International Refugee and Migration Law Project

Project Director - Jane McAdam

This project examines a wide variety of issues pertaining to international refugee law and forced migration.  It has a particular focus on the impacts of climate change and natural disasters on human mobility, and on the intersection of human rights law and refugee law (complementary protection).  The project is often invited to make submissions to parliamentary inquiries on Australian asylum law and policy, and it led joint submissions by Australian academics to the 2011 inquiry on regional processing in Malaysia and the 2012 deliberations of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers.  Through a Memorandum of Understanding with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the project has engaged on research relating to statelessness laws in the Pacific and the rights of LGBTI asylum seekers.

The group runs a Forced Migration Reading and Writing Group during semester which anyone is welcome to attend.  Please contact the Project Director for details.

The Project Director also welcomes expressions of interest from prospective LLM (by research) or PhD candidates: j.mcadam@unsw.edu.au

** The International Refugee and Migration Law project has now concluded.  The Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law will continue to engage with constitutional and administrative law issues relating to refugees and migration.  Research on the international law dimensions will be undertaken by the new Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, directed by Jane McAdam. **

Current research projects:

Moving with Dignity: A Human Rights Approach to Slow-Onset Climate Change-Related Displacement and Relocation in the Pacific

This is a four-year Australian Research Council Future Fellowship held by the Project Director.  Drawing on the experiences of Pacific island communities that were relocated to other countries in the 1940s, the project examines the potential legal, policy and governance ramifications of resettling whole communities today.  En masse relocation is sometimes posited as a neat solution for States which may be rendered uninhabitable as a result of climate change impacts.  But moving people away from an increasingly unsustainable environment involves a lot more than simply securing safe territory.  Relocating a nation’s population raises fundamental human rights issues, not least self-determination (the right of a population to freely choose its political status, including independence as a separate country), cultural identity and nationality.  Indeed, loss of population may raise questions about the on-going existence of the State itself.  The project also addresses a much larger question that is presenting a significant challenge to existing migration theory, legal frameworks and policy initiatives: how should we accommodate pre-emptive movement—that is, in anticipation of climate change impacts—before those impacts actually force displacement?

For details of publications and presentations, see: http://www.law.unsw.edu.au/profile/publications/1304.

Report of a workshop on ‘Relocation in the Pacific’ (12 August 2013). 

Complementary Protection

'Complementary protection' describes the obligations States have under international human rights and humanitarian law towards people who are at risk of serious human rights violations in their country of origin, but who do not qualify as ‘refugees’ under the 1951 Refugee Convention.  In 2012, a regime of complementary protection took effect in Australian law, bringing Australia into line with the practices of countries like Canada, the Member States of the European Union, the United States, and New Zealand.

The project has developed a resource page on complementary protection sources from around the world.  It includes weekly updates of all complementary protection cases in Australia and New Zealand: http://www.gtcentre.unsw.edu.au/resources/international-refugee-and-migration-law-project

Additional presentations and publications can be found here: http://www.law.unsw.edu.au/profile/publications/1304.

Immigration Restriction and the Racial State, c. 1800 to the Present

This is a four-year Australian Research Council Discovery Grant which examines the history of medico-legal border control in the Asia-Pacific region. This grant is held in conjunction with two historians, Professor Alison Bashford at Sydney University and Dr Sunil Amrith at the University of London.

Publications can be found here: http://www.law.unsw.edu.au/profile/publications/1304.

Past research projects:

Weathering Uncertainty: Climate Change ‘Refugees’ and International Law

This project, funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant, critically examined the extent to which States have obligations to ‘protect’ people displaced by climate change under international refugee law, international human rights law, and international law on statelessness.  Significantly, it evaluated whether flight from habitat destruction should be viewed as another facet of traditional international protection, or as a new challenge requiring new legal solutions.  By developing a framework for understanding climate-related displacement, it sought to develop ways for international and regional policymakers to devise sustainable, principled and practical solutions for those displaced by the impacts of climate change.

The major publications resulting from this grant included three books:

1.       J McAdam, Climate Change, Forced Migration, and International Law (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012) (319pp)

2.       J McAdam (ed), Climate Change and Displacement: Multidisciplinary Perspectives (Hart Publishing, Oxford, 2010) (258 pp)

3.       B Saul, S Sherwood, J McAdam, T Stephens and J Slezak, Climate Change and Australia: Warming to the Global Challenge (Federation Press, Sydney, 2012) (246pp)

Additional publications and presentations can be found on the Project Director’s website.  For webcast of ‘Climate Change and Migration in the Asia-Pacific: Legal and Policy Responses’ conference (November 2011), see: http://www.gtcentre.unsw.edu.au/events/climate-change-and-migration-asia-pacific-legal-and-policy-responses.

War Crimes and Refugee Status: The Application and Interpretation of International Humanitarian and International Criminal Law to the Adjudication of Refugee Status in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand

This was a collaborative international project funded by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council International Opportunities Fund.  It involved researchers from four countries: Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill (University of Oxford), Professor Geoff Gilbert (University of Essex), Professor Kate Jastram (Berkeley), Assistant Professor James Simeon (York University, Toronto), and Professor Jane McAdam (UNSW).

Through a comparative analysis of case law in the five jurisdictions mentioned above, the aims of the project were to:

a)      Determine whether decision-makers cite to treaty provisions of or case law on International Humanitarian Law and International Criminal Law in deciding cases where exclusion is an issue in a claim for Convention refugee status;

b)      Explore whether there is a common understanding across these states as to the meaning of International Humanitarian Law and International Criminal Law provisions relevant to refugee status determination;

c)       Assess whether judges and decision-makers refer to the international law of armed conflict or international criminal law via their incorporation in UNHCR guidelines and directives.

 

The International Refugee and Migration Law project has now concluded.  The Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law will continue to engage with constitutional and administrative law issues relating to refugees and migration.  Research on the international law dimensions will be undertaken by the new Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, directed by Jane McAdam.