatives. Cambodia, and the repatriation of Cambodians along the Thai-Cambodian border, is of special interest.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 6/92, 17 January 1992

1992

The National Population Council's report, Refugee Review, is officially released in February. The NPC was commissioned in 1989 to undertake a comprehensive analysis of refugee issues, with a view to recommending future policy directions to the Australian Government. The report emphasises that Australia's refugee responses should encompass diplomatic initiatives, overseas aid, onshore processing of asylum claims and offshore refugee work. Specific recommendations result in the establishment of the Refugee Review Tribunal, the establishment of the Special Humanitarian Program and the separation of the Humanitarian Program from the Migration Program. The Review urges the Australian Government to play a more active role in the international response to refugees.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 10/92, 2 February 1992

National Population Council, Refugee Review, AGPS, Canberra, July 1991, p. 14, p. 41

1992

In February, the Government agrees to incorporate the refugee determination system into regulations and to streamline processing and procedures for claimants. Binding time limits are to be imposed and asylum seekers must lodge their applications and respond to requests for information within a set time-frame. The aim of the proposed measures is to 'ensure that people making asylum claims can no longer routinely anticipate extended stay because of processing delays'. Minister Hand says that it is crucial to speed up procedures in order to 'reduce the trauma of holding people in detention but also to reduce the very considerable cost to taxpayers of maintaining them in custody'.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 12/92, 12 February 1992

1992

In April, 37 people from the groups of 'boat people' who arrived in Western Australia in November 1989 and March 1990 are notified of the failure of their claims to refugee status. The Refugee Status Review Committee, which consists of representatives of the Attorney-General's Department, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs (DILGEA) and the Refugee Council of Australia, upholds the Department's decision. An observer from the UNHCR also participates in the review process. The Australian Government provides legal assistance and covers costs of the asylum seekers' preparation of their claims. (This group later lodge challenges in the Federal Court and the High Court. In the High Court, Lim v. the Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs (1992) 176 CLR 1, results in the Court's validation of the Government's custody provisions for the detention of people who arrive by boat without proper authority).

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 18/92, 6 April, 1992

1992

In light of a defect in the refugee determination process as applied to a group of 37 Cambodians, Minister Hand instructs his Counsel that he does not wish to defend the case which has gone to the Federal Court in Darwin. The boat people are told they will be deported on 6 April but the Federal Court grants them the right to appeal against the Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs' decision. The Minister directs the Department to carry out the final stages of the decision-making again.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 22/92, 13 April 1992

L. Taylor, 'Legal flaw halts deportations', The Australian, 14 April 1992

1992

Minister Hand announces further extension of stay for visitors from Sri Lanka, Croatia, Slovenia and (former) Yugoslavia in light of continuing unrest in their regions. Extensions for visitors from Croatia, Slovenia and (former) Yugoslavia had previously been granted to December 1991 and 30 April 1992. The new extension is to 30 July 1992.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 24/92, 24 April 1992

1992

In late April, ten Chinese boat people are transferred from Port Hedland Detention Centre to the State prison in Roebourne (Western Australia), following escapes and unrest at the centre.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 25/92, 4 May 1992

1992

On 5 May, Minister Hand introduces legislation in Parliament that aims to prevent the release of boat people from detention. The Migration (Amendment) Act 1992 is 'an interim measure pending a comprehensive overhaul of immigration legislation governing entry, custody and removal'. Section 54S states: 'A court is not to order the release from custody of a designated person'. A designated person is basically any person arriving unlawfully by boat after 19 November 1989. The Minister instigates the Bill because of an imminent Federal Court hearing (scheduled for 7 May) to consider the release from detention of 37 Cambodian boat people who had been in detention since November 1989 and March 1990. (These are the group whose challenge in the High Court in December, Lim v. the Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, results in the Court's validation of the Government's mandatory detention policy).

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 26/92, 5 May 1992

M. Millett, 'Parl slams door on held boat people', Sydney Morning Herald, 6 May 1992

1992

Grants totalling $5 million are allocated for 19911992 by the Department to help community organisations provide settlement services.

Review '92, op. cit., p. 398

1992

Planning level of 80 000 is established for the 19921993 migration program: a reduction of 31 000 places on the previous year. The program places greater emphasis on labour market targeting and English language proficiency and skills.

ibid.

