Monday 25 Jan 2021 | 02:51 | 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 & border policy links: Trump’s wall, a Sudanese story, London’s rough sleepers targeted and more

  • It has recently been revealed that a Greater London Authority charity map identifying the nationalities of people sleeping rough was used by the UK Home Office to carry out its deportation mandate.
  • Writing for The Saturday Paper, Chris Woods considers the impact of climate change in the Pacific, drawing attention to those forcibly displaced from PNG’s Carteret Islands, relocated under the Tulele Peisa program.
  • Reports have emerged that asylum seekers awaiting medical treatment on Nauru, including three pregnant women, have been denied overseas transfers by a local hospital committee.
  • Australia has resettled 17 Cuban refugees who were previously detained at Guantánamo Bay after the US Federal Court ruled that they were outside the scope of the ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy. Commentators have pointed to the irony of this arrangement.
  • Writing for Brookings Institute, Vanda Felbab-Brown breaks down some of the overlooked costs of Trump’s border wall.
  • Writing for the Architect’s Newspaper, Ersela Kripa and Stephen Mueller argue that America’s private detention industry is increasingly blurring the line between immigration processing and incarceration.
  • Migration Policy Institute’s Alice Greider analyses the role of the Western Balkans in the European ‘refugee crisis’.
  • Watch Unwelcome Stranger, the story of Anwar, a Sudanese anti-government activist and refugee living in Israel.
  • Read about the deforestation efforts made by South Sudanese asylum seekers and refugees in Uganda under a new UNHCR initiative.
  • Bangladesh has tightened control of its borders in an attempt to prevent the entrance of Rohingya asylum seekers fleeing from Myanmar.
  • Writing for The Diplomat, Aymen Ijaz draws on patterns of migration to urge the Pakistani government to address the human impact of climate change.

Migration & border policy links: Manus High Court ruling, H-2B shortage, Turkey’s Syrians and more

  • Earlier today the Australian High Court rejected a claim that the Australian government can only exercise offshore powers consistently with the law of a foreign state. This means that Australia’s regional processing centre on Manus Island is legal despite the PNG Supreme Court ruling to the contrary.
  • The Kaldor Centre’s Sangeetha Pillai breaks down how Australia’s proposed citizenship laws compare internationally.
  • In response to a High Court challenge, the Australian government has put forward amendments to the Border Force Act 2015 which remove ‘protected information’ disclosure prohibitions.
  • Check out Brookings Institute’s interactive which looks beyond Trump’s immigration rhetoric to highlight hard facts.
  • Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Laura Meckler analyses the impact of a shortage of H-2B visas in the US.
  • India is purported to be in talks with Myanmar and Bangladesh about its plan to deport 40,000 Rohingya Muslims living in the country illegally.
  • Flooding and devastation in India, Nepal and Bangladesh have displaced millions across the region.
  • Writing for Migration Policy Institute, M. Murat Erdoğan analyses how Turkish local governments have responded to the vast number of Syrian refugees settling in their districts.
  • Mary Crock, Laura Smith-Khan, Ron McCallum and Ben Saul have published The Legal Protection of Refugees with Disabilities: Forgotten and Invisible. Follow the link to read the introductory chapter.
  • Nicola Piper, Marie Segrave and Rebecca Napier Moore discuss the importance of distinguishing between forced labour, trafficking and slavery. Writing for the World Economic Forum, Anne Gallagher points to four dangerous assumptions about human trafficking.

Migration and border policy links: RAISE Act, Haitian immigrants in the US, ‘nexification’, and more

  • The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has released a policy consultation paper on simplifying Australian visa arrangements.
  • Almost 500 submissions were made to the Senate inquiry into the Australian Citizenship Amendment Bill, drafted to strengthen the Australian citizenship requirements and other key provisions. Notable submissions included those from the UNSW's Kaldor Centre and the Gilbert and Tobin Centre of Public Law, the Australian Multicultural Council, UNHCR, Australian Human Rights Commission and the DIBP.
  • President Trump has announced his support of the RAISE Act, a bill that seeks to establish a high-skilled migration model similar to that in place in Australia and New Zealand.
  • Migration Policy Institute’s Jennifer Schulz and Jeanne Batalova analyse the geographic distribution and socioeconomic characteristics of the Haitian immigrant population in the US.
  • A recent ILO study has found that migrant workers in South-East Asia lack access to fair and responsive remedies for labour rights abuses.
  • Yusof Ishak Institute’s Andrew M Carruthers has published a summary of clandestine migration flows along the Indonesia-Malaysia corridor.
  • The Peace Research Institute Oslo’s Jorgen Carling considers the ‘nexification’ of migration studies.
  • Five of eight aid organisations that undertake search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean have refused to sign up to the Italian government’s code of conduct.
  • Tanzanian president John Magufuli has suspended the nation’s registration and naturalisation program for Burundian refugees.
  • Writing for Al Jazeera, Julie Schiltz and Kristof Titeca offer a critique of Ugandan refugee policy in the context of recent media coverage.

