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New Deterrence Scripts in Australia's Rejuvenated Offshore Detention Regime for Asylum Seekers


  • Sharon Pickering,

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    • Sharon Pickering is a Professor of Criminology and Australian Research Council Future Fellow on Border Policing at Monash University in Melbourne Australia. Her books include Sex Work: Labour Mobility and Sexual Services (with Maher and Gerard) (2012); Borders and Crime (with McCulloch) (2012); Gender, Borders and Violence (2010); Sex Trafficking (2009) (with Segrave and Miliovjevic); Counter-Terrorism Policing (2008); and Refugees and State Crime (2005).
  • Leanne Weber

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    • Leanne Weber is Senior Research Fellow in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. She researches border control using criminological and human rights frameworks. Her books include Crime, Justice and Human Rights (with Fishwick and Marmo) (2014); Stop and Search: Police Power in Global Context (with Bowling) (2013); Policing Non-Citizens (2013); and Globalization and Borders: Death at the Global Frontier (with Pickering) (2011).


As the Global North experiences a real or manufactured crisis in asylum, deterrence has become the central plank in border control policies. Following a resurgence of boat arrivals and faced with serious overcrowding in detention centers and a spate of drownings, the Australian government returned to the use of offshore detention for asylum seekers. In this article, the official media releases of the major political parties from the period surrounding the reopening of detention facilities on Nauru and Papua New Guinea are subject to systematic discourse analysis. This reveals a range of deterrence scripts that we have labeled “neoliberal deterrence,” “classical deterrence,” and an “ethic of care.” The resuscitation of the deterrence script in this second incarnation of Australian offshore processing arguably reveals increasingly nuanced and combative elements. The article details how these scripts make an important contribution to global immigration governance, which is presently incapable of thinking beyond deterrence in its various forms.