The Asylum Debate Put Simply

This article was originally published at Right Now: Human Rights in Australia

Refugees-cover

Book review by Maya Borom

Refugees: Why Seeking Asylum is Legal and Australia’s Policies Are Not | NewSouth Publishing

'Refugees' book coverThe aim of Jane McAdam and Fiona Chong’s book Refugees: Why Seeking Asylum is Legal and Australia’s Policies Are Not is to educate the general public on the often complex and highly emotional issue of asylum seekers and how Australian law and policy is often at odds with it’s international legal obligations.

McAdam and Chong state from the beginning that the book is intended to appeal to a general audience. It’s not overtly academic in nature nor is it too simplistic in it’s approach to such a controversial issue in Australia. It also draws on examples from real refugees to illustrate the decisive and devastating impact of current Australian law and policy on those who are most vulnerable and who should, under international law, be protected.

Refugees sets out to introduce the reader first to the international definition of refugee, and by extension discussing the rights that are inherent with such recognition. It then moves into a discussion of temporary protection visas and whether these are consistent with Australia’s international legal obligations to provide permanent protection to refugees. McAdam and Chong take the reader on a logical journey of discovery, from identifying refugees to offshore detention and to “turning back the boats” – topics that pervade much of mainstream media and which has disturbingly, in Australia, resulted in the major political parties fighting to create the most inhuman asylum policies and laws imaginable.

The book also seeks to dispel common myths around seeking asylum that has gained media traction and is promoted heavily by the successive Australian governments, such as the idea of the “economic migrant” and Australia being “flooded” by asylum seekers. McAdam and Chong are careful to provide evidence against these claims so that the reader is able to independently verify their veracity.

Refugees frames Australia’s approach to asylum seekers in a way that is easy to read and approachable – this is essential given the controversial nature of the topic and hopefully lends itself to being read by not only those interested in human rights and Australia but also those wanting to know a little bit more about Australian refugee law and policy and international law but was always afraid to ask.

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