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Is Australia's 'pacific Solution' Valid At International Law?

3962 words - 16 pages

The Australian government uses a rhetoric of fear when discussing refugees and asylum seekers by using such terms as 'illegal', 'unauthorised entry', 'SIEV' (suspected illegal entry vessel), and 'terrorist', putting into the minds of Australians the misconception that refugees who seek asylum in our country are somehow performing an illegal act. It is the government who is performing illegal acts against these people. There are many NGOs and high profile individuals who have clearly stated that the actions of the Australian government in their handling of the 'Pacific Solution' violate international law, as well as Nauruan, Papua New Guinean and Australian law. Furthermore, not only is the 'Pacific Solution' illegal on many grounds; Australia's whole immigration policy continuously breaches laws and conventions, both national and international.On August 26th 2001 a leaky wooden boat full of refugees seeking asylum in Australia were rescued by the Norwegian freight ship Tampa off the coast of Christmas Island. Australia responded by declaring that none of the asylum seekers would land on Christmas Island or indeed on any Australian soil. When Arne Rinnan, captain of the Tampa, attempted to land at Christmas Island, he found his ship surrounded and taken control of by the Australian SAS. Nearly 2 weeks later, following a frenzy of political deals, the asylum seekers were transferred onto the HMAS Manoora and sent to Nauru - a 'hellish...lunar landscape... left barren after years of phosphate mining' (Pace 2002 quoted in PDPS288 2005:33). Australia had struck a deal with Nauru; the asylum seekers would be detained on the tiny island nation, 5000km northwest of Sydney in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Later a similar deal would also be made with Papua New Guinea, who agreed to detain asylum seekers on Manus Island. New Zealand also agreed to take some of the asylum seekers, finding that all but one out of 131 they accepted were indeed refugees.Amidst the Tampa affair the Australian government swiftly introduced new 'border protection' legislation. Ashmore, Carter, Cocos and Christmas Island were excised from Australian immigration boundaries, which became known as 'prescribed excised offshore places'. Asylum seekers arriving without documentation can now be denied permanent residence 'ever', and can also be denied the social and educational services available to other refugees (Jupp 2001:196). In late September 2001, the 'Pacific Solution' entered into federal legislation, declaring that 'the transfer of new boat arrivals to processing centres outside Australia' (DIMIA 2004:25) was legal under Australian law.Under international law, any country who is a signatory to an internationally recognised convention is obligated to uphold that convention's principles. The Australian government have disregarded many of these principles in the implementation of the 'Pacific Solution', and have hence breached international law. Accordingly, the criticism has...

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