Sovereign Borders: Detected, Intercepted and Removed 5f - Elastic Borders, Fake boats


Elastic Borders, Fake Boats and Sovereign Breaches

‘My gut feeling was that it wasn’t ethical or moral to put people on these boats. You wouldn’t do it to Australian citizens.’

Anonymous government official and local fisher in Darwin

In 2015, 10 new Vietnamese-built boats, specially designed as ‘alternative transportation vessels’ replaced the controversial orange ‘lifeboats’. These boats failed to meet regular marine standards, with serious questions raised about their stability, structural integrity and ability to handle tough conditions in the open ocean.


At least two of these unseaworthy boats were given Arabic names, Farah and Harum, which obfuscated their origins and made it likely that they would be taken for Indonesian boats which often have similar names. The secrecy with which the Australian government withheld information about these shoddy vessels — their number, their cost and what flag they would sail under– reinforces the notion that they were intentionally designed and built to give the impression of being boats of Asian origin.

The construction of boats such as the Farah and the Harum raises the possibility of a deliberate form of camouflage mobilised to facilitate Australia’s strategic breaches of Indonesian sovereignty by sailing into Indonesian waters in the process of turn-back operations. They expose the nefarious range of feints and ruses deployed by the Australian government in order to consolidate its ‘stop the boats’ policy. The move would be consistent with ongoing complaints from the Indonesian government about the implications of Australia’s interception policy and its continual breaches of Indonesian sovereignty.



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