In the two articles discussing the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees in the 2013 Australian political context, both authors make it evident to criticise the pervasive policies and tactics employed by the government and politicians in their efforts to portray refugees and asylum seekers as individuals of doubtful legitimacy undeserving of resettlement.
In the first article titled ‘Constructions of asylum seekers and refugees in Australian political discourse’, the author concentrates on exposing the political influence on presenting asylum seekers in negative light. She argues that the government has been perpetuating a dichotomous social construct regarding the legitimacy of the asylum seekers, leading to the construction of an implicit criteria of which they have convinced the Australian public to consider as the regular standard. Based on the mode of arrival, the notion of jumping queues and smuggling onshore, the legal and illegitimate labels have been imposed upon the refugees.
Politicians have become obsessed in labeling asylum seekers, especially the IMA, the irregular maritime arrivals. They have become desensitised and indifferent to the need to seek asylum from persecution and threat as the original motivation for the refugees irregular migration.
This argument is further supported by the author of the second article, Jane McAdam, a professor of law and the founding director of Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law. She points out that Australia is unfairly treating asylum seekers as a threat due to their imposed status as an ‘illegal’ refugee despite there being no law that criminalises the act of arriving without a valid visa for the purposes of seeking asylum. (Illegal – those who come onshore via boat/plane, Legal – those who wait in offshore centres, waiting ‘patiently.’)
Both authors criticise Australia’s current treatment and applied policies as inhumane and cruel deterrents which also infringes on their legal obligation as part of the Refugee Convention. The past deterrent policies from the Pacific solution, the 2013 reform, Operation Sovereign Borders, Temporary Protection Visas, cutting legal assistance, removing appeal rights of the refugee review tribunal – all of these are according to McAdam in current ‘breach of Australia’s international human rights obligations’ in one way or another, as they trap the refugees in a limbo that poses serious risk.
It is understandable in being wary about the radically rising numbers of refugees, but both authors agree responding in a manner that is both cruel and humanitarianly indifferent will change nothing. The authors conclude with the statement that Australia’s misguided policies and propaganda will not “stop the boats” or “smash the smuggler’s business model” but instead perpetuate the dehumanising cycle of neglect in their attempts to avoid claiming responsibility.
Rowe, E & O’Brien E, 2013, ‘Construction of asylum seekers and refugees in Australian political discourse,’ in Richards, Kelly & Tauri, Juan Marcellus (Eds). Crime Justice and Social Democracy : Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD, pp. 173 – 181, viewed online on August 5th <http://eprints.qut.edu.au/62722/>
McAdam, J 2013, ‘Australia and Asylum Seekers,’ in International Journal of Refugee Law Vol. 25 No.3 pp 435 – 448, published by Oxford University Press, viewed online on August 5th, <http://ijrl.oxfordjournals.org/content/25/3/435.full>