Irregular migration and humanitarian aid in the Asia Pacific

Tasia PowerCentre for Law and Justice, Charles Sturt University

 *Tasia Power: tpower@csu.edu.au

 

The most significant demographic change to occur in the Asia Pacific region in the last three decades has been the increase in levels of migration and personal mobility (Hugo, 2011). This spatial patterning of irregular migration within the region and attempts to balance the need for border protection and securitization with that of international humanitarian obligations, has precipitated new classifications in migrant practices (Iredale, Hawksley & Castles, 2003). Contemporary narratives show a progression of multilateralism, embedding sovereign and securitization agendas within the framework of humanitarian institutions (Fassin, 2011). This form of governance illustrates a reshaping of humanitarianism, moving away from the principle of non-interference towards an integrated system that uses security policies and human rights to strategically direct welfare services and migration patterns (Huysmans, 2000; Pickering & Weber 2014). Such an approach raises questions about the underlying purpose of humanitarian aid. This presentation examines Australia’s policies on the securitization of migration and the impact this has on the delivery of humanitarian aid within the Asia Pacific region. Triangulation methodology has been used to provide a criminological and legislative analysis while balancing the literature with the experiences of refugees and International welfare agencies. Four case studies have been examined to give a comparative analysis of current practices: the influence of funding from the IOM on irregular migration within Indonesia; the impact of securitization and sovereignty within Offshore Detention on Manus and Nauru; the use of humanitarian aid as a gatekeeping tool for migration within Cambodia; and, the experiences of asylum seekers in transit through the Asia Pacific region. The preliminary findings suggest that the moral weighting of ethical clarity that once formed the basis of traditional humanitarianism has evolved into a new form of governance in which humanitarianism is utilised as a tool of deterrence and border control for irregular migration.