Asylum Seekers: what it costs Australian governments to persecute stateless persons

12 Nov

 Asylum Seeker Three


The foreigner is the political precondition of the nation state… Costas Douzinas.

Australia, while remaining a signatory to the United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees, long since gave up any pretence of observance of international human rights in favour of a nationalistic observance of state sovereign rights. State sovereignty permits governments the right to exclude persons the state deems unworthy of inclusion.

The power of the state to exclude is perhaps the fundamental state power.

Ideological, racial, economic and political factors are the criteria for deciding who is and is not included in the nation-state. As Hannah Arendt noted, statelessness is not a problem of geographical space, but of political space.

The stateless person has as their only descriptor the fact that they are human. Ironically, this strips them of their right to human rights, rights which are only available to them if they are citizens of a state. It is not enough to be human. One must also belong to a state in order to claim human rights. Arendt suggest that the only fundamental human right is the right to have rights. Asylum seekers who have a legitimate right to arrive by boat in Australia are stripped of the right to have rights once their vessel is intercepted by Australian authorities.


Stateless Persons UNHCR

Persons seeking asylum from persecution who attempt to access Australia by boat are singled out for exclusion, and though their method of arrival is perfectly legitimate under the Convention, they are criminalised and detained in off-shore camps. Detention camps on Nauru and Manus Island are all that is offered to de facto stateless persons, that is, refugees unable to claim the human rights afforded by citizenship. Persons detained in these camps are exempted from “normal” laws. The methods of addressing their plight are containment and repatriation, or resettlement in another country, rather than granting asylum and legal integration into the Australian nation.

This action against asylum seekers is justified as being in the “national interest,” an abstract concept in which the mystical “nation”  is prioritised over the interests of singular human beings who are dispossessed non-nationals, and therefore considered rightless.  The state is committed to protecting only legitimate members of the nation, the rights of asylum being in conflict with the rights of the state. There is in Australia no concept of offering sanctuary and refuge to those fleeing persecution who arrive by sea. Their loss of place in the world, their loss of belonging, has the effect of reducing them to physical objects, bereft of human dignity, because without rights one is not a person, one is not an agent in the public realm.

In reaction to this deliberate and systematic dehumanisation, asylum seekers held in detention camps on Manus and Nauru behave as did those held in mainland camps such Woomera and Baxter. They sew up their lips in a symbolic protest against the silencing of their voices. They harm their own bodies. They suffer depression and anxiety, and hopelessness. Their suffer the abjection of those who have ceased to belong to any state.

Asylum Seekers Two SMH photo


Sovereignty, like religion, is a constructed knowledge imbued with faux mysticism. The Abbott government’s “Operation Sovereign Borders” appeals to this pseudo-mysticism, offering citizens the opportunity to come together in unity, led by a concerned, fatherly government to protect our nation against the breaching of its borders by the unwanted, stateless foreigner. As Douzinas points out, there can be no nation state without the foreigner; one must have someone to protect oneself from in order to maintain the perceived power of sovereignty.

The asylum seeker is equally imbued with mysticism, of the most negative kind as the assumption is peddled that merely due to the fact of her search for asylum she is morally corrupt and corrupting. Her crime is breaching sovereign borders. She is used as a scapegoat to unite citizens and strengthen boundaries, ultimately supporting the ideology of sovereignty.

What we are doing in this country is wrong. The idea that we must treat people horrifically in order to discourage others from attempting sea journeys is morally corrupt. Action the state is legitimised to take against one group can be and will be extrapolated to other groups, when the state deems it in the national interest. When the fate of human lives is secondary to the rights of the state, we are all at risk.

Is it really in the interests of the citizens of this country that so many billions of taxpayer dollars are eaten up in the pursuit and detention of a relatively few people who arrive here by boat, in the pursuit of the maintenance of our sovereign borders? No, it isn’t. It is, however, in the political interests of both major parties. The cost to the taxpayer of pursuing these political interests is obscene, and it is rising, as this graph from The Conversation shows:


The Conversation


The major parties continue to persecute stateless persons seeking asylum and refuge, solely because of their method of arrival. Australia moves further and further away from the undertakings we made when we signed and later ratified the Refugee Convention. Human beings suffer appallingly in concentration camps, out of sight and out of mind. The matter of the future of stateless persons is a massive global problem, and one that will continue to increase. Australian governments have long thought it is a problem that they can continue to outsource to countries far less capable than are we of providing the possibility of a decent life to those who by no fault of their own, are dispossessed of the lives they once had. This cannot go on. In all conscience, it cannot go on.

