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14 Current Issues Crim. Just. 65 (2002-2003)
Deterrence: Australia's Refugee Policy

handle is hein.journals/cicj14 and id is 65 raw text is: Deterrence: Australia's Refugee
Sharon Pickering & Caroline Lambert*
When the MV Tampa sailed into view the refugee policy rhetoric of the Australian
government was confirmed: these are people we do not want. When photographs emerged
of refugees on an Indonesian fishing boat they had travelled on to reach Australia, allegedly
showing them throwing their children overboard, it was clear: these are people we must
deter from coming to Australia. When information emerged that these pictures were
distortions of photographs of refugees attempting to save their children from a sinking
vessel the government misinformation and lies were a side issue, these were still people that
we should not admit. When asylum seekers inside immigration detention centres sewed
their lips together and went on hunger strike in .protest at detention conditions and the
prospect of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs), these people in our midst were represented
as culturally confronting and un-Australian, people who should be repudiated. Government
rhetoric on refugee policy is that we must deter such people to protect the Australian
community, to guarantee the integrity of Australia's borders and to regain control over the
integrity of the Australian refugee program. In these incidents we had a national crisis
which provided the site upon which the government was able to affirm the worst fears of
the general public. But it was not in the coming of asylum seekers that this crisis was made
possible, rather it came as the culmination of a refugee policy rooted in an idea of deterrence
which is based on the incessant background hum of discourses of asylum seeker deviancy.
Australia now operates a refugee policy that assumes that refugees can and should be
effectively deterred from both claiming and gaining refugee status. It is a policy that
operates across a boom and bust cycle, of lurching from crisis to crises, across governments
of liberal and labor persuasion. We will argue deterrence has now been deployed across a
continuum in refugee policy, with traceable beginnings, questionable means and with no
end in sight.
Our examination of parliamentary debate on refugees is focused upon the onshore
refugee determination component of Australia's refugee policy, and the ways in which
deterrence has been deployed. The Australian refugee program is split into onshore and
offshore components. The offshore program refers to those refugees that are processed by
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), usually in a country of
first asylum. If they are accepted as refugees they are brought to Australia for resettlement.
The onshore program refers to those people who arrive in Australia without the appropriate
visa and are detained once they disembark from boats or planes. It also refers to those who
come to Australia on a valid visa and then claim asylum. Australia links these two programs
and caps the number of refugees annually accepted (currently around 12,000). This means
* Sharon Pickering is a Senior Lecturer in Justice Studies and Caroline Lambert is a Researcher at Charles
Sturt University. All correspondence to spickering@csu.edu.au

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