Volume 3, Issue 11, (Originally Published on Monday 20 May 2013)
Last Thursday, the Senate agreed to the third reading of Migration Amendment (Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals and Other Measures) Bill 2012, and Facebook went crazy.
The bill is quite simple: It repeals the pre-existing definition of an ‘offshore entry person’, and inserts the broader label ‘unauthorised maritime person’, which is defined as a person who enters the migration zone, either at an excised offshore place (Christmas Island, Cocos Island, &c.), or ‘at any other place’.
Contrary to practically every bit of reporting about it, the mainland remains included in the definition of the migration zone.
In effect, this is a very limited amendment: it merely allows the government to deny protection visas to those who succeed in getting past border control, just as they can be denied to the vast majority who don’t.
In that sense, it simply streamlines our oceanic immigration policy. The international legal ramifications aren’t new either: we owe protection obligations to all people within our territory and jurisdiction (as defined at international law), and this bill just makes it ever so slightly easier to not meet those obligations.
Once again, the government tried to defend the bill as some morally imperative attempt to save lives lost at sea, as if the poor souls cramming themselves into these boats haven’t already considered that it could be dangerous.
Criticism of that reasoning is perhaps a better use of time.