Pacific Geographies (Feb 2022)

Scapegoating juvenile ‘people smugglers’ from Indonesia: poverty, crime, and punishment

  • Missbach, Antje,
  • Palmer, Wayne

Journal volume & issue
no. 57
pp. 4 – 10


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This article introduces two case studies of underage transporters from Indonesia, who brought asylum seekers to Australia by boat and thus were convicted and jailed for the crime of people smuggling. In light of the hyper-politicised issue of people smuggling and the need to find punishable perpetrators, transporters have become the main target of anti-people-smuggling law enforcement. Both transporters came from poor families and started working early on in their lives, which also involved their deceptive recruitment into people-smuggling networks. But the outcome of their prosecutions differs substantially, not least, as one of them was convicted in an Australian court and the other in Indonesia. In this article, we problematise the culpability of underage smugglers and argue for more lenient treatment by law-enforcement authorities.