This website focuses on five crucial aspects of the Australian Government’s policies around the border. It seeks to generate discussion, compile key information and analysis, and encourage practical efforts that break with the downward spiral of successive government approaches. We do not seek to trade in suffering but to end it by highlighting the violent machinery and machinations of policy.
‘Operation Sovereign Borders’ is the name of the Australian Government’s policy of turning back asylum seekers who attempt to travel to Australia by boat. It is undertaken by a multi-agency force that includes the Royal Australian Navy and Customs and Border Protection. It is a militarised force conducted under extreme secrecy.
Internment Industry Supply-Chains & Infrastructure
Over the last twenty years, successive Australian Governments have supported and expanded the policy of automatically interning those who travel by boat to Australia without papers. Thousands have been indefinitely interned without charge or trial. In more recent years, governments have established offshore internment camps on Nauru and Manus Island. Governments subcontract the establishment and running of these camps to a range of companies in what has become a multi-billion dollar industry.
Alongside the camps, “community detention” has extended surveillance and control of asylum seekers living in the community and their reliance on a growing refugee-NGO-industry. Harsher visa conditions for those not detained, including the removal of work rights and a new Code of Behaviour, simultaneously create and punish a reliance on informal economies for survival. Welfare payments are removed for those who seek access to the courts. Anti-people smuggling measures for the most part serve to criminalise support by families and friends across borders. The objective of such policies is the creation in Australia of a fearful and racially-vilified group of people who will work for as close to nothing as possible.
Global Problem, Global Links, Global Campaign
The issue of asylum seekers is being framed as a threat to Australian national sovereignty. But the challenge to the border posed by refugees is a global phenomenon. The injustices and devastation from which people flee are not created in a vacuum. They are produced as a result of global inequality and wars fought in that context. Australia, North America and the European Union are all invested in the same policies. Yet Australia’s particular settler colonial legacy, invasion paranoia, and the prominence of ‘stopping the boats’ in political point-scoring sets it apart as a laboratory of border policies which have been exported around the world. The UN’s says that Australia is in breach of the Refugee Convention to which it is a signatory. This is one step towards calling for sanctions against Australia. To succeed, the campaign must be global and grass-roots. International allies are called upon to draw attention to the violence the Australian state enacts against refugees daily by engaging creatively in a boycott of Australia abroad.
Antiracism – Alerta, Antifa
The violence that is an integral part of the conduct of Operation Sovereign Borders and the internment camps can only be justified by resorting to and encouraging further racism. Far Right racist groups are supporters and beneficiaries of policies that are (either explicitly or tacitly) predicated on impugning the character of and demonising asylum seekers, refugees and ‘foreigners’ generally. The presence of racist groups within Operation Sovereign Borders raises serious concerns for the safety and well-being of those whom they confront on the high seas beyond public scrutiny.
We take inspiration from the many alliances of autonomous refugees, asylum seekers and anti-racist activists opposing not only the cruel and unusual treatment to which refugees and asylum seekers are subjected but also the idea of the border itself as a central myth in the creation of moral panics and economic vulnerabilities.