Boat People and the Entrenchment of Exclusion

Tania Penovic, ‘Boat People and the Entrenchment of Exclusion’ in Paula Gerber and Melissa Castan (Eds), Critical Perspectives on Human Rights Law in Australia: Volume 1 (Thomson Reuters, February 2021), Chapter 15 pp 373-408

34 Pages Posted: 7 May 2021

Date Written: February 22, 2020

Abstract

Together with Canada, the United States and New Zealand, Australia is considered to be one of the world’s major ‘immigration nations’. Immigration is a defining feature of Australia’s economic and social life. Almost half of Australia’s population is now comprised of first or second-generation migrants. Most people who have left their country of origin and settled in Australia have migrated voluntarily. A smaller number have settled in Australia as refugees after fleeing their country of origin and seeking asylum from persecution.

The means by which immigrants have travelled to Australia may strike the reader as far less significant than the reasons why they have come. Means of travel have changed over time in accordance with economic circumstances and technological advancements. Wealthier migrants began to travel to Australia by air as early as the 1930s, and the 1960s saw a transition from mass sea travel to mass air travel. By the 1970s, most people coming to Australia were travelling by air. These people included voluntary migrants, refugees resettled from overseas and those who travelled to Australia with a visa and subsequently claimed protection as refugees.

One group of migrants has continued to travel by sea. This group is comprised of asylum seekers for whom obtaining a visa and coming to Australia by plane is impracticable. Their trajectory is complex and precarious, and the likelihood that they are entitled to protection as refugees is high. For members of this group, it is their mode of arrival rather than the reasons why they have come that has defined their treatment under the law. This chapter focuses on the legal and policy framework applied to this group of asylum seekers, namely irregular maritime arrivals. The immigration detention regime has provided a policy foundation which has been built on incrementally by measures designed to deter irregular maritime arrivals from entering Australia and to distance and exclude them from the body politic and protections afforded under Australian law. These measures have increasingly sought to bar irregular maritime arrivals from entering Australia and culminated in their erasure from Australia’s Humanitarian Program.

Keywords: asylum seekers, international law, human rights, refugees

JEL Classification: K37, K33, K30

Suggested Citation

Penovic, Dr Tania, Boat People and the Entrenchment of Exclusion (February 22, 2020). Tania Penovic, ‘Boat People and the Entrenchment of Exclusion’ in Paula Gerber and Melissa Castan (Eds), Critical Perspectives on Human Rights Law in Australia: Volume 1 (Thomson Reuters, February 2021), Chapter 15 pp 373-408, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3809499 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3809499

Dr Tania Penovic (Contact Author)

Deakin University ( email )

221 Burwood Hwy
Burwood, Victoria 3216
Australia

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