Terrorism in Australia: A Legitimate Threat?

Following the New York City terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the subject of national security and counter-terrorism has become increasingly prevalent in western society. In Australia this prevalence has seen significant changes made to the way foreign policy is considered and written, beginning with the first Terrorism White Paper of 2004 (Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade 2004a) . Over the years that have followed new government entities and international agencies have emerged to combat the threat of terrorism and subsequent strategic documents have been developed, most notably in this instance the Counter-Terrorism White Paper of 2010 (Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet 2010).

The aim of this essay is to explore and discuss how the threat of terrorism has been portrayed in this Counter-Terrorism White Paper with specific regard to commentary by Chris Michaelsen (2010) who has suggested that in this document the terror threat has been inflated. This will be effectively achieved by; analysing the 2010 Counter-Terrorism White Paper and the effect it has had on Australian foreign policy, exploring the commentary of Michaelsen and the suggestion of a potentially inflated terrorist threat being published and concluding with a brief discussion of the consequences of the securitisation of terrorism with a specific focus on both of these articles. As the Counter-Terrorism White Paper 2010 forms the foundation of this essays analysis from here on terrorism shall be defined as it appears in this document, specifically as; “the use of violence by groups or individuals pursuing political objectives, indiscriminate in attacks and often deliberately targeting civilians and non-combatants seeking to inflict mass casualties” (Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet 2010, p. 3). Further to the 2010 Counter-Terrorism White Paper and Michaelsen’s commentary this essay will be supported by key readings from Stevens, Agho, Taylor, Jones, Jacobs, Barr & Raphael (2011), Wolfendale (2007) and Koo (2005) as well as secondary sources which will be cited appropriately throughout.

The Counter-Terrorism White Paper (Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet 2010), commissioned by the Rudd Labour government, was designed to build a framework by which the Australian government could increase its preparedness for dealing with and preventing any form of terrorist attack on home soil. The paper frames terrorism as an imminent threat to the Australian populace which must be dealt with by any means necessary and suggests relevant changes to foreign policy as a result. So blunt is this message the paper itself begins with a Prime Minister’s Forward, signed by the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, which states simply, “terrorism continues to pose a serious security challenge to Australia” (Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet 2010, p. i) The continuation that this article refers to stems from the initial White Paper of 2004 Transnational Terrorism: The Threat to Australia published by the Howard Liberal Coalition (Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade 2004a, para. 2). Subsequently much of the content of the 2010 White Paper attempts to build on the previous ideas of its 2004 counterpart in a more contemporary setting (Michaelsen 2010, p. 19). While similar in parts the 2010 White Paper focuses predominantly on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of terrorism in Australia, rather than addressing the ‘why’ as was covered in the 2004 document (Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade 2004b, para. 8-13).

The most logical way to accept this shift in focus is to think of the 2010 document as an extension of its predecessor, and of the shared stance of the Australian government towards terrorism regardless of party leadership, rather than a completely separate document. Whereas Kevin Rudd’s foreward tells of the immediate threat of terrorism to the average Australian, at the launch of the 2004 effort then Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer addressed the National Press Club and spoke at length about individual threats from Al Qaeda and the Middle East (Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade 2004b, para. 18). In his speech Mr. Downer discussed the evolution of modern terrorism and attempted to demonstrate that it was not what Australia had done that made it a target but rather what Australia stood for (Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade 2004b, para. 9). While the underlying message of both Downer and Rudd was the same in their addresses, highlighting the need for Australia to enhance and strengthen its approach to national security, foreign policy and counter-terrorism, the way in which terrorism was portrayed differed greatly between the two. Given the length of time between these two particular White Papers it must be considered that terrorism itself had changed, both in its severity and forms, with new technologies and terrorist organisations creating different means and methods to attack (Kruglanski & Fishman 2009; Zammit 2015, p. 2). Considering this it is fair to conclude that while the approaches and methods of communication between the two White Papers portrayed terrorism in different ways terrorism itself was different at both times and, regardless of the definition, both parties acted on their responsibility to ensuring the safety and protection of the Australian public.

