Scrutinizing Justice Issues in Australia’s Policy of Detaining Asylum Seekers: Public Opinion and Ethical Analysis

Aravind, Mithun
Mpofu, Charles
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Master of Public Health
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Auckland University of Technology

As the number of refugees displaced from their home countries has grown in recent years, the debate has grown over what policies liberal countries should pursue to address this crisis. This dissertation conducts a qualitative thematic analysis of the media articles regarding the Australian government's much-debated refugee detention policy. The media articles concerning refugees were analyzed from the period 2015 to 2021. Public opinion was examined to assess the extent to which the theories of global justice reflect the positions taken by the authorities. In order to address the research questions, the viewpoints and policies adopted by the successive Australian governments were examined along with the public opinion. The term ‘public’ in the context of this study includes the general public, politicians, and government officials. Furthermore, the study examines specific incidents in recent history regarding refugees that started key debates in Australia. The first incident was the Rohingya refugee crisis in 2015, followed by the Medevac law repeal issue in 2019. The matter of deportation of ‘Biolela’ family is the last incident that is happening currently in Australia. Along with that, public opinion on refugees in Australia throughout the period under consideration was also explored. Additionally, to answer the research questions, the views of major global justice theorists are carefully examined. The communitarian theory, along with John Rawls’ theory of justice, is discussed as both theories have emphasized the rights of refugees. In addition, the viewpoints of libertarian, cosmopolitan, and liberal philosophies are also examined. The study then attempts to explore the philosophical justification for the detention policy by Australia through constructing themes from the opinions expressed in media and interpreting them. An ethical analysis part then discusses the possible alternatives for the current detention policy. The study concludes that the Australian government’s refugee detention policy does not reflect the arguments and ideologies of major philosophical schools of thought mentioned above. Even though there are exceptions, the majority of the political opinions reflected a negative attitude towards refugee resettlement. Contrastingly, the public discourse reflected a welcoming attitude towards accepting refugees and including them in the community.

Refugee , Asylum seeker , Global justice , Media analysis , Australian detention policy , Ethical analysis
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