Perpetual Insecurity 2c - Racialized Legal Status


Racialized Legal Status and Administrative Detention

[imagecaption] ‘No More Border Deaths!’, Close the Camps Action Collective, Naarm, Kulin Nations, 2018. Photo: Charandev Singh. [/imagecaption]

The concept of ‘racialized legal status’ developed by Asad and Clair (2018) is relevant to the plight of people in community detention–effectively a state of administrative detention.  Asad and Clair argue that the law serves as a fundamental mechanism of social stratification so as to produce health and psychosocial disparities in the population. These disparities are understood in the context of the material and symbolic exclusions entailed by criminal status and immigration status. Both these categories are relevant to those refugees and asylum seekers marked as ‘illegals’, with the spillover effects also impacting on the health of their families and communities.

‘Racialized legal status’ applies to  asylum seekers living in the community in Australia, particularly those included in the Legacy Caseload, some of whom have been waiting in excess of five years to have their refugee claims assessed. This group has been described as occupying a state of lethal hopelessness. Instead of providing sanctuary, the state of being in temporary protection or under community detention can induce a sense of perpetual insecurity. For many, the conditions of temporary status prove so unliveable that they feel impelled to give up their hopes of building a life for themselves and their families in Australia. Increasingly, the outcome of using peoples’ psychological vulnerabilities as a means of ‘deterrence’ has resulted in suicide, as well as self-deportation: another form of ‘removal’ from Australian soil. These, too, are deaths in the custody of the state.


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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are respectfully advised that this website contains images of and references to deceased persons.

All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.