Washington International Law Journal


Emily C. Peyser


On August 26, 2001, Australia attracted worldwide media attention by refusing entry to over 430 Afghan and Iraqi asylum seekers who were rescued at sea by a Norwegian freighter. Australia's Parliament subsequently passed legislation to heighten already strict migration laws pertaining to boat migrants. Even though Australia is party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, recent developments in national asylum policies retreat from the legal obligations, as well as the spirit, of these international treaties. Australia, however, is not the only country acting to deter boat migrants; the United States, for example, has also employed a high seas interdiction program to repel unwanted boat migrants since the 1980s. To understand why Australia has made substantial changes to its migration laws, this Comment explores the shift in migration patterns in recent years that have induced States Parties to the Refugee Convention to tighten refugee provisions. This Comment further proposes that Australia's response-which includes disproportionate penalties for those who arrive by boat, and coercion of developing countries, such as Nauru and Papua New Guinea, to act as asylum processing sites-is not a sustainable or economically feasible legal policy. Australia's response serves as a catalyst for evaluating the challenges contemporary policy-makers face in reconciling the ideals of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol with current migration issues. [The article is preceeded by a preview of the Journal's 2003 Special Symposium Edition on "Australia's Tampa Incident: The Convergence of International and Domestic Refugee and Maritime Law in the Pacific Rim."

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