Based on the development of a national narrative around the subject of terrorism, and the integration of Counter-Terrorism into governmental procedure, the securitisation of the issue by the Rudd Government allowed the common persons perception of terrorism to change. While previously depicted as a random act of violence by an external force traveling to Australia with the specific intention of attacking the nation (Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet 2010; Wolfendale 2007, p. 76) the Counter-Terrorism White Paper 2010 moved away from this traditional notion of terrorism with the introduction of threats more closer to home. Homegrown terrorism as it is known, defined as those who are born, raised and educated within the countries they attack (Wilner & Dubouloz 2010, p. 33), was given little attention in Australia prior to this White Papers release, despite arrests and foiled terror attacks planned from within the country’s borders dating back to 2001 (Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet 2010, p. ii). Going by the definition of Wilner & Dubouloz the proximity of potential terrorists to their targets should make this the most legitimate and credible threat to Australia.

Despite this, however, there has still been few genuine terrorist attacks to justify the way the homegrown terror threat has been portrayed in the Counter-Terrorism White Paper. This is perhaps the most challenging aspect then for policy makers when considering the approach to take towards terrorism as it exists in a constant state of unpredictability. Had the Australian government chosen to take a more casual approach to the Counter-Terrorism White Paper, and the subsequent policy reformations it sparked, it may have had the potential to encourage terrorists to target Australia and caused widespread fear amongst the public as legitimate security concerns were ignored. Conversely, a casual approach could have also strengthened the public resolve, encouraging members of the public and the wider political sphere to see Australia as a nation which shows no fear in the face of the terror threat (Schmid 2017; Stevens et al. 2011). This example of the subjectivity of the terrorist threat demonstrates the fine line faced by foreign policy makers and the vast array of consequences that they must consider before any action is taken. In the case of the Counter-Terrorism White Paper it is fair to assume that the portrayal of terrorism was carefully developed by the Rudd government to ensure a clear and simple message of safety and solidarity was sent to both its citizens and any would be terrorists that the issue of terrorism in Australia would be treated with the utmost seriousness.

The portrayal of terrorism in the Counter-Terrorism White Paper of 2010 was critiqued heavily by Chris Michaelsen in his 2010 article Terrorism in Australia: An Inflated Threat which critically assessed the Rudd governments document, suggesting through both anecdotal and statistical analysis that the actual threat of terrorism in Australia is almost non-existent. In his paper Michaelsen calculates the chance of an Australian being killed in a terrorist attack on home soil to be 1 in 33,300,000 (Michaelsen 2010, p. 24) some 2,200 times less likely than that same individual being killed in a car accident (Michaelsen 2010, p.24). Michaelsen supports the need for this analysis by questioning government spending, using the aforementioned car accident anecdote as a probe into why money that is spent on counter-terrorism could not be put towards something more prevalent, such as the repair and maintenance of Australian roads. Despite his perceived aversion to the portrayal of the terrorist threat in Australia Michaelsen’s main argument seems to be more focused against what he suggests is frivolous government spending without regard to potentially more pressing issues (Michaelsen 2010, p. 24).

The detailed breakdowns he provides into the investments made by the Australian government on matters of Counter-Terrorism and policy implementation following the recommendations of the Counter-Terrorism White Paper demonstrate a desire for governmental accountability as opposed to a legitimate opposition to the government treating the issue of terrorism as a serious one. Given the complexity of terrorism, and the subjectivity with which it can be viewed by the public, Michaelsen’s beliefs can also be interpreted in a variety of different ways. Idealistically his assertions that the terrorist threat is inflated are correct, given the detail and evidence he provides, however in reality as terrorism by definition is random, unpredictable and indiscriminate in nature its true threat can never truly be measured and, for this reason, can never truly be ignored as its potential to occur continues in perpetuity.

Michaelsen is not the first, and most certainly will not be the last, political commentator to suggest that the threat of terrorism is inflated. Many scholars have explored the securitisation of terrorism as a means to push for policy reform, most notably Wolfendale who made similar assertions to Michaelsen with reference to policy changes and what she calls the counterterrorism rhetoric (2007, p. 76). In Australia, specifically since September 11, 2001, there has been significant foreign policy reforms by both Liberal and Labour government based heavily in counter-terrorism and the interest of national security. The lack of actual terrorist attacks has not stopped the Australian government from investing $16 billion dollars into ASIO, and other government task forces dedicated to combating terrorism (Michaelsen 2010, p. 24; Williams 2017), nor has it change the message to the general public that terrorism in Australia is inevitable. This inevitability has seen the National Terrorism Threat Alert level remain constantly at “probable” for the last 4 years (Australian National Security 2018, para. 7). This threat can be seen as far back as the initial Terrorism White Paper of 2004 which, following the foreign policy reforms after the Tampa incident and refugee crisis of the early 2000’s (McKay, Hall & Lippi 2017), outlined Al Qaeda and Middle Eastern terrorist cells as posing the most significant danger to Australia and one which needed to be addressed (Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade 2004b, para. 18).

