‘Closure’ at Manus Island and Carceral Expansion in the Open Air Prison

Dr Claire Loughnan1, Maria Giannacopoulos2
1University of Melbourne, 2Flinders university

Since 1992, Australia has had a policy of mandatory immigration detention which was extended in 2001 to offshore processing on the islands of Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG).  These centres have a history of violence and suffering.  The 2017 ‘closure’ of the Lombrom offshore processing centre on Manus Island followed a decision by PNG’s Supreme Court that the centre breached the PNG Constitution. We argue that this is best understood as a declaration of ‘closure’ which obscures the carceral expansion that such closures enable.     By placing the 2017 ‘closure’ of the detention centre on Manus Island within the broader context of immigration detention and colonialism in Australia, we extend Maillet, Mountz and Williams’ (2018) use of Elden’s imperio to argue that the closures of camps like the one at Manus Island, are constitutive of carceral expansions that are imperial in form, while also recalling earlier patterns of colonial violence.


Claire teaches in criminology and socio-legal studies. Her research interests are in border protection, immigration detention and forced migration. Her doctoral thesis argues that contemporary border protection policies in Australia amount to a failure of responsibility, in ethical terms. Australia’s system of mandatory immigration detention is thus examined through the lens of ‘office holding’ as a site for rethinking the ethical relations of those who work within the institutional life of migration, whether politicians, judges, guards or health care professionals, in order to argue for an ethics of office which might contribute towards a deeper understanding of responsibility beyond mere accountability to a role. She is extending her work to an analysis of institutional conduct in diverse sites such as youth detention, prisons, aged and disability care.


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