Leaking Boats and Borders: The virtu of surveilling Australia’s refugee population

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Luke Heemsbergen
Angela Daly


When refugees displaced to Australia’s offshore detention do speak, it is through surveillance upended through publicity and violations of privacy. Weak legal rights to privacy in Australia juxtapose the increasing secrecy under which the Australian state operates its own offshore detention centres (Manus Island and Nauru) while increasing the mandate of data retention at home. Australia’s institutional context offers visibility to these concerns of surveillance whereby we find an acceleration of prohibitive privacy for government and prohibitive transparency for individuals. Our analysis of this country synthesises media-law in practice with theories of mediated visibility (Flyverbom 2016, 2017; Brighenti 2010), to understand Australian privacy, media and immigration law in the context of pervasive surveillance and the radical management of visibility. Our contribution speaks to applicable privacy concerns for states grappling with invasive data collection and its relation to the (prohibiting of the private) voice of the surveilled, which we see as doubly acute for those left vulnerable in Australia’s borderzones.


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