Six years on the Counter-Terrorism White Paper of 2010 was then used as a platform for the Rudd Labour government to enact further policy around security, taking the total number of new federal statutes implemented since 2001 past 50 (Williams 2011, para. 1), implementing restrictions around visas and travel and strengthening the nations aviation security (Michaelsen 2010, p. 20-21; Wolfendale 2007, p. 79-80). Understanding these events are significant as despite the passage of time and the different areas of focus there has still yet to be a major terrorist attack occur in Australia. When considering Michaelsen’s claims of inflation in this sense then it seems unlikely that they can be refuted as both Liberal and Labour governments were able to publish similar manifestos, utilising similar political tactics, to ensure policy reform was made on issues of national security and counter-terrorism over a six year period without any acts of terrorism occurring. This does not mean that there exists no legitimate threat from terrorism, with the need for proactivity essential not only to the nation but also to Michaelsen whose questions of inflated threat levels would potentially become instantly redundant if a terrorist attack were to occur. This shows not only the subjectivity of terrorism and its links to national governance but also of the commentary that inevitably follows it.

Based on the analysis presented on both the Counter-Terrorism White Paper 2010 and Michaelsen’s subsequent commentary it is fair to determine that the securitisation of terrorism has become a significant factor in the development and execution of foreign policy in Australian politics. Without discounting the very real and legitimate threat of terrorism that exists to the Australian people, either as a result of Australia’s involvement in international conflicts or due simply to a difference in national values and cultural identity, it can be seen in the evidence presented that the chances of terrorism are significantly lower than they are often portrayed (Koo 2005, para. 13; Michaelsen 2010, p. 23; Michaelsen 2012, p. ; Wolfendale 2007, p. 77). This use of securitisation reinforces the ideas presented by the Copenhagen School who assert that its use in policy making is an effective means for governments to gain larger support on topical issues that may not otherwise be afforded the same attention (Balzacq 2007; Koo 2005, para. 13). In this case the use of securitisation to inflate the threat of terrorism by the Rudd government in their Counter-Terrorism White Paper was an effective means to justify the increased spending and policy reform that followed. This consequence would have been considered when the strategic process was being planned and executed, however, what may not have been anticipated was the eventual actions of political commentators.

By way of questioning the government’s spending, policy reformation and even the securitisation of the issue and portrayal of terrorism Michaelsen was able to publicly protest the legitimacy of the government’s plan and call into question its validity. Ultimately it is the responsibility of any Australian government to maintain a commitment to ensuring the safety and prosperity of the Australian people. If the securitisation of a perceived threat, in this instance terrorism, is deemed to be necessary by the government to preserve the national interest then any consequences resulting from this should have been considered at length when planning. The question then becomes not a one of whether the terrorism threat has been intentionally inflated, but rather, is it ethical for the government to present a threat to the public that they may understand to be less than demonstrated. Had this argument been presented by Michaelsen, as opposed to the argument pertaining to statistics and government spending, the analysis of his opinion of the terror threat may have found a different outcome. However, all things considered, this was not the case and as a result his assertions of an inflated threat can be seen for the most part to be true. Though, once again, it must be stressed that this is not in any way a dismissal of the existence of a terrorist threat.

Life in a Post-September 11 society has seen a rise in the prevalence of the threat of terrorism and the counter-terrorism measures employed by governments to deal with this. The subjective nature of the application of a definition of terrorism means that individuals will never be able to agree entirely what does and does not constitute a significant threat, however, all will be able to agree that the threat exists. Through analysis of the Counter-Terrorism White Paper with specific regard to the commentary by Michaelsen this essay demonstrates this and identifies how any inflation to the terror threat by a government will have been done so with consequences in mind the authorising government feels is in the nation’s best interests. The most important factor when considering the threat of terrorism is not how great the threat is, or how it is perceived to be, but instead ensuring that policy makers are constantly vigilant and plan and prepare to deal with the worst possible scenario, while maintaining hope for the best.