1992

Minister Hand announces plans to establish a new body, the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT, to replace the purely administrative Refugee Status Review Committee in 1993. The RRT is to be independent and statutory, with procedures set out in regulations. It will provide non-adversarial hearings for applicants, assess applications on their merits and will have the power to decide appeals.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 35/92, 15 July 1992

1992

Fundamental reforms to Australia's migration laws are announced by Minister Hand on 17 July. The major proposal relates to the introduction of a single documenta visato travel to, enter and remain in Australia. This will replace the existing 'confusing mixture of forms of authority'. It is also proposed to reduce the various forms of status for non-citizens to just two: 'lawful' and 'unlawful'. Unlawful non-citizens will be subject to detention and removal, under the proposals. The reforms are enacted by the Migration Reform Act 1992, which commences in 1994.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 39/92, 17 July 1992

1992

In announcing the Refugee, Humanitarian and Special Assistance migration categories for 19921993, Minister Hand points out that 'numbers admitted under the Central American and Indo-Chinese programs will be smaller than in recent years reflecting declining resettlement needs'. The Refugee and Humanitarian categories mainly consist of programs for the Middle East, Africa, Central America and for Indo-Chinese in camps in South East Asia.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 41/92, 24 July 1992

1992

In light of continuing unrest in their respective regions, a further extension of stay is granted in July to visitors from Sri Lanka and the former Yugoslavia. The Sri Lankan extension is to 31 October 1992. The extension for citizens of the former Yugoslavia is to 31 January 1993. About 2.2 million people have been displaced and the fighting is particularly intense in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In October, the Sri Lankan extension is further extended to 30 June 1993.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 41/92, 24 July 1992

1992

Changes are made to arrangements whereby Peoples' Republic of China nationals in Australia on four year Temporary Entry Permits may nominate close family members to come to Australia. The PRC people are mainly students who were in Australia at the time of the Tiananmen Square incident.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 45/92, 3 August 1992

1992

A group of detainees on a hunger strike at Port Hedland stage a demonstration on the Centre's roof with a view to publicising various grievances. Minister Hand offers to personally visit them at Port Hedland if they end their demonstration on the roof.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 47/92, 5 August 1992

1992

The Budget for 19921993 includes more than $8 million for a new independent tribunal to hear refugee decision appeals (the Refugee Review Tribunal) and for a new program to assist asylum seekers awaiting decisions on their applications for refugee status (i.e. the Asylum Seekers Assistance Scheme). An additional $4 million is allocated to the refurbishment of Villawood Immigration Detention Centre and $1.5 million to upgrading security at the Port Hedland Reception and Processing Centre.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 54/92 and 55/92, 18 August 1992

1992

Unauthorised boat arrives at Christmas Island on 23 August with 68 PRC nationals who apply for refugee status.

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Annual Report 19921993, p. 274

1992

Commenting on the 'speedy' processing of ten recently arrived asylum seekers under the new 'fast-tracking system', Minister Hand says that 'rejected asylum-seekers have no claim to remain in Australia and I put people on notice that threats, demonstrations and other dramatic action will not alter the situation'.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 60/92, 5 September 1992

1992

In September, the Joint Standing Committee on Migration Regulations Report, Australia's Refugee Humanitarian System: Achieving a balance between refuge and control, is released. The report generally endorses the Government's refugee responses. Recommendations already addressed by the Government include the establishment of the Refugee Review Tribunal, short extended stay for victims of civil unrest, faster processing of boat arrivals and simplification of the law affecting border claimants for refugee status.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 61/92, 14 September 1992

1992

On 23 October, the first group of failed asylum seekers under the new fast-tracked determination procedures is removed from Australia and returned to Guangzhou, China. The group consists of six Chinese 'boat people' and one child. The Government of the PRC assures the Australian Government that the group will not be punished for their illegal departure from China.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 64/92, 23 October 1992

1992

Three Cambodian women asylum seekers continue a hunger strike in Sydney. Minister Hand reiterates his longstanding position that he will not intervene in the decision-making process for refugee applications. On 6 November, the women are counselled by a representative of the UNHCR and on 10 November by a Buddhist monk. In a lengthy Media Release issued on 11 November, Minister Hand discusses the case and identifies the women as part of a group that arrived off the coast of Western Australia on 31 March 1990. Refugee applications were lodged by the women in May 1990 and, following interviews with them and the intervention of peak refugee organisations on their behalf, primary decisions were delivered in early 1992. The women then appealed to the Refugee Status Review Committee which unanimously recommended against the grant of refugee status.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 66/92, 4 November 1992

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 69/92, 11 November 1992

1992

Eleven Romanian nationals arrive by unauthorised boat from Papua New Guinea in October and apply for refugee status. A second group of 113 people from the PRC, also arriving by unauthorised boat, is deemed to have no legal basis to enter or remain in Australia and are returned to the PRC on 7 November.

Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Annual Report 19921993, Canberra, 1993, p. 274.

1992

Minister Hand initiates an approach to Papua New Guinea authorities in Port Moresby about a suspected illegal immigrant racket operating across the Torres Strait. In the previous fortnight, two groups of illegal immigrants had been delivered to islands in the Torres Strait via Papua New Guinea.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 67/92, 6 November 1992

1992

In light of unrest, including hunger strikes, among Cambodian detainees, the Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs puts together an expert counselling team comprising international staff from the UNHCR and staff of the Australian Red Cross. The team works with Cambodians detained in Villawood and Port Hedland.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 69/92, 11 November 1992

1992

On 7 December, 16 Cambodians who arrived unlawfully at Broome as part of a group of 26 in November 1989 have their refugee claims rejected. (They are part of the group whose appeal to the High Court in Lim v. the Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs results in the Court's validation of mandatory detention). Two of the original group had earlier been given approval to remain in Australia and four others had returned voluntarily to Cambodia. The following week, a further group of 70 Cambodian 'boat people' are formally rejected as refugees, with two others granted refugee status.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 72/92, 7 December 1992, and MPS 76/92, 15 December 1992.

1992

On 8 December, in the case of Lim v. the Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, the High Court upholds the Government's custody provisions for the detention of people who arrive by boat without proper authority. All seven judges say the Government's mandatory detention policy is a valid use of government power, provided it is to facilitate processing and removal and is not punitive. Minister Hand says the decision justifies the Government's policy. Shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Philip Ruddock, says the High Court has reaffirmed the principle that 'it is the right of the Government of the day to determine who shall and who shall not enter Australia'.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 73/92, 8 December 1992

M. Millett, 'High Court upholds Government's power to detain boat people', Sydney Morning Herald, 9 December 1992

1992

Minister Hand proposes legislation to limit compensation claims for boat people. The need for the new legislation arises from a High Court decision on 8 December that upholds the constitutional validity of the Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs' right to detain boat people while their entry applications are considered but which raises doubts about the previous custody arrangements of the boat people. (The court held that, in cases where the boat on which people arrive is destroyed or otherwise unavailable, then custody is unlawful for that period of time). The Migration (Amendment) Bill (No. 4) 1992 passes in the House of Representatives on 16 December, and limits any damages' claim for unlawful detention to a dollar per day.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 77/92, 16 December 1992

1992

On 21 December, the Enterprise Migrant Centre, Melbourne, the last remaining operating migrant accommodation centre, is closed.

Review 92, op. cit., p 398

1993

Early in January, visitors from the former Yugoslavia are granted further extension of stay to 30 June.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 41/92, 24 July 1992

1993

In January, Minister Hand announces the separation of the Migration and Humanitarian Programs. He sees this as a strengthening of Australia's humanitarian commitment and also announces an increase in the Humanitarian Program from 10 000 to 12 000 in 199293. There are an estimated 40 million refugees and displaced persons in the world.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 41/92, 24 July 1992

1993

Minister Hand stresses the importance in refugee policy of coordination between the three most relevant agencies of government: the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau and the Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs.

Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, MPS 41/92, 24 July 1992

1993

An Australian Government Information Office is opened in Beirut, Lebanon, to cater for ongoing migration interest in Australia.

Annual Report 19921993, DIEA, Canberra, 1993, p. 275

1993

Senator the Hon. Nick Bolkus replaces Gerry Hand as the new Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on 24 March. Local Government is removed from the portfolio.

ibid.

1993

In May, Minister Bolkus increases by 1000 the planned refugee and humanitarian intake for 19931994, aiming for a total of 13 000. Four thousand places are made available in the Refugee component, 6350 places in the Special Assistance Category and 2650 in the Special Humanitarian Program, including an extra 400 for women at risk.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B 7/93, 26 May 1993

1993

The new Minister affirms his commitment to a 'more coordinated' response to refugee situations, pointing out that $50 million has been allocated to assist refugees and displaced persons through AIDAB.

ibid.

