Sovereign Borders: Detected, Intercepted and Removed 5b - The 'Saving Lives at Sea' narrative


The ‘Saving Lives at Sea’ narrative

A group of men on a boat signal for help off the coast of Sumatra. They wave their arms and some hold orange life jackets up in an effort to attract attention. The photo is taken from the perspective of a person sitting in the middle of the boat looking towards the front. The horizon is on an angle, suggesting that the boat unstable, swaying from side to side. There is a black floatation ring in the foreground and a few of the men wear them around their waists in addition to the life jackets.

[imagecaption] The photo shows a number of shipmates signaling for help. Photo: Barat Ali Batoor. The film ‘One Man’s Escape From The Taliban‘ details Batoor’s journey. [/imagecaption]


The Australian government persists with a narrative of trying to ‘save lives at sea’ to justify its turnback and offshore detention policies.

Then Prime Minister Tony Abbott vehemently defended the policies: ‘What we are doing is saving life at sea. We are defending our national sovereignty, we are protecting our country from the evil trade of people smuggling, and by hook or by crook we will do what is necessary to keep our country safe and to keep this evil trade stopped.’

Amnesty International’s report ‘By Hook or by Crook’ documents in detail Australia’s abuse of asylum seekers at sea despite the challenges of verifying statements and obtaining details about what happens to people who interact with Australian officials at sea. There is a dearth of publicly available information about the activities carried out under the authority of Operation Sovereign Borders. Australian officials consistently refuse to disclose information about ‘on-water matters’. Legislative changes to the Border Force Act, brought into effect on 30 June 2015, further deepen the secrecy surrounding border control matters in Australia.


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