The so-called “boat people” problem is not resolving itself for Australia. Thousands upon thousands of “boat people” reached “Australia” last year, either by successfully arriving at an Australian outpost, or by being rescued while trying (I have seen some reports that close to 200 boats were picked up last year, although I am not able to verify this number). Many people also died trying (more than 200 confirmed deaths in 2012), and it was in response to these deaths that punitive measures were introduced to “stop the boats”. The highlight of the new policy is the re-introduction of offshore processing on Nauru and Manus island (Nauru is already fast approaching it's maximum capacity), and the possibility of indefinite detention thanks to the “no-advantage” policy. Essentially, Australia thinks that where the decades-long War on Drugs has failed (successfully implementing a policy of deterrence), it can succeed.

But it hasn't succeeded. If anything the number of boat arrivals accelerated since the announcement of the new government policies. Today 46 more Sri Lankan's were picked up off the coast of Sumatra, the second boat arrival in just the first four days of 2013. At what point does Australia give up and try something new? The concept of deterrence has never worked, especially in a situation where the actors are desperate and not fully aware of the consequences. There is no evidence that the new policies have slowed the arrival of boats, nor will slow boat arrivals in the future. Australia needs to try something new.