Security, People-Smuggling, and Australia's New Afghan Refugees

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of West Florida]On: 05 October 2014, At: 21:56Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    Australian Journal ofInternational AffairsPublication details, including instructions for authorsand subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/caji20

    Security, People-Smuggling, andAustralia's New Afghan RefugeesWilliam MaleyPublished online: 09 Jun 2010.

    To cite this article: William Maley (2001) Security, People-Smuggling, and Australia'sNew Afghan Refugees, Australian Journal of International Affairs, 55:3, 351-370, DOI:10.1080/10357710120095216

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  • Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 55, No. 3, pp. 351370, 2001

    Security, People-Smuggling, and AustraliasNew Afghan Refugees

    WILLIAM MALEY*

    Introduction

    In contemporary Australia, two new discourses on security are increasingly cominginto con ict. In classical conceptions of security, derived from a realist paradigmof international relations, the relevant agent about whose security one should beconcerned was the sovereign state, and insecurity sprang from the anarchical orderin which sovereign states subsisted. But with the notion of sovereignty provingincreasingly problematical,1 new ways of thinking about security have surfaced. Onthe one hand, debate has focused on the nature and signi cance of non-traditiona lsecurity threats, with candidates including intrastate con ict, population shifts, andorganised criminal activity (Maley, 1998a). On the other hand, increased attentionhas been paid to human security, restoring individuals to the moral core of debateover the roles and powers of the state. One phenomenon which has brought thesetwo discourses into con ict is that of people-smuggling , which some see as anon-traditiona l security threat, but which arguably enhances the human security ofthose in need whom it assists. In todays terms, Oskar Schindler might have beencalled a people-smuggler . In this article, I shall argue that preoccupation withsecurity threats and with control as a dimension of sovereignty has dominatedAustralias response to people-smuggling , and that the consequences have beendire: not only is the human security of vulnerable people neglected, but theunimaginative and unsophisticate d policy responses which the people-smugglingpanic has generated are unlikely to be effective in preventing population move-ments, but risk evoking memories of earlier Australian policies of exclusion inways which do Australias foreign relations no good at all.On 6 July 1938, a conference was held at Evian in France to consider how the

    international community should respond to the out ow of Jewish refugees fromNazi Germany. The Australian representative was the Minister for Trade andCustoms in the Lyons Government, T. W. White. His intervention was to sendshivers down the spines of the more compassionate delegates. It will no doubt beappreciated, he said, that as we have no racial problem, we are not desirous of

    * An earlier version of this article appeared in March 2001 as Australian Defence Studies Centre Working Paper no.63.1 On the complexities of sovereignty, see Philpott, (1995); Barnett, (1995); Krasner, (199596); Fowler and Bunck,

    (1996); Osterud, (1997); Croxton, (1999); Krasner, (1999); and van Creveld, (1999).

    ISSN 1035-7718 print/ISSN 1465-332X online/01/030351-20 2001 Australian Institute of Internationa l Affairs

    DOI: 10.1080/1035771012009521 6

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  • 352 W. Maley

    importing one (Gilbert 1986: 64). In some ways Australia is reliving those darktimes. Faced with the arrival by boat of asylum seekers from Iraq and Afghanistan,Australian political leaders have found in ammatory ways of scorning them. Thus,on 17 November 1999, the Australian Minister for Immigration and MulticulturalAffairs, Philip Ruddock, claimed that if it was a national emergency two weeksago, its just gone up ten points on the Richter scale. On 7 January 2000, thePremier of Western Australia, Richard Court, went even further, responding to therelease from detention of Afghan refugees with the assertion that Were not talkingabout genuine refugees, were talking about people who are smart alecs, adding forgood measure that they should be turned around straight away (PM, ABCRadio, 17 November 1999; The Australian, 8 January 2000).From a European perspective, these responses must seem somewhat frenzied.

    While European states have been moving to close their doors to asylum claimants(Joly 1996; Hansen and King 2000), this is in the context of a vastly greater volumeof applicants than Australia has ever had to confront. According to the most recentstatistics of the Department of Immigration and Multicultura l Affairs (DIMA),issued on 4 July 2001, the total number of boat people arriving in Australia from1989 on was only 12,327. Even the total for 19992000, namely 4174 persons, istrivial compared with those confronting other liberal democracies (Department ofImmigration and Multicultura l Affairs 2001b). In 2000 in Europe, a continentwhich does not enjoy the protection of being girt by sea, the United Kingdomreceived 97,660 asylum applications; Germany 78,760; the Netherlands 43,890;Belgium 42,690; and France 38,590. The number of asylum applications in Europefrom Iraqis was 34,680 and from Afghans was 28,790.2 Numbers alone can hardlyexplain the ferocity of the Australian political and bureaucratic response. At leastsix other factors need to be taken into account.First, domestic political considerations have prompted an anti-refugee rhetoric

    among Australian politicians. In the 1998 Australian election, the far-right OneNation party, led by Pauline Hanson, capitalised on a general disillusionment withpolitical elites to win 936,621 votes, or 8.43% of the total votes cast (AustralianElectoral Commission 1998: 29). One policy in her platform was to grant refugeesonly temporary residence, rather than the right of permanent residence which theyhad traditionally received if their claims to be refugees were upheld (Kukathas andMaley 1998). Bitter in ghting subsequently broke the One Nation party intopieces, but paradoxically, the result has been a heightened attention by Australiasmajor parties to ways in which they might lure back those who defected to OneNation in 1998. Scorning refugees is an obvious tactic,3 and asylum seekers from

    2 See United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2001). The populations of the Netherlands and Belgiumare 15,785,700 and 10,161,200 respectivelyboth substantially lower than Australias population in June 1999of 18,966,800 . For further discussion of Europes experience, see Schuster (2000).

    3 McAllister and Bean (2000) conclude at p. 398 that the predominant motivation voters possessed for defectingfrom the major parties was One Nations stance on immigrants and Aborigines. See also Goot andWatson (2001).Note, however, that the landslide defeat of the Western Australian State Government of Richard Court at theFebruary 2001 election shows that merely scorning boat people is not a fail-safe technique for winning secondpreferences from ultra-right groups; the ultra-right may well be satis ed with nothing short of a policy of immediateforced repatriation.

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  • Security, People-Smuggling, and Australias New Afghan Refugees 353

    the Middle East and West Asia have unfortunately been the rst victims. Thisphenomenon has recently attracted the attention of no less a gure than the UnitedNations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubber