Security, people-smuggling, and Australia's new Afghan refugees

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    In contemporary Australia, two new discourses on security are increasingly coming into conflict. In classical conceptions of security, derived from a realist paradigm of international relations, the relevant agent about whose security one should be concerned was the sovereign state, and insecurity sprang from the anarchical order in which sovereign states subsisted. But with the notion of sovereignty proving increasingly problematical, 1 new ways of thinking about security have surfaced. On the one hand, debate has focused on the nature and significance of 'non-traditional security threats', with candidates including intrastate conflict, population shifts, and organised criminal activity (Maley, 1998a). On the other hand, increased attention has been paid to 'human security', restoring individuals to the moral core of debate over the roles and powers of the state. One phenomenon which has brought these two discourses into conflict is that of people-smuggling, which some see as a non-traditional security threat, but which arguably enhances the human security of those in need whom it assists. In today's terms, Oskar Schindler might have been called a people-smuggler. In this article, I shall argue that preoccupation with security 'threats' and with 'control' as a dimension of sovereignty has dominated Australia's response to people-smuggling, and that the consequences have been dire: not only is the human security of vulnerable people neglected, but the unimaginative and unsophisticated policy responses which the people-smuggling panic has generated are unlikely to be effective in preventing populations movements, but risk evoking memories of earlier Australian policies of exclusion in ways which do Australia's foreign relations no good at all
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)351-370
    JournalAustralian Journal of International Affairs
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2001


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