Monday 25 Jan 2021 | 02:53 | SYDNEY
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About the project

In 2016 and 2017 the Lowy Institute conducted a significant research project to produce independent research and analysis on the challenges and opportunities raised by the movement of people and goods across Australia’s borders. An important goal of the research was to put Australia’s experiences in a broader regional and global context.

The Migration and Border Policy Project included workshops and roundtables which bring together external experts and government officials in an effort to build genuinely strategic approaches to complex migration and border issues. It also included annual Border Policy Research Fellowships in which an officer of the then Department of Immigration and Border Protection undert­ook research on migration and border policy issues at the Lowy Institute.

The Project was supported by the Australian Government’s then Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Latest publications

Migration and border policy links: Rohingya crisis, deportations, people-smuggling and more

  • President of Refugees International Eric P Schwartz discusses his recent visit to Bangladesh in a Council for Foreign Relations event focusing on the Rohingya crisis.


  • Stefanie Glinski reports on a growing sex industry in the Bangladesh's Rohingya refugee camps.


  • The Migration Policy Institute's Getachew Zeru Gebrekidan considers the role of violence and drought in shaping patterns of migration in South Sudan. UNHCR has also expressed concern about the creation of refugees and internally displaced persons in the country.


  • Mica Rosenberg, Reade Levinson and Ryan McNeill investigate the role of discretion and geography in shaping the decisions of US immigration courts.


  • Writing for The Atlantic, Alice Su discusses recent Jordanian deportations of refugees to Syria.


  • The Center for Global Development's Michael Clemens outlines a 'crack at the heart' of the Global Compact on Migration.


  • A recent report from Oxford University's Migration Observatory analyses the economic and political arguments behind and feasibility of a subnational immigration system in the UK.


  • In the context of the ASEAN Forum on Migrant Labour, the International Labour Organization's Tomoko Nishimoto has released a statement on migrant domestic workers, decent work and the need to turn commitments into action.


  • ASPI has published People smugglers globally, 2017, a comparative report focusing on people-smuggling syndicates around the world, 'hotspots' and policy recommendations to curb the trade.

Migration and border policy links: UN inaction on Rohingya, offshore processing, self-reliance and more

  • The UNHCR Regional Representation in Canberra has called on Australia's government and parliamentarians to take responsibility for the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Drawing on UNHCR visits to PNG in May and September this year, the statement flags the lack of services and durable solutions available to refugees and asylum seekers.
  • An estimated 582,000 Rohingya have crossed the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh since 25 August. Writing for Foreign Policy, Colum Lynch examines the reasons behind UN inaction on a crisis considered to be 'decades in the making'.
  • Writing for Yale University's Environment 360 blog, Fred Pearce outlines how dam and irrigation projects in the Sahel region of Africa have created a wave of 'environmental refugees'.
  • One year on, the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales has published a fact-finding report on the Calais 'Jungle' camp.
  • The University of London's David Cantor outlines lessons learned and questions raised by displacement in Latin America.
  • The University of Oxford's Refugee Studies Centre has published a research brief on refugee self-reliance.
  • Watch the University of Adelaide's Hugo Lecture Series, featuring presentations from Alan Gamlen and Alexander Betts.
  • A bill seeking to strengthen the requirements for Australian citizenship failed to pass the Senate.
  • The Migration Policy Institute's Maryann Bylander and Georgia Reid contextualise the Thai government's crackdown on migrant workers.
  • The Institute of Human Rights and Business has published a report analysing Japan's Technical Intern Training Programme and the challenge of protecting the rights of migrant workers in the country.

Migration and border policy links: Nauru’s growth, worker pathways, remittances and more

  • Following reports that over 11,000 Rohingya crossed the border into Bangladesh on Monday alone, reporters on the ground are sharing stories of extreme violence, mental health challenges, malnutrition and more.
  • Authorities on the Manus Island detention centre have posted a notice inviting refugees who are applying to be resettled in the US the opportunity to relocate to Nauru.
  • A recent World Bank report has noted that Nauru’s growth outlook is threatened by the uncertain future of Australia’s offshore processing practices.
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement to increase resettlement numbers from Niger and Chad.
  • Writing for Migration Policy Institute, Nayma Qayum unpacks the reasons behind and responses to the recent rise of irregular Bangladeshi migration to Europe.
  • Click here for the latest issue of Oxford University’s Forced Migration Review, which focuses on the shifting protection regime in Latin American and the Caribbean.
  • The World Bank has published a report examining challenges faced by migrant workers in Southeast Asia.
  • Indonesia is pushing for improved migrant worker pathways to Australia.
  • Writing for the Cornell International Law Journal, Associate Professor Stephen Wilks examines the politicisation of migrant remittances in US.
  • The University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory has published its research detailing the main determinants of migration to the UK since the early 1990s and the role that migration policy plays in shaping these flows.

