Mandatory detention for asylum seekers in Australia: an evaluation of liberal criticism

Evan Davies

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

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This thesis evaluates the policy of mandatory detention for asylum seekers maintained by successive Australian governments against several core liberal principles. These principles are derived from various accounts of liberal political thought and the major themes and criticisms inherent in the public debate over the policy. The justifications of the policy given by the Australian government and the criticisms enunciated by scholars, refugee advocates and non-government organisations with respect to the policy strongly correspond with the core liberal principles of fairness, protecting the rights of the individual, accountability and proportionality. The claims of the critics converge on a central point of contention: that the mandatory detention of asylum seekers violates core liberal principles. To ascertain the extent to which the claims of the critics can be supported, the thesis selectively draws on liberal political theory to provide a framework for the analysis of the policy against these liberal principles, a basis for inquiry largely neglected by contributors to the literature. This thesis argues that, on balance, the mandatory detention policy employed by successive Australian governments violates core liberal principles. The claims of the critics are weakened, but by no means discredited, by the importance of the government's maintenance of strong border control. In the main, however, criticisms made by opponents of the policy can be supported. This thesis contributes to the substantial body of literature on the mandatory detention policy by shedding light on how liberal principles may be applicable to the mandatory detention policy. Further, it aims to contribute to an enriched understanding of the Australian government's competence to detain asylum seekers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2007


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