Sovereign Borders: Detected, Intercepted and Removed 5m - Dying out of sight: brutal policy, lethal consequences


Dying out of sight: brutal policy, lethal consequences

In this cartoon a small boat carrying people seeking seeking asylum approaches a larger vessel labelled 'Sovereign Borders'. Someone on the small boat says 'But...we paid everything we had. We are desperate!' At the front of the small boat a people smuggler reaches out their hand to receive a bag of money being offered from the larger vessel by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Then Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who stands behind him states, 'We are more desperate'.

[imagecaption] Illustration: Cathy Wilcox. A response to allegations that Australian officials paid people smugglers to turn around. [/imagecaption] 

‘As long as the underlying predicaments which prompt perilous sea journeys to Australia persist, all deterrence strategies will achieve is to ensure that we will not have to see asylum seekers suffer and die. They will be forced to do so out of our sight in the course of attempting to flee in directions other than Australia.’

Savitri Taylor, ‘Towing the boats back is bad policy’


The policies of interception, enhanced screening, turn-back and other technologies adopted under Operation Sovereign Borders with an eye to short-term political gain give no consideration to what awaits refugees when they are denied asylum in Australia and returned to their countries of persecution or to Indonesia.

According to the Minister for Home Affairs, since Operation Sovereign Borders began in 2013, 33 vessels have been intercepted with 827 people returned to their countries of departure or origin as of September 2018. To celebrate this achievement is to rejoice in the denial of human rights and ignore the fact that most of those who resort to the sea to seek asylum in Australia are refugees who flee their homes out of necessity and who have moved between transit countries in search of protection. While these lives might not have been lost to the sea, without safer avenues to resettlement they will not be spared.

Furthermore, the claim ‘we stopped the boats’ on which the Australian government prides itself cannot be substantiated. The boats have not stopped:  several have made their way to Australian territory, including the Cocos Keeling Islands, Saibai Island, and and even far-north Queensland. While the causes that impel people to flee for their lives remain, people will continue to seek asylum by boat, even in the face of Australia’s brutal and ruthless policies.


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