In this paper I explore cruelty and violence institutionalised and practiced by states on the bodies of vulnerable persons; in this case asylum seekers. In the area of immigration control, states are asserting their power over individuals who cross territorial borders with increased ferocity and often violently. Violent responses are particularly apparent in state responses to people who are smuggled or trafficked into a territory seeking protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention. It has been asserted that the harmonisation of strategies dealing with asylum containment are akin to the erection of an imaginary border around Western states. States have sought to increase measures of exclusion and deterrence of various groups of outsiders, including asylum seekers, through internal and external measures of control, coercion and violence. We know from political theory that the modern state has the monopoly of legitimate physical violence, exercised through means of the military, overt and covert forms of surveillance and the legal/political order. I ponder whether links can be drawn between heightened international security concerns over terrorism, and the retreat from human rights protection by Western states. Moreover, what consequences can be anticipated from the more generalised erosion of social trust where state violence is recognised as excessive?