Publication Details

Ganguly-Scrase, R. & Sheridan, L. M. (2012). Dispossession, human security, and undocumented migration: narrative accounts of Afghani and Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers. In R. Ganguly-Scrase & K. Lahiri-Dutt (Eds.), Rethinking Displacement: Asia Pacific Perspectives (pp. 251-274). United Kingdom: Ashgate.


In the globalised world of the twenty-first century, material and symbolic goods travel relatively freely across national borders. At the same time, movements of people, or at least particular categories of people, are becoming increasingly understood as a problem in need of control (Briskman and Cemlyn 2005; de Haas 2007; Turner 2010). Migration has become 'one of the most controversial areas of policy and practice facing virtually all countries' (Crawley 2006: 25). Perceptions of porous boundaries and unlimited opportunities coexist in the public imaginary with hardened attitudes towards desperate humans who seek to cross-national borders without authorisation by receiving states. Throughout the Global North, humanitarian ideals of social justice towards asylum seekers have given way to a preoccupation with national security and border control (Ganguly-Scrase et. al 2006; Innes 2010; Porter 2003; Sales 2002; Stalker 2001) and the consequent criminalisation of 'undocumented' migrants who arrive without authorisation (De Giorgi 2010; Fekete and Webber 2010; Hornqvist 2004; Welch and Schuster 2005). When formalised in law, these take the form of increasingly restrictive immigration legislation and regulations, intensified border controls, carrier sanctions, deterrent policies, and return migration policies (de Haas 2007: 823-24). While Fassin and d'Halluin (2007: 308) point out that 'there has never been a Golden Age for refugees' and that '[a]lways, in practice, asylum has come second to nations' economies and securities', the hardening of global attitudes towards asylum seekers is reaching unprecedented levels in popular and institutional discourses. Even previously generous states, such as Denmark, are seeking to reduce their intake of asylum seekers (Betts 2003). Within the contrasting debates between the undesirability of undocumented migrants and advocates of the humanitarian intake of asylum seekers, rarely are the perspectives of those seeking refuge taken into consideration. Based on research among internally displaced people in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, this chapter examines the intentionality of those seeking refuge.

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