multicultural Hot Words

Making multicultural Australia

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Hotword: Boat people...


Boat people...


The term “boat people” refers to asylum seekers who arrive in a new country by boat seeking safety and protection.

Arrival of boat people is not new to Australia. For example, about 2,000 Vietnamese boat people arrived in Australia in the late 1970s, followed by Chinese and Cambodian boat people in the late 1980s.

Since 1999, most boat people arriving in Australia originated from the Middle East, often arriving in remote locations without passports or travel documentation. They were transferred to detention centres to await processing by Australian Government officials.

What makes it hot?

“Boat people” is hot when it is used to imply that asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat represent a public challenge to the Australian Government’s capacity to control who enters the country and to protect Australia’s borders. Due to more recent boat people paying people smugglers to bring them to Australia, they have been characterised as wealthy queue jumpers. Since events in the USA on 11 September 2001, boat people have sometimes been portrayed as potential terrorists. As a consequence, public anger has called for boat people to be turned around at sea or promptly returned to where they have come from.

Refugee advocates have called for the human rights of boat people to be respected and for them not be stigmatised as a consequence of their means of arrival in the country. This call has been validated by the granting of protection visas to over 90% of boat people who arrived here since the late 1990s as they have been found to be genuine refugees. Most recent boat people have arrived here from countries which had no official “queue” for application for asylum in Australia.

Date Added:

10 March 2002