Washington International Law Journal


The "Tampa Incident" (alternatively "Tampa Affair") refers to the events surrounding Australia's refusal to accept more than four hundred Afghan and Iraqi asylum seekers who were rescued from a sinking Indonesian ferry by a Norwegian vessel (the M/V Tampa) on August 26, 2001. Ultimately, after an eight-day standoff during which multiple states, the United Nations, and international organizations weighed in, the asylum seekers were transferred to the island nation of Nauru for refugee claim processing. Following the rescue, Australia instituted retroactive legislation to establish mandatory sentencing for people smugglers, restrict the legal rights of refugees, instate new temporary visas for "illegal" migrants (those who arrive without legal visas), and excise external territories from Australia's migration zone. The Tampa Incident has been a catalyst for identifying and evaluating legal obligations of states and principals of states, formulating and assessing comprehensive plans to address the issue of migration and migrant rescue at sea, and clarifying the law to prevent protracted ad hoc decisions. In April 2002, the Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal hosted an international symposium to address some of the issues raised by the Tampa Incident. The Articles composing this issue were first presented in the April 2002 Symposium, the fourth international symposium in a series of international conferences organized by the Journal. These Articles are a product of the exchange of ideas that came out of this Symposium. The Symposium was initiated under the leadership of Kelly Thomas, Editor-in-Chief, 2001-2002 and Carmel Morgan, Associate Editor-in-Chief, 2001-2002. The Symposium would not have been possible without the enthusiastic support of the Journal's membership for the academic years 2001-2002 and 2002-2003. Emily Peyser and Amber Dufseth merit particular mention for their contributions in coordinating many of the logistics. The Journal would also like to acknowledge former Assistant Dean Paula Littlewood, who in addition to providing guidance in her administrative capacity, also added invaluable perspective and institutional memory as the former Editor-in-Chief of the Journal in 1997-1998, when the Journal last produced a symposium.

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