1993

Further extensions of stay, to 31 January 1994, are granted to Sri Lankans and citizens of the former Republic of Yugoslavia who have been legally in Australia since 31 December 1991.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B13/93 and B14/93, 21 June 1993

1993

The new Refugee Review Tribunal commences on 1 July, with 26 members drawn from many areas of the community. It is an independent non-adversarial merits' review body with power to overturn refusal decisions. The RRT begins with a backlog of about 5500 review cases.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B19/93, 1 July 1993

1993

The Joint Standing Committee on Migration is appointed to inquire into proposed changes to the Migration Act 1958.

 

1993

On 6 August, Justice Neaves of the Federal Court determines that the continuing detention of Mr. Jia Xin Tang and 25 other Chinese boat people is not authorised under the Migration Act. The court rules that the 273 day limit on detention set by the Federal Parliament had expired by the time Mr. Tang's application for refugee status was refused. Minister Bolkus expresses the Government's intention to appeal the ruling. The decision does not have bearing on the rejection of Mr. Tang's refugee status by the Department and by the RRT but it does oblige the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to release him and the other 25 into the community. Minister Bolkus imposes conditions on their release, including the duty to report to Departmental officials once a fortnight.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B23/93, 13 August 1993

1993

In October, a Special Assistance Category for Cambodians with close links to Australia is established. Eligible Cambodians must also have experienced hardship as a result of upheavals in Cambodia, been resident in Cambodia for 12 months before lodgement of an application, and must meet the usual health and character requirements. The SAC also applies to Cambodians who 'arrived unauthorised by boat between 28 November 1989 and 26 April 1991' and who were 'held in immigration detention for the greater part of their stay in Australia'.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B36/93, 19 October 1993

1993

In addition to Cambodians, the SAC for 19921993 applies to minorities from the former USSR, displaced persons from the former Yugoslavia, East Timorese in Portugal, Sudanese and Burmese in Burma and Thailand. Under the SAC, a near relative or community support group in Australia must give a written undertaking that they will support successful applicants during their first six months in Australia with food, clothing, household goods, personal support, access to community and public services, language interpretation and the securing of English language instruction and community involvement and self-reliance. Persons accepted under the SAC must fund their own travel to Australia.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B46/93, 9 December 1993

1993

In November, the Government decides to provide access to permanent residence to people temporarily in Australia. The decision is directed mainly at Chinese nationals who are on four-year temporary entry permits, following the Tiananmen Square incident, but also covers some Sri Lankans and citizens of the former Republic of Yugoslavia. By August 1994, about 49 700 people have applied.

DIMIA, Immigration: Federation to century's end 19012001, p. 14.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B4/94, 31 January 1994

1993

A further extension of stay (to 30 June 1994) is granted to Sri Lankans.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B44/93, 9 December 1993

1994

The Joint Standing Committee on Migration Regulations' report, Asylum, border control and detention, is tabled in the Senate in March. The report provides a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the law and practice relating to immigration detention in Australia and makes various recommendations concerning the implementation of the Migration Reform Act 1992, scheduled for commencement on 1 September 1994.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B8/94, 2 March 1994

1994

On 11 March, Minister Bolkus announces the introduction of regulations that will allow the release of detained boat people who are under the age of 18, subject to certain conditions. Among the conditions is the requirement that release is in the minor's best interests, and that appropriate care and accommodation be in place. In cases where a parent or guardian is in detention, the express permission of the parent or guardian is necessary. Of 147 boat people in detention in Australia, about 20 are eligible to apply for the new arrangements.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B10/94, 11 March 1994

1994

On 11 April, Minister Bolkus opens the Regional Consultations on Illegal Migration, attended by representatives of governments of Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, China (PRC), Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, UK, USA and Vietnam, as well as the UNHCR and International Organisation for Migration. Hosted by the Australian Government, the Consultations are held in Canberra and aim to exchange information and increase the level of knowledge amongst participants of the ways in which illegal migration operates. Minister Bolkus says that 'illegal migration undermines sovereign rights to determine who can enter and remain in' a territory.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B14/94, 11 April 1994

1994

Minister Bolkus undertakes a two-week official visit to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in April to discuss immigration and humanitarian issues, including illegal migration.

ibid.

