Open the borders! Justice for refugees!

c. 2005

Donated by John Ellis

Museum of Australian Democracy collection

On 26 August 2001 Norwegian freighter MV Tampa answered a distress call by Australian authorities and went to the aid of an Indonesian fishing vessel carrying 438 asylum seekers in international waters en route to Australia. The Tampa rescued and transported the asylum seekers to the nearest Australian port, located on Christmas Island. However, the Australian government refused permission for the Tampa to disembark the asylum seekers at Christmas Island, sparking a political incident involving Australia, Indonesia and Norway and attracting worldwide attention. Eventually the asylum seekers were transported to the small island nation of Nauru, where they were held in detention centres pending assessment of their refugee claims.

Subsequently the government’s policies were given legislative effect with the rapid passing of legislation including the Border Protection Act 2001, which excised Christmas Island and a number of other islands from Australia’s migration zone. This meant that asylum seekers who did not reach the Australian mainland would not be able to apply for refugee status.

The donor of this badge, John Ellis, writes:

I wore this badge to events, especially those held to support refugees. It is not illegal to seek asylum and I believe that both major parties have, of recent times, turned the refugee issue into an emotive political one whereas it should be based on humanitarian considerations. Instead of showing leadership they have pandered to fears among certain sections of the electorate.