Abstract: This paper is inspired by a conversation about the differences in treatment of refugees in Australia depending on their mode of arrival. The circumstances for seeking asylum are similar—displacement, forced migration, fight/fleeing for survival, hope for a better future in Australia. Yet the mode of arrival is different: plane versus boat. The mode of ‘entry’ is different: officially invited to enter the nation with a visa versus no invitation granted. These differences in classification mean that support packages are offered to refugees who arrive in Australia under the Humanitarian Program while refugees who arrive by boat, including children, are automatically confined in detention centres for undetermined and often prolonged periods of time. This paper reflects on why there is such a distinction considering the rationale for seeking asylum is the same in both cases. It questions what logic underpins this distinction and what this means in terms of Australian nationhood. In addition, it seeks to open up conversations about these questions while drawing links between the oppressions endured by refugees, under the Humanitarian Program and boat arrivals, to those of Indigenous Australians. As these links are made, the paper draws on the concept of coloniality to argue that despite differences in conceptualization and treatment, the same colonial ‘gatekeeper of the nation’ logic applies to the three groups.

Keywords: refugees; Indigenous Australians; coloniality; colonialism; hierarchy; mode of arrival;