Australia’s refugee policy: not a model for the world Academic Article uri icon


  • The image of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body, washed up on a Turkish beach is only the most visible face among the large number of tragic deaths resulting from the perilous journey of the world’s desperate to reach safety. Over the years, the arrival of asylum-seekers to Australia has been an issue of significant political contestation. In October 2015 former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott urged European leaders to follow Australia’s example and prevent the recent wave of Syrian refugees from crossing borders. Contrary to Abbott’s appeal, the ‘Australian Solution’ is a model neither Europe nor anyone else should follow. Australia’s refugee policies emerged not in response to the number of asylum-seeker arrivals, but rather as a political appeal to fear and segregation in order to scapegoat the Other. We outline Australia’s refugee policies over the previous two decades (1992–2015), discuss some of their negative consequences and the implications of the Australian model being adopted internationally. Finally, we propose alternative ways forward for both Australia and Europe.

publication date

  • 2018