Which Way 18f - The People-Swap: Shoal Bay Refugees


The People-Swap: Shoal Lighthouse Refugees

[imagecaption] Patrick Oppmann, ‘Cubans who climbed lighthouse allege inhumane treatment in U.S. custody’, CNN, 2016. [/imagecaption]


As part of its deal with the United States, Australia agreed to resettle a group of Cuban refugees who had been found clinging to the Shoal lighthouse off the Florida Keys in May 2016. They were held in limbo at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base for more than a year. There was controversy as to whether the lighthouse constituted dry land or not under the former ‘wet-foot, dry-foot’ policy which stipulated that those who made it to dry land could stay and have their claims for asylum assessed in the U.S. However, those interdicted at sea would be returned if they were not found to have ‘a demonstrable and well-founded fear of persecution’; or if they did, would be settled in a third country as a deterrent.

In 1999, the US Coast Guard used water cannon to force a group of Cuban refugees back into the water, thus rendering them ‘wet-foot’ people ineligible for asylum.  These arbitrary and violent acts are repeated in Australian  practices such as  the excision of landing places from the migration zone, the differential  rights afforded to people who arrive by plane and people who arrive by boat, and by the interception and turn back of asylum seeker boats.



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All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.