1994

A Memorandum of Understanding establishes an Immigration Cooperation Program between Australia and Laos.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, 14 April 1994

1994

The 19941995 Humanitarian Program is announced, with 4000 places for refugees (persons overseas who meet the UN definition), 6500 places in the Special Assistance Category (for people in vulnerable situations overseas who have close links with Australia) and 2500 places in the Special Humanitarian category (for people who have suffered discrimination or other violation of human rights, but are not defined as refugees). Priority areas remain Indo-China, former Yugoslavia and the Middle East. Five hundred places are set aside for the Women at Risk category.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B21/94, 10 May 1994 and B49/94, 2 August 1994

1994

Approximately 73 000 places are planned for the19941995 Migration (non-Humanitarian) Program, consisting of: 47 000 in the family stream, 25 000 in the skill stream and 1000 for special eligibility migrants.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B20/94. 9 May 1994

1994

The 19941995 Budget increases funding to the Immigration and Ethnic Affairs' portfolio and includes more than $5 million for a pilot program to help refugees who have suffered torture and trauma. In another initiative, the Government removes the requirement for refugees to have resided in Australia for a set period of time to become eligible for pensions.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B24/94, 11 May 1994

1994

In May, new guidelines are released under which people refused refugee status may be allowed to remain in Australia on humanitarian grounds. The guidelines replace those issued in 1991, and assist the Minister in exercising his discretionary power. Section 166BE of the Migration Act allows the Minister to substitute for a decision of the Refugee Review Tribunal a decision more favourable to the applicant. (Section 166BE is not part of the guidelines.) The guidelines were developed after consultations with a range of voluntary agencies and refugee interest groups.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B28/94, 24 May 1994

1994

Detainees at Port Hedland Centre receive widespread publicity following demonstrations on the Centre's roof top. Minister Bolkus says that he will not be 'intimidated' and that the decision of his Department and of the RRT, that found the nine Chinese 'boat people' not to be refugees, will stand.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B30/94, 30 May 1994

1994

During National Refugee Week in June, Minister Bolkus launches two publications: Refugee Reflections, a collection of stories of refugees from Iran, Vietnam, Eritrea, Hungary, Kurdistan, Ethiopia and Afghanistan, and Refugee and humanitarian issues: the focus in Australia, an official description of Australia's humanitarian programs and policies.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B39/94, 24 June 1994

1994

In July, Minister Bolkus announces his intention to amend migration legislation so that individuals found not to be refugees under UNHCR processes in another country will not be able to lodge fresh applications in Australia. The decision is prompted by the unauthorised arrival of 17 Vietnamese 'boat people' at Broome on 7 July, who had been processed and found not to be refugees at Indonesia's Galang Processing Centre. Under the 1989 Comprehensive Plan of Action, Vietnamese and Laotian refugees are assisted to resettle in third countries and failed asylum seekers must return to their country of origin.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B44/94, 15 July 1994 and B58/94, 29 August 1994

1994

Justice Gallop rules in the Federal Court in Canberra that the representative of Port Hedland detainees, Lin Yan (aged 11) and Lin Jing (aged 8), have no arguable case to stop their return to China. The girls' representative, Marion Le, appeals to the Federal Court in Sydney.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, Un-numbered, 22 July 1994

1994

Australia has resettled more than 17 000 Indo-Chinese refugees from camps since the advent of the 19891990 Comprehensive Plan of Action, and has contributed nearly $7 million to the CPA.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B49/94, 2 August 1994

1994

In August, the Minister for the first time issues Conclusive Certificates to stop people who had been refused refugee status from seeking a review of the decisions by the Refugee Review Tribunal. The individuals concerned are from the group of 17 Vietnamese who arrived at Broome on 7 July, after having been unsuccessfully assessed for refugee status at Galang in Indonesia.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B58/94, 29 August 1994

1994

The Government proceeds with the Migration Legislation Amendment Bill (No 2) despite Coalition opposition. The Bill seeks to limit claims for compensation for detention by boat people.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B60/94, 30 August 1994

1994

In September, an unauthorised boat carrying 31 people arrives near Broome. Its passengers are taken to Port Hedland. Minister Bolkus says they have told local people they are from the Galang Processing Centre in Indonesia. The Government is proceeding with legislation to prevent such people, who have access to protection under the Comprehensive Plan of Action in another country, claiming asylum in Australia.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B62/94, 9 September 1994

