School Of Social Science, University Of Queensland, Ferny Hills, Australia
In examining Australian policy towards boat-arriving refugees, state power reverberates through all dealings with them. Since 2011, over 36,000 boat-arriving asylum-seeking people have come to Australia, arriving by means of a people-smuggling boat. Nine per cent are detained in the offshore detention centres of Manus, Nauru and Christmas Islands, and the many onshore facilities within mainland Australia. The majority of boat-arriving asylum-seekers however, live in Australian communities, their confined living conditions and ongoing temporary status largely invisible. They are all on temporary visas. With increasing politicisation of refugee issues in Australian politics, international human rights and natural justice were excluded
from law in 2014 for asylum-seekers arriving by boat in Australia. This has meant no legal assistance for the refugee recognition process, as is mandated by the UN Refugee Convention. This unprecedented situation has seen Australian community legal centres scramble to provide pro bono assistance in a much-reduced refugee recognition process called “fast-track” processing. This new “fast-track” processing also has limited avenues of appeal. Community hubs, linking in with legal centres and other non-government providers, assist with the unprecedented numbers of people needing legal and other forms of assistance. However, in the attempt to create welcome, such hubs ironically confine asylum-seeking people in a violent and restricted form of refugee recognition mandated by “fast-track” processing.
Based on current participant-observation research at an asylum-seeker form-filling clinic in Brisbane, this paper chronicles the inherent tension of help and welcome, with confinement, as volunteers attempt to circumnavigate the parameters of restrictive refugee recognition.