Hypocrisy in global refugee politics

‘I’m illegal. So what?’

Peter Mares


Frontier Justice: The Global Refugee Crisis and What to Do About It
by Andy Lamey
University of Queensland Press, $34.95 pb, 416 pp, 9780702239311


Contesting Citizenship: Irregular Migrants and New Frontiers of the Political
by Anne McNevin
Columbia University Press (Footprint Books), $68 hb, 240 pp, 9780231151283


Australian advocates of a harsh line against asylum seekers arriving by boat often base their arguments on a concern for the protection of human life. Unless we deter boat people, so the reasoning goes, ever greater numbers will set out on the dangerous voyage from Indonesia, and more and more lives will be lost at sea. This may sound like a novel position, but, as Andy Lamey makes clear in Frontier Justice: The Global Refugee Crisis and What to Do about It, the argument is well worn. In the early 1990s, Presidents Bush Sr and Clinton used similar justifications to defend a policy of intercepting boats from Haiti and returning them directly to Port au Prince, without making any assessment as to whether those on board might have claims to protection from Haiti’s dictatorial régime.

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Published in April 2012 no. 340
Peter Mares

Peter Mares

Peter Mares is contributing editor with the online journal Inside Story, adjunct fellow at the Institute for Social Research at Swinburne University, and a moderator with the Cranlana Programme. Peter worked for twenty-five years as a broadcaster with the ABC and throughout his career he has combined journalism with public policy research, particularly on topics related to migration. He was the author of the first comprehensive analysis of Australia’s approach to refugees and asylum seekers: the award-winning book Borderline (UNSW Press, 2001 and 2002).

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