Bleiker, Roland, Campbell, David, Hutchison, Emma and Nicholson, Xzarina (2013) The Visual Dehumanisation of Refugees. Australian Journal of Political Science, 483: 398-416. doi:10.1080/10361146.2013.840769
Dealing with refugees is one of the most contested political issues in Australia. We examine how media images of asylum seekers have framed ensuing debates during two crucial periods over the past decade. By conducting a content analysis of newspaper front pages we demonstrate that asylum seekers have primarily been represented as medium or large groups and through a focus on boats. We argue that this visual framing, and in particular the relative absence of images that depict individual asylum seekers with recognisable facial features, associates refugees not with a humanitarian challenge, but with threats to sovereignty and security. These dehumanising visual patterns reinforce a politics of fear that explains why refugees are publicly framed as people whose plight, dire as it is, nevertheless does not generate a compassionate political response.