How Australia combated people smuggling

Lisa Martin – AAP

1 minute read

CANBERRA: Australia's battle against the boats - how it unfolded.

* More than 50,000 asylum seekers arrived by boat in Australian waters between 2008 and 2013.

* During the peak of 2013, over 20,000 arrived

* Sri Lanka, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam and Pakistan were among the source countries asylum seekers trying to reach Australia, whose population is about 24 million

* Kevin Rudd banned refugees who arrived by boat from being resettled in Australia shortly after he seized the prime ministership from Julia Gillard in July 2013

* Rudd struck deals with the Papua New Guinea and Nauru governments to resettle refugees there after processing at immigration detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru

* With a change in government in Australia in September 2013, newly elected prime minister Tony Abbott introduced "Operation Sovereign Borders" - a military-led response

* Key planks of the policy included:

1. Secrecy about operations at sea involving boats with asylum seekers

2. Boat turn backs to transit and source countries "when safe to do so"

3. Reintroduction of three-year temporary protection visas for refugees

4. Capacity expansion at overseas immigration detention centres

* In 2014, there was only one boat and 160 people trying to reach Australia by boat detected

* Since then, there have been zero boat arrivals 

* The sole boat detected in 2014 involved a month-long stand-off at sea with Sri Lankan asylum seekers detained on an Australian Customs vessel

* Australia's High Court was asked to consider whether this was lawful and a 4-3 majority ruled it was

* The court in 2016 also threw out a challenge to Australia's policy of detaining asylum seekers on Nauru.