Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2015

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School



Political Science

Program or Major

Political Science

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Lionel Ingram


Since the year 2000, there have been close to two thousand deaths of asylum seekers at sea as a result of foiled attempts to travel to Australia in order to seek protection under the United Nations Convention and Protocol on the Status of Refugees.[1] Many thousands more have made it to shore. Growing numbers of irregular or unauthorized migrants attempting to reach the United States and the European Union has long been known as a contentious policy issue in these states, but perhaps less known is the situation on the other side of the Pacific. Australia is the eight-largest recipient of asylum seekers in the industrialized world, receiving around 4% of the global applications for asylum, a relatively minimal amount considering that the state has the capacity to take on a much greater burden of the international refugee crisis.[2] In addition, the policies that are currently in place are primarily seeking to deter the arrival of ‘boat people’ and associated people smuggling activity, rather than to constructively manage the flow while upholding the individual rights of those seeking refuge under international law. This paper deconstructs the restrictive policies of the Australian government and proposes a more sustainable solution, drawing widely from research literature, government publications and media reports that use both primary and secondary sources to build a strong case for an alternative program. The policy that I found best balances the costs and benefits for both the asylum seekers in question as well as the Australian government is a combination of short-term onshore detention and community-based processing and integration. There is a robust debate in Australia over refugees and asylum policy, but in order for such a bill to be feasible in the Australian context, a major transformation of the public’s attitude is essential.

[1] The study sponsored by Monash University has compiled a database of border deaths, and has found that 1911 deaths have occurred at sea since 2000, how the true numbers are not known as there is no official government database that has been published. See: Macleod, Kenneth. "Deadly Voyages: Border Related Deaths Associated with Australia." SBS News. April 23, 2015, and "Australian Border Deaths Database." Monash University: The Border Crossing Observatory. October, 2014 and Bullock, Chris. "Asylum Seekers: Drowning on Our Watch." ABC Radio National. September 1, 2013.
[2] "Australia Asylum: Why Is It Controversial? - BBC News." BBC News. December 5, 2014.