This article uses the case studies of Australia and Malaysia to examine how diverse states in the Asia-Pacific region approach asylum seekers in practice and in discourse. Using a social constructionist approach to identity, the article highlights how governments in each country have grappled with irregular migration and the challenges it poses for national identity through processes of othering and exclusion. This comparison shows that the process of excluding asylum seekers on the basis of identity is not a Western phenomenon, but one extending to countries across the region. It is maintained that state discourses around asylum seekers within the two countries are framed in similar arguments centred around the concepts of irregular mobility, national identity, and exclusive citizenship. More specifically, it is demonstrated that both the Malaysian and Australian governments have projected asylum seekers in the public realm primarily as illegal through their undocumented mobility, and within this discourse as threats to national identity and security and therefore unworthy of citizenship privileges through resettlement or local integration. It is argued that each government has used trajectories specific to their own nation-building process to make their arguments more relevant and appealing to their constituents. A key premise of this article holds that an understanding of the rationale underpinning each government’s asylum approach will contribute to establishing more open and constructive regional dialogue around the asylum issue.