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The Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement


Outsourcing Asylum and Border Enforcement in the Asia-Pacific: The Experiences of the Republic of Nauru

by Julia Morris


Abstract: In recent years, countries in the Global North have moved towards outsourcing asylum and border enforcement to frontier territories and regions in the Global South. Drawing on fieldwork in the Republic of Nauru, the world’s smallest island nation, Julia Morris discusses the realities of the island’s offshore asylum arrangement with Australia and its impact on islanders, workforces, and migrant populations. She explores how this extractive industry is peopled by an ever-shifting cast of refugee lawyers, social workers, clinicians, policy makers, and academics globally and how the very structures of Nauru's colonial phosphate industry and the legacy of the "phosphateer" era made it easy for a new human extractive sector to take root on the island. By detailing the making of and social life of Nauru's asylum system, Morris shows the institutional fabric, discourses, and rhetoric that inform the governance of migration around the world. As similar practices of offshoring and outsourcing asylum have become popular globally, they are enabled by the mobile labor and expertise of transnational refugee industry workers who carry out the necessary daily operations. Morris illuminates how refugee rights activism and #RefugeesWelcome-style movements are caught up in the hardening of border enforcement operations worldwide, calling for freedom of movement that goes beyond adjudicating hierarchies of suffering.

Julia Morris, Asylum and Extraction in the Republic of Nauru, Cornell University Press, February 2023.

Thursday, 11 May, 2023 - 16:00