Perpetual Insecurity 9a - The Haunting of Detention: Codes of Behaviour


The Haunting of Detention: Codes of Behaviour

Drawing of a crying face. Vertical bars cross his head while arms grasp the bars. His mind is caged.

[imagecaption] Artist: Mohammad, Refugee Art Project. [/imagecaption]


From December 2013, any asylum seeker who is granted a bridging visa has been required to sign a ‘Code of Behaviour’. This code functions partly as a rhetorical tool that perpetuates the myth that people seeking asylum are dangerous and pose a risk to the broader community and to so-called ‘Australian values’ (Methven and Vogl, 2014). This expansion of state surveillance, discipline and control also increases the fear and insecurity experienced by asylum seekers who could potentially face indefinite incarceration for breeches, such as ‘anti-social behaviour’, that for citizens would incur little or no consequence. The provisions of the code are very broad and extend well beyond existing Australian laws. Upon release from detention, the prospect of being re-detained continues to haunt people and provisions such as the Code of Behaviour function as a tactic of intimidation, control and punishment.

Section 501 of the Migration Act which includes reference to a ‘character test’, has increasingly been used to cancel or refuse visa grants. For people who are subject to non-refoulement obligations, section 501 can effectively impose a sentence of indefinite incarceration. There are several people who have died in detention or in the community who were either subject to a section 501 finding or feared imminent revocation of their visa on ‘character’ grounds.


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