Australia's government says the former immigration minister who began the policy of sending asylum seekers to Pacific island detention camps will become the country's first special envoy for human rights.

Philip Ruddock is Australia's longest-serving immigration minister, serving from 1996 to 2003. During his tenure, he implemented the controversial policy — the so-called Pacific solution — to deter asylum seekers from attempting to reach Australia by boat.

Foreign Minister Julia Bishop said in a statement Monday that the 72-year-old will promote Australia's candidacy for membership to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2018-20 term. He will also represent Australia's conservative government at international human rights events.

Ruddock will remain in Parliament until elections are held later this year. In September, he will have spent 43 years in Parliament.