Australian Refugee Policy for Dummies #2: Excise the Australian mainland from the migration zone

Cyclone Ului over the Australian Coastline

Cyclone Ului over the Australian Coastline

This is the second in a series of blogs that seek to explain Australian refugee policy and to offer critique from culture and scripture. These blogs are prompted by the Rudd Government’s recent decision to remove all asylum seekers arriving on Australian shores by boat, to Papua New Guinea, and also to deny all of these people any chance of being settled in Australia. I hope they are helpful.

This latest policy builds upon prior legislation, in particular a law passed in May 2013, to excise the entire Australian mainland from the migration zone. This step allows the Australian Government to circumvent their legal obligation to offer refuge to refugees seeking asylum within the country. The Refugee Convention, which Australia is a signatory to, requires signatory nations to offer refuge to those seeking asylum from persecution, within their borders, who satisfy certain criteria as a ‘refugee’. This legislation sidesteps that requirement by stipulating that, even though Australia is a signatory state, the Australian mainland doesn’t count—it is as if the refugees never arrived!

The step to excise the Australian mainland from the migration zone denies refugees their internationally recognised legal rights to seek asylum. Australia is the first signatory to the Refugee Convention to take such a step and if other countries followed there would be little protection left for vulnerable people fleeing persecution.

Old Testament law is relentlessly concerned with the protection of vulnerable people. In the biblical book of Deuteronomy this includes insistence upon just legal processes. Legal conniving leaves vulnerable people helpless and is expressly forbidden in Deuteronomy.

Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you (Deuteronomy 16:20).

‘Justice’, for Deuteronomy, must be defined carefully: justice does not only refer to ‘strict legal justice’, but also to the protection of the most vulnerable.[i] The preceding verse acknowledges the ever-present tendency of those in power to act for their own self-interest:

You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe… (Deuteronomy 16:19)

For Deuteronomy, laws and legal systems are for the protection of the most vulnerable and legal machinations that promote the interests of the wealthy at the expense of vulnerable people are an abomination to God. Thus this legislation that sidesteps its agreed responsibility toward asylum seekers represents legal conniving that is reprehensible in light of Deuteronomy’s ethics.

[If you found this blog helpful, would you please share it? And if you would like to follow these blogs, please press ‘follow’ at the top of the screen.]

Blogs and articles in this series (Australian asylum seeker policy, Aug-Sept, 2013):

Laws of Inclusion and Strategies of Exclusion: New Australian Asylum Seeker Policy Under the Scrutiny of Deuteronomy, published with CASE magazine.

Loving the Stranger, published with the Centre for Public Christianity.

The PNG solution and Biblical Ethics, published with Eternity Newspaper.

Australian Refugee Policy for Dummies#1: Disingenuous Rhetoric

Australian Refugee Policy for Dummies #2: Excise the Australian mainland from the migration zone

Australian Refugee Policy for Dummies #3: PNG is violent and dangerous—Rudd’s policy is harsh and selfish.

Australian Refugee Policy for Dummies #4: Australia is not pulling its weight in refugee settlement.

Australian Refugee Policy for Dummies #5: A positive policy solution

[i] See Deuteronomy 10:17-18; 24:17-18.


About Mark Glanville

Mark Glanville is a pastor-scholar who ministers in a missional urban community, Grandview Church, Vancouver. Mark is Professor of Old Testament and congregational studies at the Missional Training Center, Phoenix (, and he teaches at Regent College, Vancouver. Mark's research focusses upon the Pentateuch, biblical ethics, and mission. Mark has authored "Adopting the Stranger as Kindred" (SBL, 2018), "Reading Exodus: Society Reshaped by Kinship" (Lexham, forthcoming), numerous refereed articles (including in the Journal of Biblical Literature (2018), Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (2019), and Refuge Journal (2013)) and chapters on the Pentateuch, mission, and refugee related issues, as well as numerous popular articles. Mark is presently co-authoring a book, "Providing Refuge: A Missional and Political Theology." Mark is called upon to speak on in Canada, the U.S., and Australia. His previous career was as a jazz pianist in Sydney, Australia (Chick Corea and Wynton Kelly are his musical heroes).
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10 Responses to Australian Refugee Policy for Dummies #2: Excise the Australian mainland from the migration zone

  1. gingoro says:

    Yes but what does OT law state about refugees that intend to destroy the society in host and welcoming countries?

