Why fishermen become people smugglers

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Date(s) - 19/05/2016
1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

Meeting Room, Menzies Building N302


Precarious livelihoods in Eastern Indonesia: how fishermen become people smugglers

a seminar by our Dr Antje Missbach.

A recent survey found that a disproportionate number of offenders sentenced to jail for involvement in people smuggling are from Eastern Indonesia, usually considered the poorest part of the country. In my talk I investigate the socio-economic backgrounds of sentenced people-smuggling offenders, first and foremost fishermen, in light of their generally meagre prospects for earning a living. Next to the survey data, my talk relies on qualitative material from interviews with convicted people smugglers, both while serving their sentences in jail and after their release, conducted during two fieldtrips, in 2012 and 2014, to Rote Island, the Indonesian island closest to Australia and a frequent departure point for asylum seekers to Australia. Using the fishermen’s narratives, the decision-making and risk-taking strategies of fishermen who have been involved in the transport of asylum seekers are reconstructed in this paper. Their motivations to become involved in people smuggling are correlated with two structural problems they face, overfishing and pollution, which have made their livelihoods precarious. Understanding the local structural constraints of the fishermen helps us draw firmer conclusions on why and how transnational people-smuggling networks recruit impoverished fishermen as transporters into their realms. Rather than viewing the decision to become involved in people smuggling as an individual’s poor decision and its negative outcome as self-inflicted misery, this paper stresses the notion of collective precariousness, which is, more often than not, enhanced by external factors, such as Australian policies.


Antje Missbach is a senior research fellow at Monash University. Her main research interests include irregular migration and clandestine mobilities. Since 2013, she has carried out ARC-funded research on people-smuggling networks in Indonesia. Her latest publications include Troubled Transit: Asylum seekers stuck in Indonesia (2015) and Linking people: Connections and encounters between Australians and Indonesians (with Jemma Purdey, 2015).


We look forward to welcoming you for a seminar by our Dr Antje Missbach.


Please note that parking at Monash Clayton is difficult at this point in time due to building activities. If you are considering driving to the seminar, please consult this webpage for updates about parking at Monash: http://www.monash.edu/people/transport-parking/parking-at-clayton


Looking forward as always,


Julian Millie (CSEAS Curator)