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Asylum seeker policy in Australia: Sending refugees back to persecution

Murphy, Claire (2014) Asylum seeker policy in Australia: Sending refugees back to persecution. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Australia has shifted the way it conceives its international obligations under the Refugee Convention, calling into question its continuing viability as a protection instrument. The Refugee Convention was a progressive step towards the international recognition of human rights and justice. It invokes the key obligation of non-refoulement, which prohibits State Parties from returning a vulnerable person to a place where their life or security is threatened. The Refugee Convention must contend with state sovereignty, which is the integral right of states to control the entry and residence of those within their territories. In the last few decades, the Refugee Convention has been confronted by a number of major challenges. In the current climate, the principle of state sovereignty is in competition with the humanitarian goal of protecting refugees. When faced with asylum seekers at their borders, many States have adopted restrictive practices in order to evade their protection obligations. This indicates a clear preference for sovereignty at the expense of human rights. While historically committed to the Refugee Convention, the governments of Australia have since implemented a range of measures to deter refugees from seeking asylum. Of these, the most contentious include prolonged mandatory detention and offshore processing. These policies are a blatant violation of Australia’s obligations under the Refugee Convention, especially with respect to non-refoulement. It is clear that the Refugee Convention is not being honoured in the way that it once was. It will be argued that despite contemporary issues, the Refugee Convention’s key principle of non-refoulement is the most significant obligation for protecting refugees and remains highly significant.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Law
Supervisor(s): Goodie, Jo
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