Boat turn-backs don't save lives

Dear Prime Minister,

Yet another report has found that not only is Australia’s policy of turning back asylum seeker boats internationally unlawful but that it undermines the prospects of addressing the issue of forced displacement.

Even the bare details of what 'turn-back' means are shocking, including asylum seekers being held at sea for more than a month, quartered in windowless lower decks holding 120 people, and the government building fishing vessels and lifeboats with which to forcibly return people.

As Ben Doherty writes in The Guardian:

Countries should not automatically return asylum seekers to countries of origin, or transit countries such as Indonesia where, previously, significant numbers of Australian-bound asylum seeker have boarded boats.

Asylum claims should be assessed and processed on land, not at sea, the paper argues, and countries should create new “alternative pathways” to ensure safe and legal access to Europe and Australia, obviating the need for asylum seekers to rely on smuggling rings and reduce fatalities at sea.