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Contentious politics, human rights and Australian immigration detention

Contentious politics, human rights and Australian immigration detention

Essex, Ryan ORCID: 0000-0003-3497-3137 (2020) Contentious politics, human rights and Australian immigration detention. Australian Journal of Human Rights, 25 (3). pp. 376-390. ISSN 1323-238X (Print), 2573-573X (Online) (doi:

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Australian immigration detention has been a contentious political issue for over two decades. While Australia is signatory to all major human rights instruments, immigration detentions' status as administrative detention, the bipartisan political support it receives and the open hostility the government has expressed for human rights have ensured few avenues for political reform and progress toward the realisation of these rights. While this has challenged more traditional legal and institutional means of pursuing change, human rights can be (and have been) defended in other ways. In this article I will show how human rights shape and are shaped by contentious political action, offering a powerful means to pursue change where traditional political and legal structures have failed. I will first discuss grassroots action that has occurred in response to these policies, outlining action that has been relatively impactful. I will then consider how human rights could be understood as contentious. I argue that such an approach is particularly well positioned to explain how human rights have been used to challenge these policies and discuss the importance in of ongoing research and action in this area.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: refugee, asylum seeker, human rights, immigration detention, activism, contentious politics, protest
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > School of Health Sciences (HEA)
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2021 01:38

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