Morrison’s strategic silence on asylum seekers

Scott Morrison has a lot to say about stopping boats carrying asylum seekers in general, but gives the public only bafflegab about the latest boat in particular. Brian Bahnisch has written a comprehensive post over at his blog Climate Plus regarding reports that a boat of Tamil asylum seekers seems to have been handed over to the Sri Lankan navy rather than having their claims assessed.

The Government is refusing to comment on whether the boat even exists.

Daniel Webb, Director of the Human Rights Legal Centre, says that if refugees are returned directly to the place they are fleeing from without their claims being processed there can be no clearer breach of our obligations under the Refugee Convention.

The fact that the boat may be in international waters has no relevance. The idea that the asylum seekers’ claims could be assessed in transit is ludicrous.

Turning boats back to Sri Lanka is completely different to turning them back to Indonesia, which is a transit country and as such not the source of the fear of persecution or worse.

In conjunction with the announcement last week of harsher visa rules for asylum seekers, this news is definitely discouraging for this sailing season’s queue of asylum seekers, but it still won’t stop them from trying (because it isn’t government policies that stops boats sailing during the Wet, it is monsoonal cyclone season(s) that stops the boats for half the year every year). Exactly how many will sail and be turned back in breach of the Refugee Convention we may never know, since Morrison obviously intends for the Australian electorate to simply not be informed about the non-stopped boats.

Featured Image credit: a photo of Scott Morrison on the front bench in Parliament, date and photographer unknown.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, media, social justice

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3 replies

  1. Ugh, today has definitely been a Do Not Read The Comments day for any article about this in the MSM.

    • Beyond disgusted at the latest reports that at least 11 of the Tamil refugees handed over to the Sri Lankan navy have previously been tortured by the Sri Lankan secret service, thus their lives are now in jeopardy, and Morrison’s response is to cancel all public appearances prior to his trip to Sri Lanka later this week.

      This week, human rights advocates, academics and the United Nations body for refugees have slammed the government’s secrecy on the location of the boats. They also say asking four basic questions over the telephone cannot constitute a fair refugee assessment procedure.
      “There can be no more serious risk of violation of rights and endangering of lives than handing people directly back to the authorities who they fear will persecute them, without any proper assessment of their claims,” Human rights lawyer David Manne said:
      Professor Jane McAdam from the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at the University of NSW said it was concerning there was no access to legal advice offered, nor a proper process to assess their claims.
      As the media spotlight intensifies on the whereabouts of the boats – one holding 153 asylum seekers, the other 50 people – Mr Morrison cancelled plans to visit a detention centre in Melbourne on Friday due to protest activities.
      “Unfortunately as a result of the protest activity by advocates, excursions for detainees and legitimate visits to the centre had to be cancelled because of the disruption to centre operations,” a spokesman for Mr Morrison said.
      “The decision to engage in protest activity is a matter for the individuals involved, however they should be aware such protest activity can and does frustrate the services provided to detainees.”

      • At least our checks and balances system of governance is not yet entirely broken: High Court grants injunction over asylum seeker boat

        The Abbott government’s boat turnback policy has been dealt a blow as an interim High Court injunction prevents the return of 153 asylum seekers to Sri Lankan authorities over concerns about their safety.
        Amid reports that 41 Tamils from another boat of asylum seekers were facing criminal charges following their handover to Sri Lankan police, lawyer George Newhouse says the 153 asylum seekers are “entitled to have their claims for protection processed in accordance with Australian law”.
        “The (immigration) minister cannot simply intercept their vessel in the middle of the night and ‘disappear’ them,’’ Mr Newhouse told AAP on Monday night.
        A late sitting of the High Court in Sydney on Monday barred the return of the 153 asylum seekers, 48 of whom are Tamil, until 4pm Tuesday or further order of the court.
        Their case will be heard at the High Court in Melbourne about 2pm on Tuesday.

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