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Seeking Asylum

Human Smuggling and Bureaucracy at the Border

2010
Author:

Alison Mountz

Seeking Asylum

How human smuggling illuminates the complexities of immigration policies and laws

Seeking Asylum is a wide-ranging investigation into the power of states to change the relationship between geography and law as they negotiate border crossings. Using examples from Canada, Australia, and the United States, Alison Mountz demonstrates the centrality of space and place in efforts to control the fate of unwanted migrants.

Seeking Asylum shines a fascinating light on the complex ties between the state and its socio-territorial boundaries, and the people who produce them. It compellingly explores the simultaneous power and limitations of the institutions charged with policing migrants, and the increasingly impoverished condition of refugee rights in the world’s most prosperous countries. It challenges us to ask hard questions about the state’s exclusionary practices, and most importantly about ourselves and the ever-more formidable boundaries built in our names.

Joseph Nevins, author of Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid

In July 1999, Canadian authorities intercepted four boats off the coast of British Columbia carrying nearly six hundred Chinese citizens who were being smuggled into Canada. Government officials held the migrants on a Canadian naval base, which it designated a port of entry. As one official later recounted to the author, the Chinese migrants entered a legal limbo, treated as though they were walking through a long tunnel of bureaucracy to reach Canadian soil.

The “long tunnel thesis” is the basis of Alison Mountz’s wide-ranging investigation into the power of states to change the relationship between geography and law as they negotiate border crossings. Mountz draws from many sources to argue that refugee-receiving states capitalize on crises generated by high-profile human smuggling events to implement restrictive measures designed to regulate migration. Whether states view themselves as powerful actors who can successfully exclude outsiders or as vulnerable actors in need of stronger policies to repel potential threats, they end up subverting access to human rights, altering laws, and extending power beyond their own borders.

Using examples from Canada, Australia, and the United States, Mountz demonstrates the centrality of space and place in efforts to control the fate of unwanted migrants.

Seeking Asylum

Alison Mountz is associate professor of geography at Syracuse University.

Seeking Asylum

Seeking Asylum shines a fascinating light on the complex ties between the state and its socio-territorial boundaries, and the people who produce them. It compellingly explores the simultaneous power and limitations of the institutions charged with policing migrants, and the increasingly impoverished condition of refugee rights in the world’s most prosperous countries. It challenges us to ask hard questions about the state’s exclusionary practices, and most importantly about ourselves and the ever-more formidable boundaries built in our names.

Joseph Nevins, author of Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid

A rare combination of theoretical sophistication and detailed empirical analysis makes this an exceptional book. Alison Mountz’s analysis provides evidence of state practices and policies that have only been discussed at the most general level in the past.

Valerie Preston, York University

Mountz offers a fascinating exploration of how immigration law changes.

Choice

This is an engaging and sophisticated volume that is theoretically rich and
also emotionally moving.

Journal of Refugee Studies

Seeking Asylum provides a critical, well written account of a particular Canadian effort to manage irregular migration.

Surveillance & Society

Seeking Asylum is a thoroughly researched, clearly thought out, and well-written book making a strong argument for treating the state as an embodied, iterative process rather than a solid entity. . . . I would strongly recommend it to anyone of any discipline with an interest in the state, in borders, or in migration.

Erika Sigvardsdotter, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

An excellent work of scholarship. ... Seeking Asylum should be read by anyone interested in questions of asylum, human smuggling, the state, and territory.

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