In December 2012, a comparative workshop was held at Flinders University, Adelaide to discuss emerging regimes of power in response to irregular migration. The workshop was conceptually organised around similar challenges being experienced by Australia and the southern European states of Italy and Greece. In both zones, the construction of the migration problem as a question of numbers and peoples plays a large role in developing border-control policies. Reactive policies are developed around highly visible cases, rather than a systemic review of the broader problem and its real causes. Instances of highly visible irregular migration in Australia and the European Union include the post-Tampa crisis and the ‘boat people’ debate in Australia, and the critical situation on the small Italian island of Lampedusa, near Tunisia. These instances elicit strong and equally visible responses, such as the revived ‘Pacific Solution’ (offshore processing) and the transformation of Lampedusa into an offshore detention ‘container’ that closely resembles the Christmas Island detention facility. This symposium arose from these themes and aims to offer a more comprehensive approach to the issue of irregular migration.