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Another Brick in the Wall? Neo-Refoulement and the Externalization of Asylum by Australia and Europe 1

  • Jennifer Hyndman and Alison Mountz

Abstract

Insecurity and fear in the global North produce political space to advance security measures, including the externalization of asylum. States in the global North make it increasingly difficult for asylum seekers to reach sovereign territory where they might make a refugee claim. While legal protection remains intact under the Refugee Convention, extra-legal measures employ geography to restrict access to asylum and keep claimants at bay through a variety of tactics. This article probes the ways in which fear of uninvited asylum seekers is securitized and looks at the tactics utilized to keep them at bay, far from the borders of states that are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention. Drawing on research in Europe and Australia, we demonstrate how states are promoting ‘protection in regions of origin’ through practices of de facto neo-refoulement. Neo-refoulement refers to a geographically based strategy of preventing asylum by restricting access to territories that, in principle, provide protection to refugees.

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1

We are grateful to Eva-Lotta Hedman and Matthew Gibney for organizing the workshop where this was presented at the Centre for Refugee Studies and for their editorial work, to Areti Sianni for her research contributions, and to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for funding the research.

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2 Arendt, Hannah, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Cleveland and New York, Meridian Books, 1958, p. 269.

3 Arendt, cited in Matthew Gibney, The Ethics and Politics of Asylum: Liberal Democracy and the Response to Refugees, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 1. Cf. Jennifer Hyndman, Managing Displacement: Refugees and the Politics of Humanitarianism, Minneapolis, Minnesota University Press, 2000.

4 UNHCR, State of the World's Refugees, 2006, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006.

5 Derek Gregory, The Colonial Present: Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Malden, Blackwell, 2004.

6 Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1998.

7 Butler, Judith, Precarious Life, New York, Verso, 2004, pp. 67 and 92.

8 Gregory, Derek, ‘Vanishing Points: Law, Violence, and Exception in the Global War Prison’, in D. Gregory and A. Pred (eds), Violent Geographies, New York, Routledge, 2007, p. 207.

9 Hyndman, Jennifer, ‘Conflict, Citizenship, and Human Security: Geographies of Protection’, in D. Cowen and E. Gilbert (eds), War, Citizenship, Territory, New York and London, Routledge, 2007, pp. 241–59.

10 Mountz, Alison, ‘Human Smuggling and the Canadian State’, Canadian Foreign Policy, 13: 1 (2006), pp. 5980.

11 Gregory, The Colonial Present.

12 Hyndman, Managing Displacement.

13 Hyndman, Jennifer, ‘Preventive, Palliative, or Punitive? Safe Spaces in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Somalia, and Sri Lanka’, Journal of Refugee Studies, 16: 2 (2003), pp. 167–85.

14 Ian McEwan, Saturday, London, Cape, 2005, p. 39.

15 Bigo, Didier, ‘Security and Immigration: Toward a Critique of the Governmentality of Unease’, Alternatives, 27 (2002), pp. 6392.

16 Hyndman, Jennifer, ‘The Securitisation of Fear in Post-Tsunami Sri Lanka’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 97: 2 (2007), pp. 361–72.

17 Amoore, Louise and De Goede, Marieke, ‘Governance, Risk and Dataveillance in the War on Terror’, Crime, Law and Social Change, 43 (2005), pp. 149–73, p. 168.

18 Alison Mountz, Transnational States of Migration: Human Smuggling and the Borders of Sovereignty, forthcoming.

19 Alison Mountz, ‘Embodied Geographies of the Nation-State: An Ethnography of Canada's Response to Human Smuggling’, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, 2003; and Mountz, ‘Human Smuggling and the Canadian State’.

20 Walters, William, ‘Secure Borders, Safe Haven, Domopolitics’, Citizenship Studies, 8: 3 (2004), pp. 237–60, p. 241.

21 Deborah Cowen and Emily Gilbert, ‘Citizenship in the “Homeland”: Families at War’, in Cowan and Gilbert, War, Citizenship, Territory, pp. 261–8.

22 Sparke, Matthew, ‘The Neoliberal Nexus’, Political Geography, 25: 2 (2006), pp. 151–80, p. 153.

23 Bigo, ‘Security and Immigration’, p. 63.

24 See for example Hugo, Graeme, ‘From Compassion to Compliance? Trends in Refugee and Humanitarian Migration in Australia’, Geoforum, 55 (2001), pp. 2737; and Suvendrini Perera, ‘What is a Camp…?’, Borderlands e-journal, 1: 1 (2002), pp. 1–10, available at http://www.borderlandsejournal.adelaide.edu.au/vol1no1_2002/perera_camp.html.

25 Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), Managing the Border: Immigration Compliance, 2004–2005 Edition, 2006, p. 5, available at http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/compliance/managing-the-border/index.htm.

26 Interview, Canberra, April 2006.

27 Mountz, Transnational States of Migration, forthcoming.

28 Peter Mares, Borderline, Sydney, University of New South Wales Press, 2002.

29 Bashford, Alyson and Strange, Caroline, ‘Asylum-Seekers and National Histories of Detention’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, 48: 4 (2002), pp. 509–27.

