Editorial: Asylum Seekers (December 2012-January 2013)

By Right Now

Given the prominence of the issue of asylum seekers over the past 18 months in particular, we regularly broke from our dedicated monthly themes to bring you the major developments in asylum seeker policy and debate (collected here). Now, we’ve dedicated a full two months of content to it over December 2012 and January 2013.

Articles and Interviews

Firstly, in “The Hazaras” Julian Burnside AO QC describes the desperate situation of one of the main groups that seek asylum in Australia, putting into perspective attempts to disincentivise boat arrivals – “to make coming to Australia look more alarming than staying home and facing the Taliban”. He also sets out what his re-design of the system would look like.

Right Now’s Roselina Press spoke to Amnesty International researcher Alex Pagliaro about his trip to Nauru in November 2012, following the reopening of offshore processing there, while Alex also spoke to Right Now Radio (Podcast here). Benjamin Pynt of Humanitarian Research Partners explains the unsuitability of housing asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island, highlighting breaches of their rights to physical and mental health.

In a personal account, Dana Affleck reflects on conversations with a friend and asylum seeker, condemned to the limbo of a negative ASIO assessment, in “My Mate Hassan”.

In “‘No Advantage’ brings no hope”, Tania Penovic critiques the “No Advantage” policy (for asylum seekers arriving by boat) and argues that the needs of refugees and the Australian community should not be seen as at odds. Jane Hodge and Jana Favero of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre explain the impact of the policy on their Employment and Training program, explaining grave concerns about the lack of work rights. Along the same lines, Shae Courtney notes the negative news media overlooks asylum seekers’ contributions, and the Refugee Council of Australia’s Andrew Williams responds with further observations.

Sam Ryan reviews Susan Harris Rimmer’s talk explaining displacement and calling for better informed public discourse; and in a piece that takes in the history and language of the asylum seeker policy debate, Melissa Reid’s “Closed Borders Spur Closed Minds” argues that it has for too long been “framed in a context which contravenes reality, international law, and humanity”. Looking at the psychology behind that context, Elizabeth Greenhalgh explains the process of “infrahumanisation” whereby asylum seekers are “perceived as less human, and therefore less deserving of humane treatment.”

Sonia Nair reviews filmmaker-turned-author Robin de Crespigny’s non-fiction saga of Ali Al Jenabi, The People Smuggler. And in “People Smuggling: Demand and Supply” Dana Affleck suggests that the only way to stop people smuggling is to address the root cause of the demand for it – to “hijack it” by resettling more asylum seekers from Indonesia.

Creative Pieces

Finally, on a topic that often inspires debate of the lowest standards, it’s refreshing to look to creative pieces for the attempt to communicate the lived experience and nuance often missed or obscured when talking about “asylum seekers”. Here are our December 2012 and January 2013 creative submissions on the theme of asylum seekers.

Creative Non-Fiction

Handmade” by Meleesha Bardolia

Short Stories

In your dreams” by Penny Gibson
The boat” by Samantha Sirimanne


Sonnet for the Refugees” by Ben Hession
My Sister’s Leg” by Greg Pritchard
Sky Trail” by Les Wicks
It’s what she leaves behind” and “In the moment he decides to go” by Sandra Renew
The cost of fear” by Susan Adams
The camp” and “Escape” by William Pitt

John Alizzi – Managing Editor

For a list of all recent monthly issues see here.