Refugees in Limbo: The Implications of Australia’s Externalized Border Policies in Indonesia


The topic of immigration has a longstanding tendency to be used as a political wedge in Australia, securitized by politicians for political gains. This gave rise to the government’s hardline stance and policy towards ‘illegal’ immigration, considered to be one of the strictest in the world. Seeking to deter any boat from arriving at its shores, the Australian government externalizes its border policies to other countries in the Asia-Pacific by exerting significant influence on their migration policies. This paper analyses the case of Indonesia, a country that has been a thorn in the eyes of the Australian government since the majority of incoming asylum-seekers and refugees (ASRs) who arrive by boat come through this country. By contextualizing Australia’s externalized policies in Indonesia and the subsequent shift this created in the latter’s asylum policy, this paper raises awareness of the precarious circumstances ASRs find themselves in as a result: no access to basic rights like employment and education, nor any prospect of resettlement or local integration. Lastly, this paper questions the role of the IOM in carrying out migration control projects on behalf of states of the Global North, allowing for countries like Australia to disguise its harmful self-serving migration policies under the organization’s humanitarian image.

By: Loïs Willekers

Published on February 4, 2021

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