Strip searching: Seeking the truth ‘in’ and ‘on’ the regular migrant’s body

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter examines the statutory powers of border migration officers in Australia with an emphasis on the coercive power exerted via the external body search (strip search) and internal body search (cavity search) of regular migrants. The chapter argues that the securitisation narrative allows the body to be positioned as the truth-definer. The body becomes a site of proof and trust, while documentation and oral explanation are deemed insufficient for revealing the truth, even when documents evidence belonging through citizenship. In this context, immigration officers are ‘border truth producers’ and the suspect community’s ʼnon-white body’ is the main target. The Australian legislation underpinning external and internal body searches is compared to the equivalent US regime to highlight the need for checks and balances in the Australian context. This requirement for more balanced statutory powers is justified by the lack of an evidence-based approach and the secrecy surrounding the border control regime, eroding de facto the existing protection of human rights. The chapter concludes with a reflection on the digitalisation of body searches via new technology, such as body scanners. It is claimed that such a procedure normalises the search for truth in/on the body, rendering anyone a member of the suspect community.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCrimmigration in Australia
Subtitle of host publicationLaw, Politics, and Society
EditorsPeter Billings
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9789811390937
ISBN (Print)9789811390920
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2019


  • Accountability
  • Border officials
  • Border technologies
  • Secrecy
  • Statutory body search powers


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