Disrupting state spaces: aslyum seekers in Australia's offshore detention centres

Authors: Rachel Sharples*, Western Sydney University
Topics: Migration, Australia and New Zealand, Social Geography
Keywords: asylum seekers and refugees, state spaces, disruption, offshore detention
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Madison B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In 2015-2016 Australia spent $1.078 billion on offshore management of asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Central to this offshore management is the transference and mandatory detention of asylum seekers in facilities that sit outside Australia’s national sovereignty, in particular on Manus Island (Papua New Guinea) and Nauru. As a state-sanctioned spatial aberration meant to deter asylum seekers arriving by boat, offshore detention has resulted in a raft of legal and policy actions that are reshaping the modern state-centric understanding of the national space. It has raised questions of sovereignty, of moral, ethical and legal obligations, of national security and humanitarian responsibilities, and of nationalism and belonging. This paper examines how transnational disruptors (asylum seekers and refugees) engage with the spatial dynamics of the offshore detention centres, and in particular how they negotiate and define this space in terms of a social construct of belonging. In particular it looks at the use of social media by asylum seekers as a profound disruption to the state discourse on offshore detention. It is an important source of information about what is occurring inside the detention centres. It has allowed asylum seekers to document their experiences and the conditions inside offshore detention centres as well as connect to journalists, advocates, and parliamentarians. As such, in can be seen as a mechanism that disrupts the state narrative as well as holding governments accountable for the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees.

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