1994

A Melbourne-based organisational restructuring of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, and the Bureau of Immigration and Population Research (BIPR) and the Office of Multicultural Affairs (in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet), takes place, following an evaluation by consultants Price Waterhouse Urwick. The changes aim to make the department more client focused. Divisions dedicated to onshore and offshore services delivery are established, as well as a new division to develop and review policy. Other changes include the integration of OMA's regional offices into the Department, and the broadening of the BIPR into the Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B87/94, 15 December 1994

1995

A new reception and processing centre for unauthorised boat arrivals is activated at the RAAF Base Curtin, near Derby in Western Australia. It can accommodate 300 people and is needed because Port Hedland has reached its capacity with 756 detainees and because of the arrival of three unauthorised boats carrying 171 people.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B4/95, 25 January 1995 and B20/95, 28 March 1995

1995

The 19951996 Budget increases funding to the national network of Migrant Resource Centres and includes allocation of resources to better meet the needs of refugees. The Budget continues to support services for torture-trauma survivors.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B30/95, 9 May 1995

1995

The Humanitarian Program is maintained at a planned intake level of 13 000 places for 19951996. This consists of 4000 refugees, 5200 Special Assistance Category and 3800 Special Humanitarian Category. Five hundred places are reserved under the Women at Risk program. Indo-China is no longer a priority area. The two priority regions are the former Yugoslavia and the Gulf. There are 3.5 million displaced persons in the former Yugoslavia, many of whom can only be helped through resettlement and, in the Middle East, some 22 500 people, mainly Iraqis, are in need of resettlement as a result of the Gulf War. In October, the Program is increased by 2000 places, in light of the situation in the former Yugoslavia.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B32/95, 11 May 1995 and B106/95, 24 October 1995

1995

The 19951996 Migration (non Humanitarian) Program is increased to 83 000, with 51 000 places in the family stream, 30 800 in the skill stream and 1200 in the special eligibility stream. The Program marked a significant increase in skill levels, especially business skills. A new pilot scheme is introduced for up to 500 migrants sponsored to settle in regional areas.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B31/95, 11 May 1995

1995

On 17 June, the Full Federal Court rules that parents in China with one child do not constitute a 'particular social group' under the UN Convention. The ruling overturns a ruling by Justice Sackville in December 1994 that a Chinese couple came within the refugee definition because they formed part of a social group in respect of which PRC fertility control policies discriminated against parents with more than one child.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B44/95, 17 June 1995

1995

Minister Bolkus criticises the Chief Justice of the Family Court for his public comments on children in detention, particularly the claim that the centre at Port Hedland is a 'virtual concentration camp'. The Minister points out that under Australian law people not eligible to claim asylum who arrive without authorisation must be held in immigration detention until they are removed. He also says that 'there are already provisions under the law to release minors from detention, where it is in the best interests of the child and this has been done'. The Minister also points out that delays in refugee determination are not caused by the determination and review process but arise when failed applicants pursue litigation. On average, he says, the Department takes five weeks to process the asylum claims of boat people.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B56/95, 19 July 1995

1995

Eight new members are appointed to the Refugee Review Tribunal. The RRT now has 42 full-time members, 17 part-time members and a Principal Member.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B85/95, 6 September 1995

1995

About 14 000 former Yugoslav nationals have been resettled in Australia since the regional conflict began in 1992. The Department plans for the resettlement of an additional 7500 in 19951996.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B106/95, 24 October 1995

1995

Minister Bolkus undertakes to revise the Guidelines for Stay in Australia on Humanitarian Grounds to take into account the special needs and concerns of women. He promises to undertake wide ranging consultations, including with the UNHCR and the Refugee Council of Australia, and to implement a training strategy to sensitise decision makers to gender issues. He anticipates the finalisation of the 'gender guidelines' early in 1996.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B131/95, 5 December 1995

1995

In December, the reception and processing centre for unauthorised arrivals at RAAF Base Curtin is mothballed, as the removal of Vietnamese refugees to China under Safe Third Country Legislation means that Port Hedland can accommodate all remaining 'boat people'.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B134/95, 7 December 1995

1995

New arrangements allow Sri Lankans and former Yugoslavs who have been in Australia without temporary entry permits or visas since 31 December 1991 to access temporary humanitarian visas from 1 February 1996.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B144/95, 13 December 1995

