Comparing Cooperation on Migration Control: Italy–Libya and Australia–Indonesia

35 Pages Posted: 15 May 2017

See all articles by Francesca Mussi

Francesca Mussi

Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca

Nikolas Feith Tan

Danish Institute for Human Rights

Date Written: April 11, 2017


From Rome to Canberra, parliaments and policymakers are seeking to fashion responses to irregular migration by sea. The dominant response to this form of irregular migration is one of control, through the implementation of measures to deter and prevent asylum seekers reaching the State’s territory. Since the 1980s, western States have used deterrence or non-entrée measures to keep asylum seekers from accessing their territory and asylum procedures. Existing scholarly work details a range of migration control measures undertaken by these States, including visa controls, carrier sanctions, establishment of so-called ‘international zones’, excision of territory for the purposes of migration, and interdiction on the high seas. As migration control has shifted from the territory of western States to project beyond States’ borders, it has – at least in some cases – been carried out with the cooperation of nearby States.

Since little attention has so far been given to a comparative analysis of such cooperation arrangements, this paper aims to investigate two cases of bilateral cooperation on migration control – between Italy and Libya, and between Australia and Indonesia. Such a comparative approach acknowledges the commonalities – and divergences – between migration control policies across the developed world in a rapidly shifting policy area. Existing academic work focuses on extraterritorial control measures undertaken by Italy and Australia, but so far authors who have examined this cooperative dimension have tended to confine their analysis to the compatibility of these practices with the law of the sea, human rights law, and refugee law.

The two arrangements share common features. Both Italy and Australia are targets of irregular migration by sea, by virtue of their coastal geography. Both Indonesia and Libya are important transit states for irregular migrants seeking access to international protection. Neither Indonesia nor Libya is party to the Convention on the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention). Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have criticised the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia and Libya, respectively, in recent years. Indonesia has recently adopted a presidential decree on refugees, but there remains no legal avenue for local integration of irregular migrants found to require international protection. Libya, despite being a party to the Convention governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, has yet to adopt national asylum legislation or procedures.

Keywords: Migration, Sea, Italy, Libya, Australia, Indonesia, Refugees, Asylum

Suggested Citation

Mussi, Francesca and Feith Tan, Nikolas, Comparing Cooperation on Migration Control: Italy–Libya and Australia–Indonesia (April 11, 2017). UCD Working Papers in Law, Criminology & Socio-Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09/17. Available at SSRN:

Francesca Mussi (Contact Author)

Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca ( email )

Piazza dell'Ateneo Nuovo, 1
Milano, Milan 20126

Nikolas Feith Tan

Danish Institute for Human Rights

Wilders Plads 8K
Copenhagen K, 1403

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