When people arrive with nothing but the sweat on their backs and a crying need for safe refuge we’re terrified. This fear has deranged us. It overturns all our moral standards, our pity, our tradition of decency . . . We weren’t always this scared. We used to be better than this.
Tim Winton, from the Foreword
Across the world, desperate people flee war, harsh regimes and persecution. They travel on foot, some are herded into camps, and some take to boats — tiny, rickety islands of need. The failure to deal with the millions of displaced people is a global disaster.
The Australian government’s policy to ‘turn back the boats’ and condemn asylum seekers to indefinite detention is an open and weeping sore. Government standing is undermined. Australia is condemned internationally. Over and over, Tony Abbott proclaims that the only measure of accountability is that the boats have been stopped, even when the price is physical and sexual abuse, profound psychological damage and death in detention centres. And on the sea, return to the dangers that so many have risked everything to escape. How do we stand by and allow this to happen? Why aren’t we all marching in the streets? How has the government so skewed the argument that the most needy, courageous and desperate people have become demonised?
In this collection of essays lawyers Frank Brennan and Julian Burnside are joined by eminent thinkers, teachers and activists. They clarify the issues, explain the truth of the law, clear away the spin. Their words empower us with knowledge.