The Australian government’s policy of towing boats back to Indonesia could be a breach of Australia’s commitment to international law. Babar Baloch, the Press Representative for the United National Refugee Agency (UNHRC), recently stated that his organization is seeking to procure an official report from the Australian government over a multitude of asylum-seeking boats that were returned to the waters surrounding Indonesia. The Australian’s act of “towing” the boats, or “pushing” back asylum-seeking boats has been deemed very concerning by the UNHRC. This is seen as a breach of duty by Australia under the refugee convention and international law. Through various acts of diplomacy, the modern international community recognizes that when people are in need of international protection and seek the safety of another country, these people must be allowed to go through a procedure to determine if help is actually needed. Australia’s act of “towing” the boats back towards Indonesian territory without the proper discovery procedure dictated by international law is a questionable practice and fails to abide by this custom.
Currently, members of the Australian Government, including the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, refuse to comment on the reports that Australian Navy personnel and customs officials towed as many as five boats in the last few weeks. Australia has a history of questionable tactics protecting their boarders and shores. The relationship between Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, and Australia, has been colorful in the past. Morrison did state that boarder protection is an “issue of national sovereignty.” He further stressed Australia’s position by saying the “government is taking the steps necessary to protect our borders consistent with our domestic laws and international obligations.” However there might be ramifications for Australia due to these tactics in either the courts or international acts of diplomacy.
Do you think that Australia’s practices abide by international law? What ramifications should be sought for these actions? Will they be efficacious?