Insanity and Immigration Control in New Zealand and Australia, 1860-1930.


  • Ruth Balint



Roughly fifteen percent of the world’s total population is believed to live with some form of disability. The proportion in refugee and migrant populations is undoubtedly higher, exacerbated by their exposure to high risk, violence and uncertainty. People who have disabilities are also among those most prone to poverty, social marginalisation, prejudice and discrimination. Yet despite various mechanisms introduced by the international community to protect people with disabilities, including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2007), the stigma and barriers refugee and migrants face in gaining entry or asylum prevails. These barriers are practical as well as political: legislation introduced in Australia, for example, has fortified the ability of government to deport people who are non-citizens, under a policy of removal that has done away with legal processes. The policy gained some negative attention in the media in the early years of this century, when controversies surrounded the deportation of mentally ill Australian citizens Cornelia Rau and Vivian Alvarez Solon by mistake. But despite these brief moments of outrage, the government has continued to deport families and individuals it considers will impose “excessive cost” on the public purse in the long run.


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