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Citizenship, migration and refugees

Exploring the dimensions of citizenship, migration and refugee law

We're promoting a healthy and inclusive understanding of laws and policies that define and bind human communities.

Our vision

To promote a healthy and inclusive understanding of laws and policies that define and bind communities and regulate forced and voluntary movement between states. We conduct doctrinal, socio-legal and criminological research that fosters improvements in law and practice, including work on:

  • citizenship law in international and domestic contexts
  • all aspects of Australian migration law and policy
  • comparative immigration law and policy
  • international refugee law
  • human trafficking and people smuggling
  • vulnerable migrants, including children and people with disabilities
  • immigration detention
  • border security and the intersections between criminal justice and migration law
  • immigration and terrorism.

Our work

Our research has a number of major themes:

  • Exploring the relationship between migration law and substantive notions of citizenship (Dr Arcioni, Professor Crock, Professor Irving)
  • An Australian Research Council (ARC)-funded program examining Australian citizenship deprivation measures in the context of international and comparative law, the latter with a particular focus on Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom (Dr Thwaites).
  • Writing the Australian country report on citizenship for the European Union Democracy Observatory on Citizenship, currently the world’s leading database on citizenship law (Dr Thwaites).
  • ARC-funded research on gendered aspects of citizenship laws and the impact on women and girls (Professor Irving)
  • Exploring problems associated with dual nationality (Dr Arcioni, Professor Crock, Professor Irving, Dr Thwaites, Professor Twomey).
  • An ARC-funded research program that involves building a database allowing comparison of migration and citizenship laws and policies across the world and through time (Professor Crock).
  • ARC-funded research into the protection of refugee children and youth (Professor Crock and Professor Saul)
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and donor funded research into the relationship between forced migration and disability rights, seeking mechanisms that can be developed to improve identification of impairments and delivery of services (Professor Crock, Professor McCallum AO and Professor Saul).
  • Research examining the impact of international and national security law on the human rights of refugees and migrants (Professor Saul)
  • Research into the treatment of citizens abroad who engage in terrorism (Dr Thwaites)
  • Research examining the migration policing of undocumented migrants in Australia to develop a conceptual approach to migration decision making that makes otherwise overlooked discretionary power more evident. (Dr Boon-Kuo)

Our impact

  • The work of Professors Crock, Saul and Irving has been cited in many tribunal, Federal Court and High Court rulings.
  • Members of this group have played vital roles in public debates around citizenship, migrants, refugees, human rights and national security, appearing frequently in the media and preparing and presenting submissions to a great many parliamentary inquiries.
  • Most recently, Professor Irving, Professor Saul, Professor Twomey and Dr Thwaites made individual submissions to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for its Inquiry into the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill in 2015. Professor Irving and Dr Thwaites subsequently appeared before the joint committee, which made 27 recommendations, all of which were adopted in the bill as passed by Parliament. Comments from our academics were quoted and cited repeatedly in the report.
  • Dr Thwaites presented at a symposium on Deportation with Assurances organised on behalf of the United Kingdom’s Independent Reviewer on Terrorism Legislation in 2014. The independent reviewer’s terms of reference were to conduct a review of the framework of the UK’s deportation with assurances policy to make recommendations on how the policy might be strengthened or improved, with particular emphasis on its legal aspects. The report of the Independent Reviewer was tabled in the British Parliament in 2017 and contains several citations to Dr Thwaites’s comparative study of immigration detention.
  • Professor Crock and Professor Irving have been recognised as Fellows of the Australian Academy of Law; Professor Irving as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia and Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales.
  • As Challis Chair of International Law at the University of Sydney and an Associate Fellow of Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs) in London, Professor Saul’s research was recognised also by his appointment as the Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser Visiting Professor of Australian Studies at Harvard University for 2017-18.
  • The expertise of all members of this group is recognised in the number and nature of invitations they continue to receive to deliver public lectures both in Australia and overseas.  
  • The work of Professors Crock and Saul on refugees and disabilities has played a role in changing the way the United Nations identifies and accommodates persons with disabilities in displacement situations. In 2015 Professor Crock addressed the United Nations on this work on a panel entitled Operationalizing the Post-2015 Development Agenda for Persons with Disabilities.
  • Professor Saul has advised or consulted to the United Nations (including UNODC, UNESCO, UNHCR and OHCHR), the International Committee of the Red Cross, governments, regulators, judiciaries, and NGOs (including Amnesty International, Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Commission of Jurists), and delivered technical assistance in developing countries. He drafted the professional training curriculum on terrorism and international law for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and is a Rule of Law Expert for the Commonwealth Secretariat.
  • Professors Crock and Saul have also undertaken professional missions or field research in numerous countries, conducting training and capacity building missions.
  • Professor Crock has served on the Expert Advisory Panel of NSW Children’s Commission and acted as reviewer for the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (on children in immigration detention). 
  • Professors Crock and Saul maintain practices which involve acting for migrants and refugees whose human rights have been abused. Professor Saul has also brought numerous successful refugee cases against Australia before the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Our experts