30 Mountz, Alison, ‘Embodying the Nation-State: Canada's Response to Human Smuggling’, Political Geography, 23: 3 (2004), pp. 323–45.

31 Sparke, ‘The Neoliberal Nexus’.

32 Bloch, Alice and Schuster, Lise, ‘At the Extremes of Exclusion: Deportation, Detention and Dispersal’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 28: 3 (2005), pp. 491512.

33 Michael Welch, Detained: Immigration Laws and the Expanding I.N.S. Jail Complex, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 2002.

34 Butler, Precarious Life.

35 Mountz ‘Embodying the Nation-State’.

36 Agamben, Homo Sacer.

37 Magner, Tara, ‘A Less than “Pacific” Solution for Asylum Seekers in Australia’, International Journal of Refugee Law, 16: 1 (2004), pp. 5390.

38 Eventually, with intervention by the UNHCR, some were resettled in third countries like New Zealand and Canada. This became a popular strategy for Australian officials to ‘save face’, successfully refusing to resettle migrants arriving by sea while quietly brokering deals with other countries to resettle, thus continuing the public deferral and refusal of direct arrivals.

39 Taylor, Savitri, ‘Sovereign Power at the Border’, Public Law Review, 16: 1 (2005), pp. 5577.

40 Betts, Alexander, ‘The International Relations of the “New” Extraterritorial Approaches to Refugee Protection: Explaining the Policy Initiatives of the UK Government and UNHCR’, Refuge, 22: 1 (2004), pp. 5870, p. 63.

41 Mares, Borderline.

42 Gordon, Freeing Ali.

43 Interview, Canberra, April 2006.

44 DIAC, Managing the Border.

45 Now the largest numbers of detainees are ‘visa overstayers’. DIAC has shifted its resources to aggressive round-ups of people found in non-compliance with the conditions of visas.

46 Commission of the European Communities, ‘Communication to the Council and the European Parliament on Immigration and Asylum Policies’, COM (94) 23 final, Brussels, 23 February 1994.

47 Samers, Michael, ‘An Emerging Geopolitics of “Illegal” Immigration in the European Union’, European Journal of Migration and Law, 6 (2004), pp. 2745.

48 Lise Schuster, ‘The Realities of a New Asylum Paradigm’, Centre on Migration, Policy and Society Working Paper 20, 2005, available at http://www.compas.ox.ac.uk/publications/Working%20papers/Liza%20Schuster%20wp0520.pdf.

49 Council of the European Union, ‘Note from Presidency to K4 Committee: Strategy Paper on Immigration and Asylum Policy’, CK4 27, ASIM 170, 9809/98 (OR.d) Brussels, 1 July 1998, paragraph 41.

50 Ibid., paragraphs 27 and 37.

51 Ibid., paragraph 41, emphasis added.

52 The 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam created the legal framework for a common European asylum system; for details, see UNHCR, State of the World's Refugees, 2006, p. 34. The Hague Programme of 2004 was a precursor to this; it set out a plan to develop ‘freedom, security and justice’ for the EU but one that underscores the right to seek asylum; see ibid., p. 35.

53 General Affairs Council, press release, 6/12/1998 (Press:431 Nr: 13677/98), 5–6 December 1998.

54 Boswell, Christine, ‘The External Dimension of EU Immigration and Asylum Policy’, International Affairs, 79: 3 (2003), pp. 619–38.

55 European Council, Presidency Conclusions, 15 and 16 October 1999.

56 Council of the European Union, Presidency Conclusions, Seville, 21 and 22 June 2002.

57 See for example press conference between Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, 19 June 2002, available at http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page1718.asp.

58 Ben Hayes and T. Bunyan, ‘Migration, Development and the EU Security Agenda’, Statewatch, 2003, available at http://www.statewatch.org/news/2003/sep/bhtb.pdf.

59 Cited in Betts, ‘The International Relations of the “New” Extraterritorial Approaches to Refugee Protection’, p. 59.

60 UNHCR, State of the World's Refugees, 2006, p. 40.

61 Council of the European Union, Presidency Conclusions, Thessaloniki, 19–20 June, 2003.

62 Cited in Betts, ‘The International Relations of the “New” Extraterritorial Approaches to Refugee Protection’, p. 63.

63 Ibid.

64 Cited in Samers, ‘An Emerging Geopolitics of “Illegal” Immigration’, p. 43, emphasis added.

65 Cited in UNHCR, State of the World's Refugees, 2006 SOWR, pp. 60–1.

1 We are grateful to Eva-Lotta Hedman and Matthew Gibney for organizing the workshop where this was presented at the Centre for Refugee Studies and for their editorial work, to Areti Sianni for her research contributions, and to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for funding the research.

Another Brick in the Wall? Neo-Refoulement and the Externalization of Asylum by Australia and Europe 1

  • Jennifer Hyndman and Alison Mountz

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