Date of this Version

November 2001

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Hiscock, Mary (2001), Shipwrecks, Asylum Seekers, and the Rule of Law: The Tampa Case. The National Legal Eagle, November 2001, pp. 3-5.

Copyright ©The Law Society of New South Wales , 2002.

Reproduced with permission.



As students of law and as citizens, we must be concerned not only with questions of law, but also with the merits of the government’s policy and actions towards asylum seekers. That is one of the reasons why we have elections. In forming our assessment of the policy, whether or not our government is acting in accordance with the obligations we have taken on internationally must be relevant. We do not want to belong to a country that is seen as an "international delinquent". Nor, it should be suggested, do we want to depart from our tradition of giving people a fair go. We should, as a civilised society and one made up of migrants and the descendants of migrants, be prepared to accept those into our community who can no longer live in their own countries and who seek to give their families a chance of a better and safer life. The measure of their desperation is what they have done to seek asylum only to find, as in this case, that the government was determined to go to extraordinary lengths to prevent them having a chance of proving in our legal system their claim to be accepted as refugees. It is this denial of access to the legal system by government action that is the most extraordinary aspect of this extraordinary case.