    • Hi Dave W, thanks for your comment. And thanks for your sharp reply Andrew P. Andrew W, did you know that refugees are significantly less likely to commit a criminal act than citizens? In this light, if security is your litmus text for citizenship, we are better to extradite you and I to PNG, and to replace us with refugees. Statistically, Australia would be a safer place. Should we do this mate, since safety is our main concern? What do you think? Indeed if safety is our main concern we are better to replace all citizens with refugees, extraditing us all to PNG. Apparently this will lower crime. Of course, I am parodying your argument. The bottom line Andrew is, will you submit to scripture on this issue and advocate for a welcome for vulnerable people seeking a home? I challenge you gently but seriously in Christ, Andrew. This is a spiritual issue – an issue of the Kingdom of God and the honour of Christ. Will you do this?

  2. AndrewP says:

    DaveW, what evidence do you have for such an assertion?

  3. Pingback: Australian Refugee Policy for Dummies #3: PNG is violent and dangerous—Rudd’s policy is harsh and selfish. | …for he has made you beautiful

  4. Pingback: Australian Refugee Policy for Dummies #1: Disingenuous Rhetoric | …for he has made you beautiful

  5. guereza2wdw says:

    Mark I am not arguing that Australia’s policy of exporting refugees to PNG is right or just. I do believe that we in the west should accept some number of refugees each year. I want to widen the discussion to include not only refugees but also immigrants of all kinds and even temporary residents or visitors.

    The impression I get from your post is that countries should be wide open to accept any and all refugees. I am not claiming that all of those requesting entrance or even most want to subvert the society into which they migrate but that some do. Just consider 9/11 or the recent arrest of a pair of Canadian residents on terrorism charges. I think that countries have the right to refuse such entrants iff it appears highly probable that the entrant has such a purpose. Alternatively they have the right to deport those found engaging in undesirable activities. Having lived in Ethiopia, the United States and Finland as a temporary resident I would assert that as a foreigner one is extremely careful to obey the local laws as one is not really familiar with what is expected and tolerated. Of course speaking of the average behaviour or the behaviour of the majority of entrants says nothing about the extremes. My mother was of Irish extraction and her family came to Canada as refugees from the potato famine in the 1800s. But if that situation were to reoccur today I think that Canada would have the right to bar those who are either committed to continue the struggle against Catholics/Protestants (as the case may be) in Canada or those dedicated to raising support for one side or the other in the troubles back in the old country. The issue of course is how does one distinguish the truly undesirables especially when to many existing Canadians many of us dirty Irish white apes are all undesirable. My Irish forebears bought land from the Canada corporation and settled as farmers to a large extent. Today most immigrants of all kinds settle into towns and cities by necessity as there is little useful land that is available as it once was.

    One of the attractions of countries such as Canada or Australia is the kind of society that we have especially the freedoms we enjoy. If we accept entrants at too great a rate then society is not able to absorb that number of new residents. It takes many years to assimilate those especially for cultures that are very different than ours. I would claim that countries have a right to limit the numbers of applicants so as to preserve a stable society. If you google “Why Anonymous hacked the tiny, impoverished island nation of Nauru” you will see a graph showing the recent sharp increase in the number of refugees to Australia. Whether or not this particular amount is unreasonable or not is not my point which is that countries can not accept unlimited numbers of refugees or they risk destroying the conditions that make the country desirable in the first place. Having lived in Toronto I would assert that that city is close to hosting the maximum number of people from other countries that it’s society can manage.

  6. Pingback: Australian Refugee Policy for Dummies #4: Australia is not pulling its weight in refugee settlement. | …for he has made you beautiful

  7. Pingback: Australian Refugee Policy for Dummies #5: A positive policy solution | …for he has made you beautiful

  8. Pingback: The PNG Solution and Biblical Ethics – an new article with Eternity Newspaper | …for he has made you beautiful

  9. Pingback: New article with CASE magazine: Laws of Inclusion and Strategies of Exclusion | …for he has made you beautiful

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