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The welfare policing of asylum seekers as ‘necropolitics’ Leanne Weber
In Australia, a ‘structurally embedded border’ operates in relation to non-citizens through selective denial of access to goods and services, and the incorporation of service providing agencies into migration policing networks. These developments reflect ‘welfare nationalism’, in which resources are reserved for citizens, and also serve the instrumental goal of engineering ‘voluntary departures’ by blocking access to the essential building blocks for life. The Status Resolution Support Service (SRSS) exemplifies both the service denial and surveillance elements of the structurally embedded border. Ostensibly set up to support certain categories of asylum seekers released into the community from mandatory detention, the system provides minimal financial assistance while subjecting welfare recipients to intensive surveillance. One research informant from a legal NGO noted: ‘It feels to me that the system works basically to manage risk for the department, to ensure that the people who are under that system do not kill themselves. And beyond that, the actual support, or I guess, welfare provisions, are very minimal’. In this paper I draw on findings from interviews with NGOs and service providers in Victoria to discuss the ways in which SRSS might be conceived as a system of ‘necropolitics’, a term popularised by postcolonial theorist Achille Mbembe. Necropolitics is related to the Foucauldian idea of ‘biopolitics’, in which populations are managed through the exercise of social and political power with a view to sustaining and ordering human life. In the case of necropolitics, particular population groups are controlled by being subjected to the sovereign right, not merely to kill, but to also impose social or civil death.