 Australian National Security 2018, ‘National Terrorism Threat Advisory System’, nationalsecurity.gov.au, viewed 3 June 2018, <https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/securityandyourcommunity/pages/national-terrorism-threat-advisory-system.aspx&gt;

Balzacq, T 2007, ‘The Policy Tools of Securitization: Information Exchange, EU Foreign and Interior Policies’, Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 46, no. 1, pp. 75-100.

Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade 2004a, Transnational Terrorism: The Threat to Australia, foreignminister.gov.au, viewed 3 June 2018, <https://foreignminister.gov.au/releases/2004/fa0102_04.html&gt;

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Koo, KL 2005, ’Terror Australis: Security, Australia and the ’War on Terror’ Discourse’, Borderlands e-Journal, vol. 4, no. 1.

Kruglanski, A & Fishman, S 2009, ‘Psychological Factors in Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Individual, Group, and, Organisational Levels of Analysis’, Social Issues and Policy Review, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 1-44.

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Michaelsen, C 2012, ‘The triviality of terrorism’, Australian Journal of International Affairs, vol. 66, no. 4, pp. 431-449.

Schmid, A 2017, ’Public Opinion Survey Survey Data to Measure Sympathy and Support for Islamist Terrorism: A Look at Muslim Opinions on Al Qaeda and IS’, International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, viewed 3 June 2018, < https://icct.nl/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ICCT-Schmid-Muslim-Opinion-Polls-Jan2017-1.pdf&gt;

Stevens, G, Agho, K, Taylor, M, Jones, AL, Jacobs, J, Barr, M & Raphael, B 2011, ‘Alert but less alarmed: a pooled analysis of terrorism threat perception in Australia’, BMC Public Health, vol. 11, pp. 1-11.

Williams, C 2017, ‘The Australian budget and counterterrorism’, lowyinstitute.org, 9 May, viewed 3 June 2018, <https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/australian-budget-and-counterterrorism&gt;

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Wilner, A & Dubouloz, C 2010, ‘Homegrown terrorism and transformative learning: an interdisciplinary approach to understanding radicalization’, Global Change, Peace & Security, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 33-51.

Wolfendale, J 2007, ‘Terrorism, Security, and the Threat of Counterterrorism’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, vol. 30, pp. 75-92.

Zammit, A 2015, ‘Australian foreign fighters: Risks and responses’, lowyinstitute.org, viewed 3 June 2018, <https://www.lowyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/australian-foreign-fighters-risks-and-responses.pdf&gt;


Securitisation, The Danish Way

The aim of this essay is to explore and discuss critical issues of human security with relevant application of the framework of securitisation suggested by the Copenhagen School. Specifically this essay will argue that since the end of the Cold War western governments have placed an emphasis on securitising the relocation and resettlement of victims of forced displacement. Furthermore this essay suggests, drawing on the ideas presented by Hammerstad (2010) and Suhrke, in Newman & van Selm (2003), that through the securitisation of the displaced persons from areas of conflict and political unrest western governments have been able to justify further conflict and constructed a vacuum which has caused net migration of displaced persons to increase. This article concludes that until forced displacement is treated as a humanitarian issue and not a security issue migration will continue to be a contentious issue within the global political sphere. To effectively achieve this the essay will; establish an underlying framework from constructivist theory drawing on Wæver (1995), Neumann (2010) and McDonald (2011) of the Copenhagen School to apply to the human security issue of forced displacement and migration, analyse trends in the rate of displaced persons globally since the end of the Cold War and specifically noticeable changes post-September 11, and finally, the issue of securitisation of forced displacement and migration will be comparatively analysed in a case study that explores the issue in both Australia and Europe. Further to Hammerstad (2010), Suhrke (2003), Wæver (1995), Neumann (2010) and McDonald (2011) this essay will also be supported by key readings from Gleeson (2016), Klocker & Dunn (2003), Huysmans (2000) and others which will be cited accordingly.

