State-created vulnerability as a deterrent: The perceived vulnerability of single male asylum seekers

Stephen Phillips

Event details


Date & time

Thursday 19 December 2019


LT 1.04, Coombs Extension Building 8, ANU


Stephen Phillips, Institute for Human Rights, Åbo Akademi University, Finland


Carly Gordyn

This seminar explores the extent to which the denial of the vulnerability label to certain individuals and groups can lead to an increase in their level of vulnerability, as through their exclusion from services they are often placed at greater risk.

The talk will focus on single male asylum seekers, a group who make up a considerable number of asylum seekers but who often fail to arouse the sympathy of governments, NGOs, and the public. Single men are in many cases screened out of support programs due to their perceived lack of need when compared to men with families, women, and children, and are similarly more easily detainable and more deportable.

The research looks at single male asylum seekers in both community and detention settings and juxtaposes their detainability and access to services with that of other groups of asylum seekers. The perceived vulnerability of single male asylum seekers is used as a reference point to examine how the vulnerability concept is theorised, constructed and applied, and to demonstrate the potentially exclusionary nature of the vulnerability concept and how it may be (mis)used as a tool of power. It then locates asylum seeker vulnerability within the deterrence framework favoured by many states, arguing that the targeted creation of conditions of vulnerability is employed as a deliberate deterrence measure by states that seek to prevent access to their territories by asylum seekers.

Stephen Phillips is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Human Rights, Åbo Akademi University, Finland. His research examines state responses to forced migration, specifically the prevention of access to asylum. He has previously worked in casework and advocacy roles in both the government and non-government sectors with asylum seekers in Australia and with victims of forced displacement in Colombia.

The Migration and Displacement Discussion Group invites ANU researchers to come together to bridge our disciplinary divides and engage in a wider conversation.

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