Asylum Seeker Policy
Last month, there was a major announcement by the coalition in Australia in relation to Asylum Seekers and Refugees – the Opposition announced a return to Howard era policies. These policies would mean that boats would be turned around if outside of Australia’s Territorial waters; asylum seekers would be processed in countries outside, away from Australia. These countries would be payed by Australia to house, feed and hold these Asylum seekers whilst their claims are processed. This latter part is, in theory, against international law and the international refugee convention, which states that countries need to process asylum seekers if they are in their sovereign territory. This policy would be a breach of that convention.
The Opposition also announced a return to Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs). These visas would last for anywhere between 6-36 months. This means that there is no certainty for Refugees and the result is a new subgroup in the country. In previous times when there were TPVs, it was shown that about 90% of those who were issued TPVs were eventually given permanent residency in Australia. This Government has abolished the TPVs, and the so-called pacific solution, which is what the Opposition wants to bring back in.
My opinion is that this solution put out by the opposition is cruel and inhumane. I am not proposing to be a legal expert in any way, which is why I only say ‘in theory’ in relation to the breach of international law. The government has implemented what seems to be a more humane policy – however it isn’t that great. The exclusion from the migration zone of Christmas Island, where the processing mainly occurs, means that the detainees do not have access to Australia’s Legal system. This is not a good situation. However this centre is a better facility than those of Baxter, Woomera or on Nauru under the previous Howard government.
One of the problems that I find with the current debate is the notion that we will be able to stop the boats. In my opinion the only real way to stop the boats is to solve the situation in countries like Sri Lanka and Afghanistan where many refugees are fleeing from. Another issue is that both sides of politics seem to be committed to the notion of “offshore processing”. This borders on inhumane and in my opinion isn’t the only option. Onshore processing would still achieve the same results, but it’s just the notion of “onshore” which seems to make people really unhappy. There is a geopolitical argument for the offshore processing, because this is allows for the re-territorialisation in a globalised world and helps to build up the notion of state sovereignty.