Deathscapes

The Australian Solution: A model for necropolitics at the border 7d - Necropolitics and Wishful Sinking

Deathscapes

Necropolitics in practice: ‘No obligation or expectation’

[imagecaption] Mural of The Titanic on Block 144 at Woomera Detention Centre, 2005. Photo: Dean Sewell. [/imagecaption]

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In its closing submissions in the inquest into the dead of the Janga, the Commonwealth contended that ‘there is ‘no domestic or international expectation or obligation that BPC [Border Protection Command] or other Australian assets will be postured for the purpose of saving SIEVs [Suspected Illegal Entry Vessels] that may place themselves in dangerous situations’.

A similar incident occurred on 16 July 2013, when a distress call was made from the Oneonta (SIEV 794) after the boat started taking on water northeast of Christmas Island. The internal Customs report noted that the commanding officer of the HMAS Albany considered providing life jackets to the asylum-seekers, but made a professional judgment not to do so because it was unable to board the boat and safely transfer the life jackets to the passengers, or provide instructions on how to use them. Authorities rescued 146 people from the water, including an infant. But the four bodies recovered were not wearing life jackets. The internal review noted it was not the appropriate authority to draw any conclusions about whether the earlier provision of life jackets would have prevented loss of life.

The two decisions represent an official policy that places no obligation on Border Protection Command for the safety of asylum seekers’ lives at sea. Its ‘obligations and expectations’, rather, are concerned with preventing their entry into Australia.

In subsequent years the destructive prioritising of deterrence above all has spread to other countries.

 


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