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Thematic Issue: Abuse of Power / General

Refugees and Asylum Seekers as Workers: Radical Temporariness and Labour Exploitation in Australia


Laurie Berg, Sara Dehm and Anthea Vogl

This article analyses the emerging evidence of labour exploitation of refugees and asylum seekers on temporary visas in Australia. Over the last decade, Australia’s temporary protection regime has been marked by profound uncertainty in relation to visa status, unfettered Ministerial discretion, and the punitive exercise of governmental power. We argue that this framework amounts to abuse of governmental power, confining refugees and asylum seekers who arrived by boat to a situation of radical temporariness in Australia. This results not only in the denial of permanent protection and social inclusion to these refugees and asylum seekers, but also provides conditions for greater abuse of power by employers in the realm of workplaces across Australia. We outline six factors related to temporary immigration status and other punitive, unpredictable and arbitrary elements in this regulatory regime that currently increase the vulnerability of refugees and asylum seekers to labour exploitation.

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(2022) 45(1) UNSWLJ 35: