Jul 9, 2014

Crikey Clarifier: what authority does Australia have over the Sri Lankan boat?

More than 150 people remain on an Australian Customs boat after a last-minute injunction stopped them from being returned to Sri Lanka. Crikey intern Paul Millar explains where Australia's sovereignty begins and ends.

Crikey Intern — The next generation of <em>Crikey</em> journalists.

Crikey Intern

The next generation of Crikey journalists.

Last month the Australian government intercepted two boatloads of Sri Lankan asylum seekers supposedly bound for Australia. While those on one boat were sent back to Sri Lanka after “enhanced processing”, the fate of the second is in limbo on the high seas.

The High Court heard yesterday that the 153 Tamil asylum seekers now being held on board an Australian Customs vessel were seized before they could enter Australian waters. While we wait for the hearing to continue, Crikey takes a look at the limits of the long arm of Australia’s laws.

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11 thoughts on “Crikey Clarifier: what authority does Australia have over the Sri Lankan boat?

  1. paddy

    Good work there intern.

    Since Bernard K will be in hiding after today’s football effort, you might just get a full time gig.

  2. AR

    I agree with Paddy, very good precis, clear & intelligible.
    ABC reported that Gleeson argued that the Court had no jurisdiction as the “on water matter” (mere jetsam &, soon-to-be, flotsam?)was beyond any definition of Australian control/responsibility.
    So, the actions(in our name) must be under some other jurisprudence, ie International Maritime Law which applies on the High Seas in which case it is both piracy & probably slave-taking.
    Surely the first cargo transfer to the Sri Lankan navy was people smuggling, at the very least?

  3. puddleduck

    Thanks, this is concise and useful.

    What have we become as a nation? Three cheers to the refugee advocates and lawyers who are taking the government on. The last bastion.

  4. Yclept

    Given the current Murdoch Government’s record with the truth, how do we know where they really were at all? How do me know the navy wasn’t acting as pirates and kidnapping them?

  5. Matt Steadman

    A nice little précis. For me the big question is what authority does Australia have once the passengers leave the contiguous zone? Do the passengers have any rights under Australian or International law to determine where they are allowed to be moved? And if they are moved against their will on the high seas, is that in contravention of any international law?

  6. Ken Lambert

    Which country is this latest boatload escaping from???

    I thought it was India!!!!

    What threat does the Indian Govt pose to Sri Lankans on Indian territory??? None – only a less attractive life than Australia.

    These boatloads are seeking a better life like millions of other third world people….they are economic refugees using people smugglers to bypass our existing refugee system.

    Most of the first boatload were not even Tamils but the Singalese who are supposed to be threatening the Tamils.

    This is a bizarre story….We have boatload from India run by smugglers with satellite phones dialing Australian lawyers from the middle of the Indian Ocean to gain High Court injunctions in Australia on their behalf !! What other contacts do they have in Australia and how do they get paid?

    I would have thought these so called humanitarian lawyers as evidenced their actions to aid and abet people smugglers to risk life and profit by their trade, could and should be charged with a criminal conspiracy.

  7. oldskool

    Ken- India are not signatories to the refugee convention, so in India they have no rights, I personally would find that a little threatening- but, hey it’s not you so you don’t care- right?

  8. klewso

    “Kidnapping on the high seas”….?

  9. The Pav

    So we can intercept the boats because they are under Australian law but not apply the Migration Act because they are not under Australian law

    Who said Catch 22 was dead?

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