The twentieth century brought with it many advances in political international relations theory and after the Cold War ended detailed security studies became more prevalent issues on the global political stage. As society progressed so too had the idea of security as a medium, though widely acknowledged by scholars to be of an ambiguous meaning anyway, the scope by which security was defined has evolved beyond immediate threats to a nation and its borders (Neumann 2010; Wilkinson 2007). At the centre of this revolution of socially aware theory the Copenhagen School proposed that any referent object can be securitised when facing an existential threat, from entire countries right down to smaller collective groups sharing a common identity, provided they hold a perceived value within their community (Wæver 1995; Wæver 2003; Wilkinson 2007). This shift in focus saw the prioritisation and securitisation of specific individual issues and threats to national interests become more justifiable as genuine security threats where this may have not been the case previously. Williams (2013, p.72) asserts that this approach developed by the Copenhagen School in the context of post-Cold War International Relations encourages the broadening of security to include any manner of pressing and hitherto neglected concerns such as poverty, climate change, and, most relevant to this paper human rights on state security agendas. This specificity builds on the underlying principles of social constructivism which, while encouraging the inclusion of ideas, culture, identity and interaction in international relations (Agius 2016, p. 71), has strong opposition from Rationalist theorists who claim that it cannot be observed empirically (Agius 2016, p. 84).

In the context of this essay’s subject matter, the securitisation of displaced persons, the interpretation of the Copenhagen School’s approaches is in line with Hammerstad (2010, p. 241) who states that the process of securitisation in this respect is a hermeneutical circle in which, “the way we talk about a phenomenon helps shape how we react to it… our actions and their consequences in turn help shape how we discuss the phenomenon”. Based on this understanding of the Copenhagen School and the social constructivist theories, and the subjectivity of their application, Suhrke (2003, pp.97-98) offers perspective from the other side of the argument recognising legitimate occurrences where the relocation of asylum seekers may be legitimately securitised for fear of the speed or volume of migratory persons entering a new country. This is recognised, however, as having more to do with a nation’s infrastructure and ability to cope with resettlement of the migrant populations and not their willingness to abide recognising that the societies that formed the backdrop of the Copenhagen School’s explorations were strong industrialised states. This interpretation of Suhrke’s is vital to appreciating the securitisation of forced displaced persons through the remainder of this essay as it is these same strong and stable industrialised nations currently looking for alternatives to helping with the currently high levels of displaced persons globally.   

Since the end of the Cold War, and more recently the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, heightened levels of international conflict have seen the total number of displaced persons globally rise to an estimated 65.5 million as of 2018 (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2018). The gravity of this most recent figure can be better appreciated where Odhiambo-Abuya (2003, P. 237) shows that the United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported the total number of displaced persons at the end of 2001 was an estimated 5 million, a figure which has increased more than thirteen times. While the UNHCR figures account for both internal, those who are still living within their native countries borders but forced away from their native home, and external displacement the two are not mutually exclusive as both cases are brought about as a result of conflict or civil unrest which, in a modern geopolitical sphere, can be considered threats to international security which should be addressed as the obligation of each country who is in a position to assist (Ayoob 2010, p.81). Odhiambo-Abuya (2003, p. 236) recognises this as being caused by many modern conflicts being typified by non-state actors such as terrorist groups or militias, as opposed to tradition state versus state conflict, though as can be seen by the United States and Allied Forces ‘War on Terror’ these traditional conflicts still play a part. Further to this Internal Displacement is often an afterthought of the international community who feel it is the obligation of local governments to provide for their people (Cohen 2001, para. 6) and as such intervention may not come from outside forces until such a time that conflict is unavoidable, as has been the case in the Middle East, which in turn causes a shift in migration as civilians seek to flee the violence. A contemporary example of this can be seen with through the mass-migration of Afghan and Iraqi refugees to Australia in late 2001, following the events of September 11, when international intervention was made into already ongoing conflict.

The securitisation of displaced persons, particularly refugees, in Australia since the turn of the twenty-first century has been characterised by the narrative of the “boat people” (Bolger 2016, p.13; O’Doherty & Lecouteur 2007, p. 1) and the perceived threat that they pose to the Australian people and their way of life. For a country which regards itself as one of social and cultural progression (Hancock 2017, para. 17; Social Progress Index 2017) Australia’s approach to the resettlement of migrants throughout this period and into the current day has been polarising in international political discourse (Australian Institute for Progress 2015, p. 3; Crowe 2016, para. 1). The Pacific Solution legislation which passed through parliament on September 21st 2001 (Commonwealth of Australia 2002, p. 291; Phillips 2012, para. 2) in the wake of the Tampa affair, which saw a Norwegian freighter rescue a sinking boat carrying refugees (Klocker & Dunn 2003, p. 73; Commonwealth of Australia 2002, p. 1), the securitisation of displaced persons in Australia had begun. The public were desensitized to the influx of refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East and the legislation saw the use of smaller pacific islands, notably Papua New Guinea and Nauru, as well as the Australian territory of Christmas Island used to detain asylum seekers until they were eligible for on shore settlement, processing  or return to their country of origin (Karlsen 2016; Refugee Council of Australia 2016, para. 1). The then Howard government set about systematically demonizing legitimately displaced persons as a threat to Australia and eventually, in October 2001, would publicise allegations that refugees had intentionally thrown children off of boats in an attempt to force a rescue and settlement in Australia (Head 2004, para. 3; McGrath 2004). These allegations were later investigated and found to be falsified and used to wilfully mislead the Australian public (Commonwealth of Australia 2002, p. xiv) but not before the general perception of displaced persons in Australia had become one of severe negative connotations.

