Drowning in neoliberal lies: State responses towards people seeking asylum

Publication Name

British Journal of Social Work


This article argues that further enhancement of critical social work education and practice is needed to counter politicised and restrictive policies towards people seeking asylum in advanced globalised market economies. This means social workers giving more emphasis and prominence to the role of neoliberalism rather than solely focusing on the adverse moral and mental health impacts of state responses. Drawing on current debates and practices within critical social work and seven years’ experience in the Australian refugee sector, this article will demonstrate the punitive and deterrent configurations adopted by states like Australia to respond to people seeking asylum. The article then highlights the importance of social workers critically analysing historicised discourses which normalise such people as ‘dangerous’, ‘illegitimate’, ‘othered’ and a ‘burden’. Further interrogation of the social and cultural logic(s) of neoliberalism which serve to justify the former discourses will also be included. Finally, reflections on a range of strategies and solutions will be presented for critical social work educators and practitioners to resist and subvert neoliberalism and to secure better outcomes for people seeking asylum in Australia and elsewhere.

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