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Accepted Paper:

Disabling escapes: the criminalisation of 'people smuggling' in Indonesia  


Antje Missbach (Bielefeld University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper provides insights into how various facilitators used to enable irregular passages by boat for asylum seekers Australia and analyses the impacts of the criminalisation of people smuggling for both asylum seekers and convicted perpetrators.

Paper long abstract:

This paper provides a perspective from the Global South on the facilitation of irregular passages ('people smuggling'). Between 2009 and mid-2013, more than 50,000 asylum seekers made their way to Australia by boat with the help of Indonesian transporters. Their arrival in Australia triggered hyper-politicized debates on migration, refugee protection and national security and led to the adoption of more restrictive deterrence strategies. Pressured by the Australian government, Indonesian authorities adopted a range of policies that served to immobilize asylum seekers aspiring to reach Australia from Indonesia. Indonesia criminalized people smuggling for the first time in 2011, but it has enforced the legislation implemented for this purpose unevenly. Next to discussing the consequences of Australia's and Indonesia's anti-people smuggling policies for asylum seekers and refugees who are now forced to wait indefinitely in order to 'move on', this paper looks closer at who gets punished for his/her involvement in people smuggling? and Who escapes criminal prosecution and why? While there is strong political pressure to combat people smuggling, prosecution and punishment proceed unevenly, targeting poor, precarious and marginalised perpetrators more harshly than those with higher social standing, solid social networks and the means to pay off others. in result, I argue that the “illegality industry” (Andersson 2014), in which certain law enforcement officials and less visible actors of the smuggling networks work together in harmony, was left widely intact.

Panel Mob02a
Making mobility rules. [SIEF Working Group on Migration and Mobility]