10 Responses to “Asylum Seekers: what it costs Australian governments to persecute stateless persons”

  1. endimmigrationdetention November 12, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

    The government go out of the way to make people fear those refugees. they even go as far as to claim they’re terrorists, rapists, migrant workers, anything one can think about.
    It’ll be much cheaper to just give them an immediate temporary work visa and some money for an apartment and food in the meantime.
    Human rights are not supposed to be limited to those who have the right documents or belong to a state. human rights are supposed to be extended to all who walk on two. if you dont have the right documents, you’re not human.
    people thrown in jail without a trial, or even a reason, children thrown in jail, even toddlers and babies, without a release date, with many of them not allowed to see a lawyer, horrible conditions, often life threatening. there are so many violation of human rights and child abuse. the government just about break any international law. maybe they’re the ones who should be locked up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Elisabeth November 13, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

    You express it so well, Jennifer. If only those who should know better would read this and understand that what we are doing here is just plain ‘wrong’.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Marilyn November 13, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    This all started when Hawke, Thatcher and Ronnie Reaguns (Drug Store truck driving man pronunciation), made a dirty deal in 1989 to make the Khmer Rouge into mere naughty children instead of bloodthirsty murderous arseholes and then couldn’t understand why Cambodians still felt the need to flee for their lives from the naughty boys.

    Some arrived here in 1989 and Hawke invented the queue thing then started the prisons, then Keating and co. did what became Al Kateb. That’s how far back it is since the convention became an obstacle to be over ruled.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. doug quixote November 14, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    The Refugee Convention was designed for the displaced persons of WWII and it needs major revision.

    The sheer size of the problem is daunting; we here in Australia see very little of it, and relatively speaking the hoo-haa over the numbers coming in under the Rudd-Gillard regimes was vastly overblown.

    There are at present 50 million displaced persons:

    “UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told an audience at the UNHCR-NGO consultations in Geneva this week he was ”very concerned” about Australia’s offshore processing centres for asylum seekers, and he said Australia should take ultimate responsibility for the people who arrive on its shores.

    ”Australia is a very strange situation,” Mr Guterres said.

    ”It has the most successful resettlement program I can imagine, and the community integration is excellent.

    ”The problem is when we discuss boats, and there of course we enter into a very, very, very dramatic thing. I think it is a kind of collective sociological and psychological question.”

    A good first step would be to remove the present federal government.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marilyn November 14, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

      It has been revised and adopted by us in 1973 to encompass all people all over the world who need protection from refugees, the two are seen in conjunction with each other.

      And simply removing the current scum will see the rebirth of the last lot of scum who are just as fucking evil.

      If you don’t know the fucking law Doug don’t say a thing.


  5. doug quixote November 17, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    And some people wonder why Marilyn Shepherd is regarded as a loose cannon.


    • Marilyn November 17, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

      You mean Doug you think I am a loose cannon. The refugee convention was revised to include all refugees from any corner of the world or any country without discrimination.

      Look it up.


  6. paul walter November 28, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    It’s a fair- accurate- post and I think DQ and Marilyn are talking at each other, cross purposes (first time for every/anything!).

    Marilyn is saying enough of philosophising, time for urgent action (here/globally).She is expressing the disgust that any NORMAL person should express on discovering another brutal aspect of the underlying system; DQ in turn suggests a change of government, an idea I’d develop to include a total change in human relations globally involving a different outlook as to employ of resources and regard for humanity and the individual, an idea of course that runs counter to the prevailing (1%) ideology)

    DQ sees the thing in a detached sense, points out the global and cultural immanent factors that complicate even minimal attempts at an “appropriate” response to the global CONDITION/CONDITIONALITY and its consequences for so many individuals. He isn’t against helping the less fortunate per se, but discusses the practicalities involved and despairs, as I do, I beleive.

    I think he believes the refugee issue can’t be taken alone without reference to its global context..’taking a few refugees (which is an example of what needs to happen as to outlook and consequent action right across the spectrum of civilisational interaction, involving global poverty, the wasteful travesty that is $ trillions per annum defence spending, the wastage that is consumer capitalism, “capture” of “the system” by elites, in
    general ending of hegemonic wars etc, eg, if we try to do the right thing we will be taken advantage of by others, represents the fuel by which those fearful of change can manipulate or be manipulated against taking unilateral action to bring relief involving the other’s suffering.

    We just didn’t grasp the significance of the docó ” Send Them Back Where They Belong” and I wonder if it didn’t sink in because material comforts have dislocated us from ordinary human experience to the extent that we can no longer grasp what the suffering of the underdog might entail.

    In short, I am refusing the temptation to see MS and DQ’s posts as antagonistic, but as parts of the same equation, both relevant.

    I really hope folk come back to this thread and build on it rather than give way to despair and fatalism on misapprehensions as to what others have been saying.


    • doug quixote November 29, 2014 at 7:22 pm #

      You have tried hard, Paul, to reconcile the rather different points of view, and I appreciate the effort. But I think in the process you create a straw man.

      The real dichotomy is between what I would like to happen and what I think is realistic. Marilyn and I aren’t far apart on the former, but miles apart on the latter.

      I think that her “Do it my way or fuck you all!” attitude is that of a loose cannon, antagonising her potential allies and merely amusing her real enemies, who can dismiss her as as “Just another bleeding heart open borders lefty”.

      I will tilt at windmills, but I will only attack when and where I think the windmill is vulnerable. 🙂


      • paul walter November 30, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

        I am glad somebody wrote back.

        Would it, that I had a magic wand, too.


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