A study published in the Australian Journal of Psychology found that more than half (59.8%) of individuals surveyed held negative attitudes towards refugees on a set of data collected in 2002, twelve months after the aforementioned Tampa affair and Children Overboard incidents (Schweitzer, Perkoulidis, Krome, Ludlow and Ryan 2005, pp. 17-18). Over the years that closed out the decade, and in subsequent elections, immigration policy remained one of the top priorities in Australian mainstream politics, with election campaigns built by both major parties on the securitisation of asylum seekers (McDonald 2011). By 2011, despite a decrease in the overall number of migrations to Australia, the securitisation of the issue meant more than half of people surveyed felt that immigration numbers were increasing (Wilkie 2011, para. 7).  By engaging the Australian public with this perceived security threat, with Government ministers even going as far as to claim ‘an undeniable link between illegal immigrants and terrorism’ (Klocker & Dunn 2003, p. 71), the Australian government was able to justify its involvement in international conflicts in the Middle East as an allied partner of the United States and the ‘War on Terror’ (Aslan 2009, p. 112; Gleeson 2016, p. 85). In committing themselves to this conflict and the escalating violence in the Middle East the Australian government was in effect contributing to the creation of further forced displacement and following a vicious circle in which they were assisting in creating the very asylum seekers that they were then refusing entry into their country. Humanitarian groups, including the Refugee Council of Australia and the UNHCR, raised concerns with the validity and legality of the Australian approach to immigration policy (Archbold 2015, pp. 137-158; Bhuiyan & Islam 2013, p.33) not only for the immediate impact it had on the displaced persons seeking refuge but also on the precedent and example it set for other western countries, particularly in Europe where the issue was also coming to prominence, to go against a moral obligation to lend aid where possible.      

Following the end of the Cold War there has been an ongoing struggle for power across each of the three sectors of Europe. The Eastern bloc, characterised by ex-soviet states and borders into Asia and the Middle East, has existed in a state of near perpetual conflict since this time. The dismantling of Yugoslavia, unrest in the Balkans and war in Kosovo throughout the 1990’s saw millions of persons displaced within Europe itself (Cohen 2001, para. 3) while conflict continued from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on Europe’s doorstep (Reuveny & Prakash 1999, pp. 693-708). As tensions in the West towards the Middle Eastern states of Iraq and Afghanistan escalated into war following September 11, 2001, there began an influx of displaced persons into mainland Europe. As the conflict moved through the Middle East and into Syria over the decade the mass-migration of displaced persons, refugees and asylum seekers reached its peak in the summer of 2015, when millions of Middle Eastern and African natives began travelling by land and across the Mediterranean sea  seeking admittance en masse in numbers not previously seen in Europe since the aftermath of the Nazi regime at the conclusion of the second world war. The ‘European migrant crisis’ as it became known lead to the widespread securitisation of immigration as, in the wake of jihadist style terror attacks in France, Belgium and the United Kingdom, European governments and International intelligence agencies reported concerns that the crisis was being used by Islamic terrorist cells were smuggling trained jihadists amongst the genuine refugees with the explicit purpose of committing further acts of terror across Europe (Faiola & Mekhennet 2016; Reuters 2016).