Migration and border policy links: UNHCR tents, Home Affairs, infrastructure and more

By Charlotte Warden, an intern with the Lowy Institute's West Asia Program.

  • As the United States reaches its annual refugee admissions cap (the Trump administration has cut the intake by more than half, to 50,000), Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has reassured those on Nauru that the refugee swap deal will be respected. Shadow Defence Minister (and former Shadow Immigration Minister) Richard Marles has advocated that the government consider other options, as 'all their eggs are now in the US basket'.

  • Yesterday marked four years since the Australian government's announcement that no asylum seekers arriving by boat would be resettled in Australia. The then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has defended his decision to implement the Pacific Solution that re-introduced offshore processing.

  • Human Rights Watch has called on Canada to expedite the refugee claims of the Sri Lankan and Philippine families who sheltered Edward Snowden in Hong Kong in 2013.

  • The decision to merge various Australian government departments into a new Home Affairs portfolio has raised concerns for the Department of Immigration. Nadine Flood from the CPSU is among those who believe the department's 2015 merger with Customs ‘is still not fully bedded down’.

  • In this post on The Conversation, Shanthi Robertson and Kristine Aquino refute the claim that Sydney's public infrastructure congestion is caused by the intake of asylum seekers in the city's west.

  • Charlotte Alfred of Refugees Deeply interviews Galen Englund on the importance of granular migration data collection, and the disparity in current methods.

  • Violence in the Central African Republic has driven 60,000 people to flee since May 2017. Read a summary of the UNHCR’s press conference.

  • Photojournalist Thomas Dworzak has published a guidebook, Europe: An Illustrated Introduction to Europe to Migrants and Refugees. The book provides practical information, from how to use an ATM in Stockholm to the complexities of rubbish bins in Berlin. It is available in English, Farsi, Arabic and French.

  • The Economist's 'The World If' contemplates the possibility of open borders. Michael Clemens of the Centre for Global Development argues allowing freedom of movement to find employment would make the world's economy '$78 trillion richer'. In order to alleviate poverty, he argues it is necessary to leave the places where it persists.

Migration & border policy links: Italy overwhelmed, Thailand’s crackdown, US travel ban and more

  • Listen to the Kaldor Centre’s podcast on safezones featuring Professor Geoff Gilbert.
  • EU leaders have pledged further support following threats from Italy to close its ports to NGO ships carrying rescued asylum seekers.
  • Writing for the Guardian, Inna Lazareva outlines the challenges faced by former M’Poko refugee camp residents returning to their homes in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR).
  • Brookings Institute’s Jessica Brandt remains optimistic about the impact of the partially-reinstated US travel ban on refugees.
  • Can President Trump deliver on his immigration campaign promises? Elaine Kamarck explores barriers to implementation in a recent Brookings Cafeteria podcast.
  • The UK government has announced a 12-month immigration amnesty period for survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire.
  • The University of Vienna’s Jeremias Stadlmair investigates which policies contribute to patterns of naturalisation across Europe.
  • The University of Oxford’s International Migration Institute has published a working paper on the geography of anti-immigrant attitudes in Europe.
  • Strict new migration laws in Thailand have prompted a surge in migrant returns. Reports indicate that to avoid arrest, some migrants have been forced to bribe immigration officials.
  • More than 1.2 million people have been displaced in Southern China following extensive flooding in the region.

