Timeline: Asylum seekers

Australia's immigration policy is coming under fire with an increasing number or boats arriving in Australian waters carrying suspected asylum seekers.

Jan 1954 - Australia becomes a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention

1976 - Thousands of refugees enter Australia in the aftermath of the Vietnam War

1992 - Mandatory detention laws for all foreigners who arrive in Australia without a visa are introduced by the Keating Labor government, with bi-partisan support.

October, 1999 - The Howard Government introduces Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) for asylum seekers who arrive unauthorised and are subsequently assessed by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) to be refugees.

August 2001 - A diplomatic dispute brews between Australia, Norway, and Indonesia after the Norwegian flagged ship MV Tampa rescues 439 Afghans from international waters off Australia, and is refused entry into Australian waters

September, 2001 - 'Pacific Solution' is implemented under John Howard. This is the policy of transporting asylum seekers to detention camps on small island nations in the Pacific Ocean, rather than allowing them to land on the Australian mainland.

October, 2001 - Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock says asylum seekers on a boat intercepted by HMAS Adelaide have been throwing children overboard in a ploy to secure passage to Australia. A Senate select committee inquiry subsequently finds that no children were thrown overboard

December, 2007 - During the campaign for the 2007 parliamentary election, Australian Labor Party candidate Kevin Rudd promises to put an end to the 'Pacific Solution' if he were elected.

May, 2008 - The Rudd Government abolishes the Temporary Protection visa (TPV) regime.

2008 - Australia ends its policy of sending asylum seekers into detention on small Pacific islands, with the last refugees leaving Nauru.

In this year 164 boat people arrived in Australian waters.

April, 2009 - An explosion off the West Australian coast of Ashmore Reef kills up to five suspected asylum seekers and injures another 44 people.

September, 2009 - More than 1100 passengers and over 46 crew have arrived in Australia by boat in 2009

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