Life in the Shadow Carceral State: Surveillance and Control of Refugees in Australia


This article critically examines techniques employed by the Australian state to expand its control of refugees and asylum seekers living in Australia. In particular, it analyses the operation of Australia’s unique Asylum Seeker Code of Behaviour, which asylum seekers who arrive by boat must sign in order to be released from mandatory immigration detention, with reference to an original dataset of allegations made under the Code. We argue that the Code and the regime of visa cancellation and re-detention powers of which it forms a part are manifestations of what Beckett and Murakawa call the ‘shadow carceral state’, whereby punitive state power is extended beyond prison walls through the blurring of civil, administrative and criminal legal authority. The Code contributes to Australia’s apparatus of refugee deterrence by adding to it a brutal system of surveillance, visa cancellation and denial of services for asylum seekers living in the community.

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Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2020-11-26
Pages:61 to 75
Section:Special Issue: State Violence - Practices and Responses
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How to Cite
Vogl, A. and Methven, E. (2020) “Life in the Shadow Carceral State: Surveillance and Control of Refugees in Australia”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 9(4), pp. 61-75. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.1690.

Author Biographies

University of Technology Sydney

Anthea Vogl is a Senior Lecturer in law at the University of Technology Sydney. Her research addresses refugee and migration law, with a focus on the use of administrative powers to regulate refugees and non-citizens. She lectures in Administrative Law, Legal Theory and Refugee Law and Practice. Her current research projects address visa cancellation practices among asylum seeker and refugee populations and the private sponsorship of humanitarian entrants in Australia. She is a national convenor of Academics for Refugees in Australia.

University of Technology Sydney

Elyse Methven is a Lecturer in law at the University of Technology Sydney where she teaches Criminal Law and Procedure and Criminal Sentencing Law. Her areas of expertise include language and the law and criminal justice. She completed her PhD in 2017 on offensive language crimes. Her current research is on the operation of police discretion with respect to infringement notices, the regulation of offensive language, and the intersection of criminal and administrative powers.