Australia’s remote control border protection policies and strict visa regime contribute to the irregular entry of asylum seekers on dangerous boat voyages to Australia. As an invited member of the Panel, Bob’s Deputy Directory, Dr Leanne Weber presented her research findings on these issues at the Public Forum “Is Australia in Crisis? Do Human Rights Matter?”, hosted by the Refugee Advocacy Network on Tuesday evening in Melbourne. During her presentation, Dr Weber provided the audience with insight and understanding of why people are taking risky boat journeys to seek asylum in Australia. These findings were drawn from an article Dr Weber had published in The Conversation, ‘Asylum solutions: Reinstating the right to seek asylum’ (5 August 2013).
Dr Weber discussed the concept and enforcement of remote control border protection policies and how Australia’s strict visa regime limits, and at times prevents travel to Australia by persons from identified ‘high risk’ countries. Such a response to certain migrant groups have made it more difficult for asylum seekers to enter Australia by safer, regular means of migration, including arrival by air. She argued that Australia’s border protection technology is not only preventing arrivals, but stranding people in transit countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and North Africa.
Advocating for an increased humanitarian intake into Australia and relaxing of visa restrictions from war-torn countries to the packed auditorium, Dr Weber argued that such an agenda will help to reduce the number of deaths at the border and curb the flourishing smugglers’ market while protecting the human rights of those who may be seeking asylum. She said Australia is indeed in crisis—both domestically and internationally in regards to upholding international human rights obligations for the protection of those arriving by irregular means to Australia.
Professor William Maley, Director of the Asia Pacific College of Diplomacy, the Australian National University, and Bishop Phillip Huggins, Vice chair of the Australian Churches Refugees Taskforce, also presented at the Forum. Professor Maley gave an impassioned talk on the international rights of asylum seekers and Australia’s burden shifting of processing and resettling these arrivals in PNG and Nauru. Bishop Huggins spoke about the ethics of compassion for asylum seekers. The Forum was chaired by Dr. Karen Jones from Melbourne University whose work around philosophy and ethics helped to guide the panel.
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