Migration & border policy links: What the US wants, Afghanistan, Rohingya repatriation and more

  • Reflecting on the failures of offshore processing, UNHCR’s Regional Representative, Thomas Albrecht, urges the Australian government to step up, share responsibility and do its bit to create durable solutions for refugees and asylum seekers.
  • The ‘likelihood of successful assimilation and contribution in the US’ are reported to be a potential new criteria in US refugee resettlement assessments.
  • Myanmar and Bangladesh have agreed to draw up a repatriation plan which will see a number of the 500,000 Rohingya who have crossed the border in the last few weeks return to a resettlement camp in Rakhine state.
  • This Amnesty International report calls on European nations to cease deportation and voluntary repatriation to Afghanistan.
  • UN Global Pulse and UNHCR have co-published a white paper on social media and forced displacement.
  • View the IOM’s Tracking Matrix to see recent patterns of displacement in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Caribbean, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria and South Sudan.
  • Overseas Development Institute’s Marta Foresti outlines three requirements which are essential to the success of the Global Compact on Migration.
  • Focusing on the experiences of migrant sex workers, Dr Sine Plambech outlines the role of debt in shaping migration pathways.
  • Brookings Institute’s William H Frey analyses recent US Census data in order to question President Trump’s preoccupation with reducing immigration of ‘low-skilled’ migrants from Latin America. 
  • Click here to listen to a University of Auckland lecture series on the theme 'Nation Transformed: the place of migration in 21st century Aotearoa-New Zealand'.
  • The European Commission proposed three policy reforms to the European Agenda on Migration: a new resettlement scheme for at least 50,000 refugees; a pilot project for legal migration; and new measures to make the EU’s return policy more effective. Thomas Spijkerboer breaks these down In a Border Criminologies guest post.

Migration and border policy links: Safe zones, the Black Sea route, investor visas and more

  • With reports of hostilities in southern Bangladesh, Richard Weir outlines the dangers of establishing Rohingya 'safe zones' in Myanmar. Meanwhile, in a blog post for the Council of Foreign Relations, Mayesha Alam details the severe consequences faced by displaced Rohingya women.
  • The first group of refugees given a place under the US-Australia 'refugee swap' have departed for the US. ABC's Fran Kelly interviews Mark Hetfield, CEO of HIAS, an organisation assisting in the resettlement process.
  • US President Donald Trump has cut the US resettlement intake to 45,000 refugees, the lowest number since the modern program was established in 1980.
  • UNHCR has called for a continuation of the European Union asylum-seeker relocation scheme.
  • In response to efforts to stem flows of asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean, many are instead turning to the Black Sea as an alternate pathway. This week, 21 asylum seekers died after a Romania-bound boat sunk off the coast of Turkey.
  • The Finnish Immigration Service is using blockchain technology to aid unbanked asylum seekers in the country.
  • Brookings's Vanda Felbab-Brown lists three things that Trump's proposed border wall would not accomplish.
  • The Migration Policy Institute's Tian Fangmeng considers the impact of 'investor visas' and uptake patterns in China.
  • Human Rights Watch has urged the Qatari government to take further steps to protect construction workers (mostly migrant workers from South Asia) from potentially fatal heat-related illnesses.

Migration and border policy links: Cox’s Bazar, refugee swaps, illegal deportation and more

  • One year on, Chatham House's Jeff Crisp analyses the progression of the UN's Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, set out in the New York Declaration.

  • The International Organization for Migration has published a report on the movement of Rohingya across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border – a staggering 420,000 people have crossed since 25 August. NPR's Michael Sullivan is on the ground in the Cox's Bazar, home to a significant number of the region's displaced Rohingya population. You can listen to his report here.

  • Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed that 54 refugees currently residing on Manus Island and Nauru will be resettled in the US under 'refugee swap' arrangements.

  • Advocates are calling on Australia to intervene in Cambodia's plan to return a group of persecuted refugees to Vietnam.

  • The UNHCR is assisting the spontaneous return of 133 Somali refugees from Yemen.

  • Take a look inside Italy's Fenoglio transit camp for migrants and asylum seekers awaiting regional resettlement.

  • Writing for Border Criminologies, Paolo Biondi makes a case for secondary movements and solidarity in the European Union.

  • Read the Overseas Development Institute briefing series on the relationship between migration and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

  • Afghan asylum seeker Samim Bigzad has arrived back in Britain after a stoush between the UK Home Office and the High Court.

