Fear and Loathing Down Under: Australian Refugee Policy and the National Imagination

Richard Wazana

Abstract


This paper looks at Australia’s refugee policy in light of incidents that took place in the summer of 2001, with the refugees aboard the Tampa. Analyzing the discourse that resulted from these incidents, I show how Australia believes it is a nation under threat that prides itself as generously welcoming as many refugees as it can and who, of late, is only trying to protect its borders from so-called refugees who really are “queue jumpers.” I contrast this view with what emerges from the facts: that Australia’s racialized past makes it very easy for it to believe that it is under siege from refugees, and that it has done all that is legally possible to disinvest itself from its international obligations. This has meant turning boats away at sea, excising certain territories from its jurisdiction, and interning the refugees who arrive in Australia. Through this analysis, I argue that the current policy is a re-emergence of the earlier White Australia policy.

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