Sovereign Relations: Australia’s ‘Off-shoring’ of Asylum Seekers on Nauru in Historical Perspective

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Against International Relations Norms: Postcolonial Perspectives, 2017, pp. 158 - 174
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This chapter focuses on the offshore processing centre on Nauru, in order to interrogate how the norm of sovereignty is used, or rather, abused in the Australian policy of offshore processing. The Australian Government has repeatedly and consistently claimed that under the laws of sovereignty, Nauru is responsible for the refugee processing centre on its territory. Against this view, I argue in this chapter that the Australian Government abuses foundational norms of sovereignty in the policy of offshore processing in order to avoid liability for refugee detention and processing on Nauru. In so doing, the Australian Government undermines Nauru's formal sovereign status, exercises effective control over Nauruan territory, and in essence implements its own migration and asylum policy on Nauruan soil. This chapter further argues that Australia's offshore processing regime on Nauru is best understood through a postcolonial lens; that is, Australia's use of Nauruan territory to establish a processing centre beyond Australian legal regulation is directly continuous with Australia's colonial history in the Pacific, and with Nauru in particular. Australia's ability to exploit Nauru's territory and its sovereignty in order to implement its own migration and 'border control' strategies is made possible by Australia's former colonial relationship with Nauru. In turn, offshore processing extends and continues Nauru's ongoing relationship with Australia of dependence and aid, which began with Australia's colonial exploitation of Nauru's land and resources.
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