Australia’s harsh policy response to asylum seekers appears to be an extreme measure for a country that thinks of itself as a liberal democracy. Confining analyses of this regime to refugee law and policy overlooks the ways that Australia’s colonial history, Indigenous dispossession, and contemporary race relations interact with one another. Th is article argues that these historical dynamics are essential to understanding the Australian government’s response to asylum seekers in the present day, with asylum-seekers and Indigenous peoples in Australia both being utilized as tools of modern statecraft to shore up the legitimacy of the Australian state. Attention is drawn to parallels between the treatment of both Indigenous peoples and asylum seekers by the Australian government, with the increasingly harsh response to asylum seekers in Australian politics coinciding with the expansion of land rights for Indigenous Australians.
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