1996

In January, Minister Bolkus announces the continuation of the Cambodian Special Assistance Category. A total of 1361 visas have been granted under the program since its introduction in October 1993.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B6/96, 18 January 1996

1996

Minister announces measures to make it easier for refugees and other humanitarian entrants to bring their immediate families to Australia. The measures, which are meant to be introduced during the 19961997 Migration and Humanitarian Programs, include the dropping of migration fees normally payable to bring separated families together.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B11/96, 25 January 1996

1996

New training arrangements for voluntary groups who help refugees settle in Australia are announced by Minister Bolkus. The training relates to cultural and gender sensitivity, sensitivity to torture and trauma survivors and negotiation and advocacy skills. The new arrangements are under development by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Refugee Council of Australia.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B12/96, 25 January 1996

1996

During the Federal Election campaign in February, Minister Bolkus accuses Opposition Leader, Hon. John Howard MP, of displaying 'no real interest in or understanding of immigration or what makes cultural diversity work for all of us' and of being 'on record as opposing Asian immigration'.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release, B23/96, 9 February 1996

1996

On the election of a Coalition Government in March, Hon. Phillip Ruddock MP replaces Nick Bolkus as Minister. The Department becomes the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.

 

1996

Minister Ruddock undertakes a series of consultations on the immigration program with representatives of ethnic groups, business, environment, planning, unions, refugee and other welfare groups and state and local governments around Australia. He says that 'family reunion and the humanitarian intake will remain central parts of the immigration program'.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS2/96, 1 April 1996

1996

Visitors from the southern part of Lebanon, where conflict has escalated, who face danger upon their return are able to apply for an extension of stay in Australia. The Australian Government supports international efforts for a cease-fire and return to the Middle East peace process.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS 9/96, 23 April 1996

1996

In May, the Australian Government returns a group of 59 boat people to China, bringing the total number returned to China since 1991 to almost a thousand.

Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, DPS 3/96, 14 May 1996

1996

Under the Memorandum of Understanding with the People's Republic of China, signed in January, the Australian Government repatriates 357 'boat people' whose claims for protection are unjustified. Minister Ruddock says the returns are 'a clear illustration of this Government's determination to ensure that the integrity of our borders is not compromised by those attempting illegal immigration'.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS 16/96, 27 May 1996

1996

In May, Minister Ruddock invites written submissions from individuals and organisations as part of a review of the Immigration Review Tribunal and the Refugee Review Tribunal. He is concerned about delays in the process which result in some people remaining in detention for lengthy periods.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS 19/96, 31 May 1996

1996

Draft guidelines for refugee decision-makers dealing with gender related claims are released for community comment. The 'gender guidelines' were initiated in December 1995. The final document is released on 15 July.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS20/96, 3 June 1996 and MPS 34/96, 15 July 1996

1996

Minister Ruddock puts forward the Migration Legislation (Amendment) Bill (No. 2) 1996 to limit the right of detainees to access a lawyer to those situations in which the detainees themselves request such access. A recent Federal Court caseHREOC and Another v. the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairsnecessitates the Government's move to 'prevent unauthorised arrivals from being encouraged to engage unwarranted, lengthy and expensive processing'. An effect of the court decision, the Minister says, is that 'the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Act can be used to undermine the intent of the Migration Act, allowing lawyers to provide unsolicited advice to people who have entered Australia illegally. This could give unauthorised arrivals unrealistic expectations that they will be able to remain in Australia (and) could encourage more boat arrivals'.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS 25/96, 19 June 1996

1996

In October, Minister Ruddock criticises the Opposition for creating a Migration Program when it was in office that was 'out of balance and rapidly losing public confidence'. Family migration grew significantly at the expense of the skilled intake, according to the Minister, and he intends to restore the balance between skilled and family migration. The 19961997 Migration (non-Humanitarian) Program incorporates a significant shift towards skilled migration. A total of 28 000 places are in the skilled stream, 36 700 in the Preferential Family category, 8000 in the Concessional Family category and 1300 are 'Special Eligibility'.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS27/96, 3 July 1996 and MPS70/96, 30 October 1996

1996

Special arrangements for visitors from southern Lebanon are ended, in light of the 27 April cease-fire which has brought stability to the region.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS 24/96, 18 June 1996

1996

Visitors and temporary entrants from Sri Lanka and the former Yugoslavia are granted an extension of stay until 31 July 1997. The extension applies to people who entered Australia on or before 31 July 1996.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS 26/96, 1 July 1996