Migration & border policy links: Counting Australians, remittances, trafficking and more

  • Read Gareth Hutchens’ analysis of the Census 2016 results.
  • The Australian’s David Uren argues migration policy alleviates ageing pressures. Leith van Onselen disagrees.
  • Development Policy Institute’s Matthew Dornan reflects on findings from a recent Horticultural Innovation Australian report which recommended a number of migration policy changes to better serve the Australian vegetable industry.
  • Overseas Development Institute has published two briefing papers on migration and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The first examines social protection for labour migrants. The second explores the challenges and opportunities presented by primary school level education within migrant communities.
  • In an effort to improve migrant access to remittance information, the International Organization for Migration has partnered with FXcompared to build a money transfer comparison tool.
  • Writing for Migration Policy Institute, Szilvia Altorjai and Jeanne Batalova examine the role immigrants play in the US health care sector.
  • Ten people detained in UK immigration centres have commenced legal proceedings against the Home Office citing severe underpayment.
  • Harvard Law School has released a report considering US protection obligations, national security priorities and the economic contribution of refugees.
  • In a recent Center for Global Development working paper, Michael Clemens and Jennifer Hunt argue that the impact of refugee waves on the average US native-born work is small despite prevailing discourse.
  • The US Department of State has published its Trafficking in Persons Report 2017. Australia's Ambassador to ASEAN Jane Duke discusses what DFAT is doing to combat trafficking in our region.



Migration and border policy links: World Refugee Week, internal migration, Brexit and more

  • On World Refugee Day, Elizabeth Ferris unpacks the numbers on global refugees, finding a silent majority (two-thirds) of all refugees being displaced within their own borders.
  • Celebrate World Refugee Week by reading the Kaldor Centre’s five factsheets about refugees.
  • Australian courts respond to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s criticisms about the Administrative Appeals Tribunal overturning 39% of the decisions made by delegates of the minister.
  • Francesco Mancini examines the reasons for ambivalence in Asia toward refugees, including factors of history, culture and security.
  • The ODI and Chatham House have released a working paper that examines the public attitudes towards refugees and migrants and the drivers of such attitudes. While some people are overwhelmingly hostile and others welcoming, the paper finds that most are conflicted.
  • Even as the UN develops two compacts each for refugees and migrants, the distinction between the two is not always clear, Parvati Nair notes in this post on The Conversation.
  • This excellent infographic on the main migrant smuggling trade routes of the world reveals one of the most expensive smuggling routes is from China to the US, with passage costing up to €69,000.
  • Brexit’s impact on migration is already being felt. Scotland is grappling with how to secure the immigration it needs and UK farmers say uncertainty over Brexit is contributing to migrant labour shortages.
  • The Migration Policy Institute has released a report on Swedish Asylum and Integration Policy. Dive in to find out how one of the most efficient and generous asylum systems in the world has coped with the refugee crisis in Europe.   
  • Although India is one of the world’s top migrant source countries, its real migration challenges lie within its borders. Sahana Kumar explores the challenges and opportunities this brings for India.


Migration: Balancing the needs of capital, workers and nations

This is the fifth post in a series that follows an Expert Workshop in Digitisation, Skills and Migration hosted by the Lowy Institute earlier this month in collaboration with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Here is part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.

As the daughter of an immigrant, I know, firsthand the transformative powers of labour migration.  

Labour migration, that is moving to another country for the purpose of work, is a well-established route to citizenship and an established strategy of developed host nations like Australia, US, UK, Canada and New Zealand to attract global talent.

Traditionally, in Australia the rhetoric around labour migration has been far more positive than that around refugees. In a speech in 2014 to the Australian Press Club, Scott Morrison who was the then Minister for Immigration, talked about 457 visa holders as the right kind of migrants, who ‘support themselves from the day they arrive’.

Internationally, global institutions like the World Bank push labour migration as a ‘triple win’: transformative for the individual workers involved; helpful to employers; and lifting the economic growth of host nations.

Yet, increasingly, we see public division on labour migration. The public is no longer buying into the pro-labour migration rhetoric of international economic institutions. There is increasing uncertainty that globalisation delivers all that it promises, and also concern that free trade and the increased movement of people around the globe is anything more than a smokescreen to help big business, not ordinary people.

The Brexit vote and the election of President Trump with his promise ‘to make America great again’ by returning jobs to Americans, demonstrated how these sentiments are reflected in popular votes.

And it is not just non-establishment politicians like Hanson or Trump who are tapping into the growth of anti-migration sentiment. In Britain in the month following Brexit, the Conservative Party’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd said foreign workers should not be able to 'take jobs that British people should do,' which is reminiscent of something our own Labor Prime-Minister Julia Gillard famously said in February 2013. In front of an audience in Rooty Hill, one of Australia’s quintessential working class suburbs, Gillard declared ‘457 visa workers should get to the back of the queue with Australians at the front’.

