Doors or fences? Policing asylum seekers along Indonesia’s porous borders

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Date(s) - 19/09/2013
1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

Gallery Building 55 Clayton Campus


CSEAS/MAI Seminar Series presents

Doors or fences?

Policing asylum seekers along Indonesia’s porous borders

Antje Missbach

Where? Arts Meeting Room, bld. 55, Monash Clayton

When? 1-2.30 pm, September 19, 2013.

Although the partial outsourcing of state border control to non-state actors is not a new phenomenon, Indonesia is an interesting case study. Border control in an archipelago consisting of more than 17,000 islands is particularly challenging for state authorities. In addition to contending with exceptional geography, Indonesia’s state authorities are also challenged by the political constellation between Australia and Indonesia in regard to irregular cross-border movements of asylum seekers that has become a controversial issue in recent history. As an important transit country for asylum seekers and refugees en route to Australia, Indonesia’s porous borders have rendered it possible to enter and exit the country relatively easily. Given Australia’s political pressure and the financial incentives offered to Indonesia to act as a ‘final bulwark’ and control irregular migration flows more effectively, border control nowadays has gained more significance in Indonesia than in the past. Yet, financial constraints and, more importantly, a lack of political will to host asylum seekers in its own territories for the long term remain as obstacles. Fieldwork observations show that due to ongoing funding restrictions for state-led border control, state-society cooperation for border surveillance has increased. Civilians in many of the hotspots for irregular border crossings have been encouraged to report about ‘suspicious foreigners’. State-society cooperation for border control, however, offers new opportunities for people smugglers to pay-off civilian spies or corrupt border authorities.



Antje Missbach studied Southeast Asian Studies and Anthropology at the Humboldt University in Berlin (Germany). She obtained her PhD from the Australian National University in Canberra for a thesis on the long-distance politics among Acehnese in diaspora. Currently, she is a McKenzie postdoctoral fellow at the University of Melbourne. For the last three years, she has been researching the social, political and legal situations of transit migrants in Indonesia.