Date of Graduation

Spring 5-21-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Migration Studies


College of Arts and Sciences


Migration Studies

First Advisor

Bill Ong Hing


This research explores a comparison of the use and abuse of deterrence policies, namely the externalisation of borders, and spatial control aimed to disallow entry for refugees and asylum seekers arriving by boat to both the United States and Australia. Paying particular attention to the immigration occurrences in the US from the early 1980s and present day responses in Australia, this research explores the rise in offshore detention centres and the ways in which these countries shirk their international obligations in a bid to strengthen sovereignty, by creating zones of exemption that expel refugees and asylum seekers to liminal spaces. This thesis examines spatial control and management and what happens when this tactic does not suffice in stemming flows, subsequently creating more draconian deterrence policies. In this particular case what is explored is the instalment and consequences of the 2016 Refugee Swap between Australia and the United States. Through a comparative study, this research will unpack the ways in which refugees and asylum seekers are not only dehumanised but are subsequently commodified and used as a trading pawn between the two governments.

What this case study attempts to highlight is the historical context that has primed the conditions for the collusion of both the US and Australia to erode policy, public opinion, sovereignty and human rights. In embarking on a transnational comparison, this thesis explores the similarities and differences of the two countries to expose the ways Australia mirrors and expands upon the U.S’s draconian carceral immigration policies that are harmful to human life.