What a mess asylum seeker policy appears to be. I say, appears, because there has been so little clear articulation of what it is in the context of other options that existed. To proponents, it is all about looking "tough". To opponents, it is all about a disproportionate response with high costs in terms of moral authority. It is just hard to know what to make of it all.
What I want to do here, and I am not sure how far I’ll get in a single post, is to try and understand the policy trade-offs and also the constraints on policy choices. But I will start by being up-front about my position on immigration. Immigration is undoubtedly a good thing -- for society and the economy. I think of the freedom of the movement of people to be as desirable, if not more so, than the free movement of goods and capital. It is the ultimate in respecting that people have different views and aspirations and that their lives may be more suited to one region or culture than another. My only caveat comes from the notion that short-term crises can cause mass migrations and that it may be better for everyone concerned to manage those incidents in a coordinated fashion (although I note that the case of Israel and migration after the fall of the Soviet Union demonstrates how it can be done).