More recently in Australia the Turnbull Government’s decision to abolish the 457 visa, and the Opposition’s response through an ill-fated television advertisement, indicate an increasing willingness to use labour migration policy for political gain in response to (and perhaps to ignite) growing community concern and fear.

Even if we agree with the notion that Australians should get the first go at job vacancies in Australia, the rhetoric underpinning the current political debate should worry us. It implies that foreign workers are stealing jobs; that they are to blame for local unemployment; that they are underhand and knowingly trying to make things worse for the rest of us.

The truth is somewhat more nuanced. It is usually poor government regulation that results in systems and processes that allow labour migration to be managed to meet the needs of big business and employers. Governments choose to manage it in this way, using temporary migrant workers as cogs in the wheels of global capitalism, without real regard for whether the migrant workers themselves really benefit or whether local jobs are safeguarded. The fault usually lies at the door of poor government regulation and choices, not individual migrant workers who are mostly just doing what the rest of us are doing – trying to make their lives better.

Together with my colleague at the University of Adelaide, Professor Rosemary Owens, I have published a new book examining temporary labour migration in the global era. This work exposes the tendency of migration policy and regulation in the global era to privilege the interests of capital. We argue that, to a large extent, the role and purpose of temporary labour migration has become one of unlocking and maximising the entrepreneurial potential and profit-maximising capabilities of capital. Global economic integration has made this possible by transforming temporary labour migration so that it can occur en masse, not only through targeted programmes but also - and especially through economic zones permitting the free movement of people. This can be clearly seen in the approach to regulating the global trade in services.

The deference to the needs of global capital that is inherent in the design of most contemporary temporary labour migration programs is derivative of a seemingly unquestioned economic philosophy that temporary labour migration programmes need to be less regulated by government and driven instead by the needs of business, with market responsiveness, timeliness and flexibility as the key indicators of success.

Acknowledging capital as a primary beneficiary of temporary labour migration is not to deny its transformative potential for migrant workers. Temporary labour migration is now, more so than ever before, deeply aspirational, as migrant workers seek to take advantage of increased remuneration and job opportunities available abroad. However, the desire of many to improve their life chances through temporary labour migration has encouraged the increasing commercialisation of migration, which has opened up new global possibilities for capital, via its myriad entrepreneurial endeavours, to exploit.

Contemporary labour migration, with its emblematic features of worker precariousness and temporary nature, has proven the perfect fodder for capital’s interests, and the law regulating work has struggled to respond. Whilst international law has tended to focus on the principle of equal treatment to address the problems arising from migrant workers’ precarious status in the labour market, our book raises fresh concerns about the realisation of this principle in practice. A recurring theme is not only the failure to deliver to temporary migrant workers the same wages and conditions as that of their counterparts in the local workforce, but also the use of migrant labour sometimes to the exclusion of local labour in the poorest paid and least well-regulated sectors of the labour market.

This is not to diminish the importance of labour migration and the myriad economic benefits that it produces. There is a clear need, however, for policymakers to develop responsive and fair migration frameworks which address and balance the needs of capital, workers and the nation.

Migration and border policy links: UK Supreme Court ruling, FIFA foul, India visa reform and more

  • Listen to ABC PM’s analysis of the $70 million settlement deal between the Australian government and a group of asylum seekers detained on Manus Island between 2012 and 2016.
  • The Refugee Film Festival begins this Saturday. Find out more here.
  • Proposed legislation granting the Minister of Immigration stronger powers to override AAT citizenship decisions is set to be debated in parliament next week.
  • Read the Kaldor Centre’s submission to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s discussion paper on strengthening the Australian citizenship test.
  • The UK Supreme Court has ruled that the government’s deportation ‘remove first, appeal later' policy is unlawful, a breach of human rights under Article 8 of the ECHR.
  • Migration Policy Institute has published a report for European policymakers tasked with tackling competing value systems in a period of mass migration.
  • Writing for the Center for Global Development, Hannah Postel considers the progression of the UN Global Compact on Migration.
  • Following a Human Rights Watch investigation of stadium construction in Russia, FIFA has again been implicated in migrant worker exploitation. This comes after further allegations surfaced in May highlighting ongoing exploitation in Qatar.
  • Writing for Observer Research Foundation, S Sivanesan examines the impact of H-1B visa reforms in India.
  • The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has urged airlines to take on a bigger role in combatting human trafficking. Watch the Director for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, Jean-Luc Lemahieu, discuss UNODC’s collaboration with the International Air Transport Association.