Over the Borderline: A Critical Inquiry into the Geography of Territorial Excision and the Securitisation of the Australian Border

30 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2014 Last revised: 21 Nov 2014

See all articles by Anthea Vogl

Anthea Vogl

University of Technology Sydney, Faculty of Law

Date Written: November 14, 2014


The policy of territorial excision is a foundational and extraordinary aspect of Australian refugee and immigration policy. First introduced in Australia over 12 years ago in 2001, it essentially designates certain parts of Australian territory to be ‘excised’ from Australia’s migration zone. As a result of the policy, any person who reaches an ‘excised offshore place’ by sea without authorisation is classified as an ‘unauthorised maritime arrival’. Unauthorised maritime arrivals are held to be outside Australia’s migration zone and may not apply for a visa under Australia’s existing onshore visa application process, as set out in the Migration Act 1958 (Cth).

This paper explores the history, logic and geography of territorial excision in Australia. While there has been voluminous discussion regarding the legality of and motivations for Australia’s offshore processing regime, remarkably little attention has been paid to the significance of territorial excision. This is the case despite the progressive expansion of excision, and its centrality in a regime that seeks to control and deter ‘unauthorised’ boat arrivals. This paper argues that although excision is frequently described in passing, as a building block in a policy regime that aims to limit onshore asylum seekers’ access to Australian territory, the policy does more than provide a means of excluding ‘unauthorised’ boat arrivals from Australian migration law. It produces and relies upon conflicting conceptions of Australia’s territorial borders, and uses geographic redefinitions to achieve particular goals relating to national security. In Parts 1 and 2, an examination of the literature that describe and critiques the securitisation of migration, and an outline of the history of territorial excision demonstrates that securitised discourses of migration were at the centre of justifications for the policy. This is done with reference to Australian Parliamentary debates surrounding the policy. Then, in Part 3 I argue that the geography of excision undermines both the logic of territoriality and the construction of territorial borders as fixed sites delimiting the safety of the state, upon which the securitisation of migration and the policy itself relies.

Keywords: migration law, refugee law, securitisation of migration, border studies, law and geography, forced migration, unauthorised migration, asylum law

Suggested Citation

Vogl, Anthea, Over the Borderline: A Critical Inquiry into the Geography of Territorial Excision and the Securitisation of the Australian Border (November 14, 2014). University of New South Wales Law Journal, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2524242

Anthea Vogl (Contact Author)

University of Technology Sydney, Faculty of Law ( email )


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