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Über dieses Buch

This book explores the regional coordination and impact of state responses to irregular migration in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The main argument is that regional and international trends of securitisation and criminalisation of irregular migration, often associated with framing the issue in terms of migrant smuggling and human trafficking, have intensified carceral border regimes and produced greater precarity for migrants. Bilateral and multilateral processes of regional coordination at multiple levels of government are analysed with a focus on the impact on asylum seekers and migrant workers in major destination and transit countries including Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and Australia. The book will be of interest to a wide academic audience interested in the interdisciplinary field of Border Studies, as well as general readers concerned with the treatment of refugees and migrant workers who cross borders in search of safety, security, and a better life.



Chapter 1. Introduction

The introduction situates the study of contemporary border regimes in relation to broader political themes, including nationalism and humanitarianism. The structure and main arguments of the book are summarised, along with discussion of the research process.

Nicholas Henry

Chapter 2. Border Spaces

This chapter develops the conceptual framework of the book, situated within the contemporary literature of critical border studies. The focus is on borders as techniques of state power, producing regimes and spaces of governance that are distributed within and across national territories rather than limited to the boundary lines between territories. Deleuze’s concept of the fold is used to describe the political spaces of the border formed by techniques of governance that make strategic use of obscurity and ambiguity in the sites and workings of migration processing. Using examples from Australia’s responses to the maritime arrival of asylum seekers, the chapter describes the folds of location, legality, logistics, and legibility in the political space of contemporary migration border regimes.

Nicholas Henry

Chapter 3. Leaving Home

This chapter gives a detailed overview of the patterns and trends of migration in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, focusing on key source and destination countries for migrant workers and asylum seekers. Patterns in migration statistics are related to trends in economic growth and employment, persecution and conflict, as well as evidence of irregular migration. The main argument of the chapter is that the phenomenon of irregular migration is produced where opportunities for regular migration fail to keep pace with economic demand for migrant workers and the protection needs of asylum seekers.

Nicholas Henry

Chapter 4. Framing Threats

This chapter describes the criminalisation and securitisation of irregular migration in terms of processes of institutional framing centred on the categories of migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons. In Southeast Asia and the Pacific, institutional framing of trafficking and smuggling is produced by the intersection of the mandates of international organisations with the interests of states in gaining support for criminal and border enforcement capacity. States in the region have been persuaded to adopt policies criminalising trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling through the provision of policy templates, cooperation and data-sharing between border agencies, support for training and capacity building, and the strategic use of financial incentives and sanctions.

Nicholas Henry

Chapter 5. Screening Migrants

This chapter deals with the mechanisms of coordinated control of migration borders across Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The chapter shows that, even as states disagree on normative frameworks for responding to irregular migration, there is convergence in practice around cooperation on techniques of border control. States and institutions in the region practice soft multilateralism, non-binding forms of multi-level engagement and cooperation, to promote policy convergence while preserving the independence and sovereignty of states. International Organisations and Western states have promoted a shift in migration governance from informal tolerance to formal management. However, arbitrary enforcement has remained a feature of migration border regimes across the region and has been strengthened by inter-state cooperation and capacity building.

Nicholas Henry

Chapter 6. Carceral Responses

This chapter focuses on the arbitrary enforcement of the categories of migration status created by border regimes. Enforcement of migration border regulations is arbitrary in two senses: first, when it is applied unevenly and selectively, often due to discriminatory risk profiling, policies of deterrence, or to create public spectacle; and second, when it is applied without independent limit and due process, including the presumption of liberty and rights of appeal. Although migration border regimes vary in formality and capacity across Southeast Asia and the Pacific, they are similar in their arbitrary use of enforcement powers to arrest, detain and deport migrants with irregular status.

Nicholas Henry

Chapter 7. Producing Precarity

This chapter considers the effect of migration border regimes in exacerbating the personal, social and economic precarity of migrants. Asylum seekers remain in extended conditions of precarity due to delays in status determination, as well as the fact that even refugee status may not offer substantial protection. Migrant workers are also deprived of protection through lack of enforcement of labour legislation and minimum standards, and exclusion from membership of trade unions. Where migrants have been able to organise, there is potential to partially mitigate the effects of precarity and to work against its structural causes.

Nicholas Henry

Chapter 8. Conclusion

The conclusion summarises the main themes of the book, arguing that migration border regimes across the region of Southeast Asia and the Pacific have been transformed by the institutional framing of irregular migration as a criminal and security threat. However, carceral regimes of migration control cannot prevent irregular migration; they can only displace it and make migrant lives more precarious in the process. To reduce the precarity of migrant lives, states in the region must be pressured to adopt protection mechanisms for asylum seekers and migrant workers, find alternatives to detention and other forms of arbitrary enforcement, and maximise freedom of movement.

Nicholas Henry


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