Do the means justify the ends?

Operation Sovereign Borders, offshore detention and the ‘drownings argument’

An article by Sarah Joseph, Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

Orange Life Boat


“Do the means justify the ends, regardless of motivation, if the ends correlate with many fewer deaths by drowning?”

“More than 90% of the asylum seekers who have arrived by boat in Australia have been recognised as refugees. At the risk of sounding trite, it is really dangerous being a refugee. Drowning by boat is drowning while fleeing. But it is very dangerous to flee via land. And it is very dangerous to not flee.”

“… refugee camps don’t operate like queues – it isn’t first-come first-served. If it was, apparently it would take a refugee arriving in the “queue” now 170 years to reach the front. “

The burden of proof is on the government to demonstrate that its policy settings are correct. And I don’t think it can, given the numerous grave flaws in that policy.

• The expenditure of billions of dollars on the offshore warehousing of asylum seekers is not the answer, when humane policies are so much cheaper.

• High seas refoulement and disappearance is not the answer.

• The silencing of reports of sexual and other abuse in offshore detention is not the answer.

• The iron law of on-water confidentiality, restricting the info that the Australian people receive on the treatment of human beings under its own government’s policies, is not the answer.

• Australia’s mute response to breakdowns in the rule of law on Nauru and PNG are not the answer.

• The shredding of Australia’s international reputation is not the answer.

• The creation of what former Australian of the Year Pat McGorry has called “factories for producing mental illness” is not the answer.

• And finally, the use of people as means to ends, people who have plainly not drowned and are in no danger of drowning – the infliction of deliberate cruelty on such people so as to deter others from coming – is most certainly not the answer.

Read the full article here