Australians protest their government's policies against asylum seekers held in offshore detention. Melbourne, Australia, April 30, 2016. (Recep Sakar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Australians protest their government's policies against asylum seekers held in offshore detention. Melbourne, Australia, April 30, 2016. (Recep Sakar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Australia’s leaders have long been criticized by United Nations officials and international human rights observers over their policies toward refugees. While politicians and policymakers have resisted change in response to these criticisms until now, events of the past month indicate that actors working at a regional and national level may be taking matters out of their hands. Lessons from these recent developments could help formulate improved management of the unprecedented global movement of people at present, including the “more humane and coordinated approach” being sought at a major UN summit next month.

The governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea announced last week that they would close a center located on the latter’s Manus Island, which had been used to detain and assess the refugee claims of asylum seekers intercepted while attempting to reach Australia. Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court had declared the center illegal in April this year, rejecting a constitutional amendment from 2014 to facilitate its southern neighbor’s policies.

While no date has been given for the closure, and there is not yet an indication of where the more than 850 individuals housed at the facility might go, it is another blow to Australia’s established platform of using facilities in poorer third countries as a means of refusing entry to any undocumented asylum seekers arriving on its own shores. Read more