This securitisation lead to widespread fear across Europe and destabilised faith in the European Union, leading a resolute United Kingdom to vote to secede following a referendum where voters were promised full control over their borders and a stop to the relocation and integration of displaced persons into their country. One of the key issues in the securitisation of migration in Europe is the blanket European Union (EU) regulations implemented via the Dublin Convention which creates a more restrictive and control oriented approach to the resettlement of asylum seekers (Huysmans 2000, p. 756). By enforcing a set guideline across the Union it becomes harder for member states to ignore their responsibility to aid in the humanitarian process of resettlement. As the European migrant crisis unfolded the issue became not the task of resettlement but with who the responsibility lied to undertake it. Ultimately the threat of action resulted, at least in the case of the United Kingdom, the member state feeling that the EU had too much power over the immigration policy of their country despite their active participation in the conflicts which had contributed to the crisis itself. In a 2017 report published by Chatham House public attitudes of United Kingdom citizens were found to default to negativity when asked about immigration with a strong link made between displaced persons and a threat to national security and sovereignty (Dempster & Hargrave 2017, p. 10). Similarly to the earlier case study focused on Australia this combination of public opinion combined with government securitisation of the minority group lead to widespread fear and vocal disapproval, in this case of both the displaced persons and of the European Union itself for seeking humanitarian assistance. 

While the situations are noticeably different between the two continents analysed in this papers case studies the approach to the securitisation of forced displaced persons in Australia and Europe share several key similarities. Most notably the securitisation of refugees as a threat to national sovereignty and individual security, an indifferent approach to their relocation with a predisposition to attempt to shift the burden onto other countries and, with respect to Hammerstad (2010, p. 241), the contributions of both Australia and the United Kingdom to the hermeneutical circle of conflict which aides in the creation of forced displacement. In the instances outlined in the case studies both shared in the public action of securitising Middle Eastern immigrants. The handling of the Tampa affair and the children overboard issue, publically citing Middle Eastern refugees as potential terrorists, was much the same as in Europe where it was suggested that jihadists were being smuggled across the borders amongst those seeking legitimate humanitarian aid. The key difference between these two cases however is that the European concern was found to be legitimate with several arrests made as a result of joint operations through European Police (Faiola & Mekhennet 2016; Reuters 2016).

This highlights the importance of using securitisation as a tool to assist in the development of the international narrative as stated by Suhrke (2003). In the European case study the United Kingdom’s approach to the Dublin Convention for managing the relocation and settlement of refugees can be seen as having direct parallels to Australia’s attempts to force the Norwegian government to take responsibility of the individuals that were rescued during the Tampa affair (Klocker & Dunn 2003; Commonwealth of Australia 2002). When this approach was unsuccessful the Australian government then attempted to return those individuals to their point of origin in Indonesia which was also unsuccessful before eventually having no choice but to take them in for processing. Unlike the United Kingdom, who were bound by European law, Australia was not able to avoid their humanitarian responsibility under the United Nations charters both countries remained vocal in their desire to return migrants to their point of origin. This aversion to fulfilling a humanitarian obligation under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights further demonstrates the separation that exists and is perpetuated by Western governments in the securitisation of migrants to take the safety to people rather than take the people to safety (Schmeidl 2003, p. 145). The third and final comparison in this critical analysis considers each of the points that have been raised throughout this paper and considers them with the application of Hammerstad’s (2010, p. 241) proposition of a cycle of conflict.

Both Australian and European forces continue to be a presence in active conflicts around the world with the war in Syria and the Middle East continuing to threaten the lives and residency of millions. This state of affairs only deepens the potential for the refugee crisis to grow and further delays a timeframe in which resettlement for displaced persons to return to their native land, if at all possible. Until conflict can be resolved the situation will continue in a state of perpetual warfare and as such the displaced persons, refugees and asylum seekers will continue to exist without a national identity.

This paper has considered the current state of securitisation of migrants from a critical approach with the application of social constructivist theories from the Copenhagen School and demonstrated how the issue is escalated by the use of conflict as a means of resolution and dehumanising of the individual displaced persons. Throughout the exploration and discussion of human security in this essay a recurring theme, particularly in the two case studies, has been the securitisation of what is very much a humanitarian issue. Regardless of the progress that is made by international bodies in the quest for conflict resolution the displacement of people from affected countries will remain to be an issue long after the fact. This serves as a realisation that displacement and issues of human security must be treated as humanitarian issues and not security threats as this securitisation can only serve to continue perpetuating a divide between sovereign publics and those displaced who come seeking asylum. Without systemic change at an international level migration will continue to remain a contentious issue within the political sphere as illustrated in the Australian and European case studies. Ultimately it is the responsibility of international bodies to see displaced persons not as a burden of the state but simply as people who are doing their best to survive. 



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