Australia's Immigration Minister Talks Tough on Asylum Seekers

October 27, 2013

Demonstrating a toughening of stance by the Australian government, the country’s Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, defended the decision to ask his department to term asylum-seekers as “illegal” and “detainees.”

The move comes four weeks since the new Coalition government launched Operation Sovereign borders to refuse entry for asylum-seekers into Australia territory – either turning boats back or transferring detained asylum-seekers to Manus Island or Nauru.

Recently, 18 Indian nationals were reported to be detained, along with other boat people, and are being deported back to India.

Boat people are illegal

Speaking at the Migration Institute of Australia in Canberra, Mr Morrison said he would not apologies for the his hardline position on terming asylum-seekers as “illegal,” claiming that he had the backing of international law on the issue.

"I am not going to make any apologies for not using politically correct language to describe something that I am trying to stop.”

Clarifying that it was not illegal to seek asylum, he pointed out, that he had a problem with the mode of entry adopted by boat people.

"I've never said it was illegal to claim asylum - that's not what the term refers to, it refers to their mode of entry. So I am going to call a spade a spade," Mr Morrison said.

The Herald Sun report said, Mr Morrison had instructed departmental and detention centre staff to change their terminology for asylum-seekers, referring to them as "illegal" arrivals and "detainees" rather than clients.

The report, meanwhile, quoted opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles saying he was "really concerned" by the language used by the Abbott government to refer to asylum-seekers.

Hard position is back

The Telegraph, meanwhile, reports the modified terminology brings back memories of the tough anti-boat people policies adopted by the earlier government led by Prime Minister John Howard from 1996-2007.

The newspaper quoted the famous 2001 election speech by Mr Howard: "We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come."

Australians prefer hard stance against boat people

Labor government, had earlier softened their position on asylum seekers calling them "irregular maritime arrival" and those held in detention centres as "clients."

Soft policies of the former government towards asylum-seekers, however, did not go down too well among Australian voters. In spite the toughening its stance during the last couple of months, Labor lost the elections, vacating government for the Coalition led by Tony Abbott, which has, since been seeking to stem the flow of asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat.


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