1996

The 19961997 Humanitarian Program consists of 12 000 offshore places and 2000 nominally set aside for onshore places. This includes the 2000 offshore places brought forward from the Program by the former Government. The Program consists of 4000 refugee places (including 665 places brought forward), 2800 Special Humanitarian Program places (including 667 brought forward) and 5200 in the Special Assistance Category (including 668 brought forward). Priority is given to former Yugoslavia, the Middle East and Africa.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS28/6, 3 July 1996

1996

Figures released by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs in July reveal a drop in the estimated number of people living in Australia unlawfully. Between June and December 1995, the estimated total declined from 51 300 to 47 600. Visa over-stayers are the great majority (74 per cent), followed by visitors and students.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS31/96, 10 July 1996

1996

Minister Ruddock visits the People's Republic of China in August and has discussions with senior officials on a number of issues including the illegal movement of people.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS46/96, 8 August 1996

1996

The Government increases funding to the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) by $17.6 million over four years, in addition to its 19961997 grant of $76.3 million.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS54/96, 20 August 1996

1996

In an attempt to speed up the processing of asylum claims, Minister Ruddock announces additional funding of $9.6 million in 19961997 for additional staff to address the backlog of protection visa applications. He sees the move as reducing the 'spiralling costs' of the Asylum Seekers Assistance Scheme (ASA), introduced by the previous Government. ASA is available to eligible protection visa applicants while their claims are being assessed at the primary and review stages. It cost the government $16 million in 19951996.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS53/96, 20 August 1996

1996

The Commonwealth Government allocates $5 million for an anti-racism education campaign in 19961997.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS52/96, 20 August 1996

1996

An increase in funding of $20.7 million over four years for migrant settlement services is announced by Minister Ruddock in August, along with a promise to specifically identify refugee settlement needs in restructured advisory arrangements.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS51/96, 20 August 1996

1996

Three Special Assistance Categories are terminated in the 19961997 Humanitarian Program: the Minorities from the Soviet Union SAC (in operation since 1992), the East Timorese SAC for people in Portugal, Macau and Mozambique (in operation since 1991) and the Cambodian SAC (in operation since 1993). Minister Ruddock says they have achieved their original purpose. Continuing SACs exist for Burmese in Burma, citizens of the former Yugoslavia, Sudanese, Burmese in Thailand, Sri Lankans, Ahmadis and Vietnamese.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS59/96, 4 September 1996

1996

Minister Ruddock announces that arrangements are being made to allow the immediate families of Humanitarian Program entrants and Protection Visa holders to come to Australia under the Humanitarian Program. The visa holder will no longer need to be an Australian citizen in order to sponsor immediate family members for entry. This, however, is among a package of proposed changes to the Migration Regulations that is disallowed by the Senate in November.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS59/96, 4 September 1996 and MPS81/96, 28 November 1996

1996

Minister Ruddock leads the Australian delegation at the Executive Committee meeting of the UNHCR in Geneva in September. He also visits the United Kingdom and the Middle East for discussions on immigration and refugee issues and to address a conference of Australian migration officers.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS63/96, 20 September 1996

1996

In 19951996, a total of 99 139 new settlers arrived in Australiathe largest intake since 19911992. Fourteen per cent, or 13 824 people, arrived under the Humanitarian Program. Two-thirds are from the former Yugoslavia and the Middle East.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS64/96, 22 September 1996

1996

The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs publishes Ambivalent welcome: the settlement experiences of humanitarian entrant families in Australia, a comparative study of 126 humanitarian entrant families and 46 non-humanitarian entrant families. The study finds that, despite initial difficulties which can be considerable, humanitarian entrants adjust well to Australian society over time. The report points to the special problems faced by victims of torture and trauma and the importance of family support.

Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, DPS 8/96, 30 September 1996

1996

In November, Australia and the UNHCR jointly host a conference in Canberra attended by 22 countries of the Asia-Pacific region. Minister Ruddock says the conference aims to 'discuss past experiences and to examine avenues for enhancing understanding of major people movements in the region for future cooperation'.

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Media Release, MPS81/96, 28 November 1996

Next page

  Commonwealth of Australia
Chronologies are written for Members of Parliament, being located on the Internet they can be read by members of the public, however some linked items are available to Members of Parliament only, due to copyright reasons.


Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print