Technologies of Sovereignty 4h - Manipulations of Excision: The Lambeth


 Manipulations of Excision: The Lambeth

A paper coffee cup filled with orange and red flowers is laid on the concrete path in front of the room of a man who died in immigration detention. On the door to the room is a sign with the number 4 written on it and the 'Serco' logo above. Reflected in the window adjacent to the door is a compound fence.

[imagecaption] Flowers for Abdul Aziz, MITA accommodation, 2019. Photo: provided. [/imagecaption]


In April 2013, the Lambeth, also known as SIEV 662, was intercepted by an Australian customs vessel, the Ocean Protector, and taken to Darwin via the waters of the excised territory of Ashmore Reef in order to render the people on board ‘offshore arrivals’. They were thus intentionally denied the rights they would be entitled to as ‘onshore arrivals’ and subjected, by this dubious manoeuvre, to the s 46A bar, making them eligible to be transferred to offshore imprisonment on Manus Island or Nauru.

Coincidentally, the name Lambeth originates from Lambehitha, meaning ‘landing place for lambs’. In this case, the landing place of the 79, mostly Vietnamese, asylum seekers on board became a contested issue. In 2018, a Federal Circuit Court judgement determined that the practice of forcibly transiting people via Ashmore Reef was illegitimate. The transit of people through these waters for the purposes of forcing their arrival within an excision zone was eventually deemed invalid because the lagoon at Ashmore Reef, which was declared a ‘proclaimed port’ by then Minister for Immigration Philip Ruddock, in fact never had been a port.  Consequently, it was found that those on board did not ‘enter’ Australia at that point.

The tortuous manipulations of temporal and spatial borders by the policies of ‘excision’ have had dire consequences for those affected, from refoulement to places of persecution to years of incarceration offshore. In July 2019, it was reported that a young Afghan man who had arrived in Australia as an unaccompanied minor and was affected by the Lambeth ruling, died while detained in Melbourne.


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