Migration & border links: Myanmar, DACA repeal, contemporary displacement and more

  • With nearly 400,000 Rohingya crossing the border into Bangladesh, Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres, has called on Myanmar’s authorities to cease acts of violence, uphold the rule of law and allow aid into the country. Domestically, the Rohingya community has urged the Australian government to assist.
  • Brookings Institute’s Bruce Katz, Bruce Jones and Jessica Brandt consider the scale and nature of contemporary displacement.
  • The University of Oxford’s Paul Collier and Alexander Betts make a case for granting refugees the right to work.
  • Migration Policy Institute Europe’s Susan Fratzke details the advantages of states adopting a private sponsorship model for refugees.
  • Brookings Institute’s John Hudak and Elaine Kamarck discuss the costs of Trump’s DACA repeal.
  • The Centre for Global Development’s Michael Clemens and Hannah Postel unpack how violence has shaped patterns of child migration from Central America to the US.
  • BBC takes a look inside a migration detention centre in Tripoli, Libya.
  • The UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner has published a report examining the nature and scale of modern slavery experienced by Vietnamese nationals en route to and after settling in the UK.
  • Check out the Cato Journal’s special issue on the economics of immigration.

Migration and border policy links: Myanmar, global compact on migration, DACA and more

  • Over 125,000 Rohingya refugees are estimated to be fleeing conflict and persecution in Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh. Meanwhile, reports indicate that the Indian government is preparing to deport the country’s undocumented Rohingya population.
  • The European Court of Justice has dismissed the action brought by Slovakia and Hungary against the Council of the European Union’s provisional mechanism that sought to impose mandatory asylum seeker relocation quotas on EU states.
  • Médecins Sans Frontières has called for the United Kingdom to end its support for arbitrary detention of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Libya.
  • Writing for the Middle East Institute, Madeline Gleeson discusses the possibility of creating a regional framework on refugee protection in the Asia-Pacific.
  • The fifth thematic session of the UN General Assembly preparatory process for a global compact on migration took place in Vienna this week. Focusing on combatting smuggling, trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery, the session featured a speech from Australian delegate, Ambassador Andrew Goldezinowski. Research Professor Jorgan Carling reflects on the session and offers his response to the Ambassador’s comments here.
  • The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has recently published Anouar Boukhar’s paper on smuggling, radicalisation, social discontent and fragility in Tunisia’s border regions.
  • In a letter published in Foreign Affairs, Jérôme Tubiana discusses the migrant smuggling routes between Niger and Libya.
  • President Trump has ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Brookings Institute’s Andrew M Perry criticises this move.
  • Reflecting on the re-emergence of sanctuary cities, the Hastings Center’s Nancy Berlinger ponders the impact of extending ‘social citizenship’ to migrants.
  • The Center for Global Development has published the 2017 Commitment to Development Index. Click here to compare the migration policies of the world’s richest countries.

Migration & border policy links: Merkel and no regrets, Hurricane Harvey and more

  • The Kaldor Centre’s Dr Claire Higgins offers a critique of the Australian government’s decision to transfer a number of asylum seekers residing in the country to the ‘final departure Bridging E Visa’.
  • The Saturday Paper’s Sean Kelly discusses the motivations behind keeping asylum seeker healthcare offshore.
  • The Refugee Council of Australia recently published an analysis of the Canadian model of refugee private sponsorship, outlining a number of lessons for Australia.
  • In an interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, Angela Merkel said she has no regrets about her government’s response to Europe's refugee crisis.
  • With satellite data indicating mass burning in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, fears are held for the country’s Rohingya population, including those who have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. Read the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect’s analysis of this current crisis.
  • William Monteith and Shuaib Lwasa compare the participation of refugee and IDP populations in the formal and informal markets of Kampala, Uganda.
  • In a recent Analysis, the Lowy Institute’s Nonresident Fellow Dr Khalid Koser argues that Australia should take a proactive role in the formation of the Global Compact on Refugees.
  • Writing for The New York Times, Simon Romero and Miriam Jordan consider the fate of undocumented immigrants in Texas caught in Hurricane Harvey.
  • In a nod to the role of social media in migration, Facebook has made moves to remove online posts promoting people smuggling initiatives across the Mediterranean.
  • Philippe M Frowde looks at the role of the International Organization for Migration in the context of emerging tensions between humanitarianism, state building and notions of sovereignty.
  • The International Committee on the Red Cross has published a policy paper outlining recommendations for policy-makers to: prevent migrants from going missing; facilitate search and recovery efforts; and address the needs of family members.