The last refugee held on the Pacific island of Nauru under Australia’s notorious offshore detention policy has been evacuated to Australia, according to refugee advocacy groups.
The man arrived in Australia on Saturday night.
This was after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, said it would end a policy in place for more than 10 years.
A short-lived medical evacuation programme brought some to Australia.
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Others have found permanent homes in other countries, including New Zealand and the United States.
“Having spent billions to hold people in PNG, the Australian Government cannot just abandon them there.
Many need critical medical support – all need the option to come to Australia while resettlement options are found,” Marie Hapke, convener of the Australian Refugee Action Network, said in the statement.
Offshore processing first began around 2003 after an Indonesian fishing boat, carrying more than 400 refugees and asylum seekers, ran into trouble en route to Christmas Island, an Australian territory south of Java.
The crew of a Norwegian container ship – the Tampa – rescued them.
A standoff followed after the crew of the Tampa asked to dock on Christmas Island and Australia’s government told them to return to Indonesia.
Then Prime Minister John Howard, a conservative, came up with the ‘Pacific Solution’ to prevent the group from reaching Australia and brokered a deal with Nauru to take those rescued by the Tampa.
A Labour government elected to power in 2007 dropped the policy after elections.
But another different Labour government reinstated the policy in 2013.
This is as boat arrivals began to increase and elections loomed.
While Albanese has again signalled a break with the policy, his government also said it would continue to maintain the offshore detention facilities in Nauru.
This is as a “contingency” at the cost of millions of Australian dollars each year.
“The history of offshore detention and human rights abuses on Nauru will forever stain the record of both sides of Australian politics,” said Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition.
“Though they committed no crime, refugees sent to Nauru lost 10 years of their lives.
“As long as Nauru remains ‘open’ and refugees remain in limbo in PNG, the dark chapter of offshore detention will close.”
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