Doors and fences: Controlling Indonesia's porous borders and policing asylum seekers

Antje Missbach

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Although the partial outsourcing of state border control to non-state actors is not a new phenomenon, Indonesia is an interesting case study. Border control in an archipelago consisting of more than 17000 islands is particularly challenging for state authorities. In addition to contending with the exceptional geography, Indonesia s state authorities are also challenged by the political constellation with Australia in regard to irregular cross-border movements of asylum seekers that has become a controversial issue in recent history. As an important transit country for asylum seekers and refugees en route to Australia, Indonesia s porous borders have rendered it possible to enter and exit the country relatively easily. Given Australia s political pressure and the financial incentives offered to Indonesia to act as a final bulwark and control irregular migration flows more effectively, border control nowadays has gained more significance in Indonesia than in the past. Yet, financial constraints and, more importantly, a lack of political will to host asylum seekers in its own territories for the long term remain as obstacles. Fieldwork observations show that due to ongoing funding restrictions for state-led border control, state-society cooperation for border surveillance has increased. Civilians in many hotspots for irregular border crossings have been encouraged to report on suspicious foreigners . State-society cooperation for border control, however, offers new opportunities for people smugglers to pay off civilian spies or corrupt border authorities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228 - 244
Number of pages17
JournalSingapore Journal of Tropical Geography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

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