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Seeking an alternative to life in limbo

22 Apr 2009

ON 30 SEPTEMBER last year the Australian Navy intercepted a boat off the coast of Western Australia and took the twelve Middle-Eastern asylum seekers on board to Christmas Island. These individuals who had made their way from Indonesia were the first unauthorised boat arrivals of the Rudd government era. Since then several more boats carrying mostly Middle-Eastern asylum seekers have made the same trip. I use the term “asylum seeker” advisedly because all the arrivals to date appear to have made protection claims. What is more, all the protection claim decisions of which I am aware have been positive. In other words, the claimants have been recognised as refugees and granted permanent protection visas.

The federal opposition is arguing that the abolition of temporary protection visas and the softening of immigration detention policy have encouraged a renewal of people smuggling through Indonesia to Australia and that the government is, therefore, to blame for the present spate of unauthorised boat arrivals. There may be a small element of truth to this, but I tend to agree with the government’s assessment that the recent upsurge in irregular asylum seeker movement is part of a worldwide phenomenon largely explicable by reference to events in source countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, the one point on which government and the opposition are in rhetorical agreement is that Australia needs to keep intensifying its efforts to strengthen border control and disrupt people smuggling until the boats stop coming...

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