Monday 25 Jan 2021 | 02:49 | 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: Britain’s impossible target, Sth Korea’s policy,‘genuine refugees’ and more

By Rachael Buckland, an intern with the Lowy Institute's Migration and Border Policy program.

  • Murdoch University's Mary Anne Kenny explains who is considered a 'genuine refugee' under Australian law.
  • Australia's Department of Immigration and Border Protection announced a cut in the length of time asylum seekers have to apply for protection visas.
  • Human Rights Watch's Bill Frelik questioned the UN's role in facilitating voluntary refugee repatriation programs to nations still grappling with instability.
  • International weekly journal of science Nature published a human migration special. Read it here.
  • The Economist explains the impossibility of Britain's net migration target.
  • Writing for the International Migration Institute, Geraldine Adiku discussed the phenomenon of undocumented tax-paying migrants living in the United Kingdom.
  • Writing for the Border Criminologies blog, the Office of the Council of Europe Commissioner's Nikolaos Sitaropoulos discussed the structural changes needed in Greece to eradicate poor treatment of those seeking asylum and comply with international human rights law standards.
  • University of Leicester's Roxanna Dehaghani unpacked the growing practice of conducting age assessments on unaccompanied children seeking asylum.
  • The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) released two reports today on the role of European cities and the experiences of new arrivals. The first analyses the barriers cities face in supporting education and training programs. The second discusses obstacles to labour market integration.
  • The Kaldor Centre's Adrienne Anderson considered the impact the Paposhvili v Belgium judgment will have on the application of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights in removal medical cases.
  • Writing for MPI, Young-bum Park reflected on the motivations and institutions driving South Korea's changing migration policy.
  • Which countries host the most refugees, via UNHCR:


Migration and Border Policy links: US ructions, Yemen, refugee return and more

By Rachael Buckland, an intern with the Lowy Institute's Migration and Border Policy project.

  • US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly released two memos detailing the departmental implementation of Trump’s executive orders on border security and immigration enforcement. The NYT Editorial Board has labelled Trump’s deportation policy an assault on American values.
  • Over 240 Canadian law professors have joined forces to query the legality of directing back refugee claimants at the Canada-US border under the Safe Third Country Agreement.
  • The Refugee Council of Australia published State of the Nation, a report drawing on the experiences of refugees and offering policy recommendations to the Australian government.
  • In light of acute funding shortfalls, UNHCR’s Shabia Mantoo discusses the situation in Yemen.
  • MPI’s Elizabeth Collett critiques the rationale behind the EU’s drive to collaborate further with North Africa on migration.
  • Writing for COMPAS, Myriam Cherti discusses how states are re-embracing 'voluntary' return policy to deal with contemporary irregular migrant flows.
  • IMI’s Marieke van Houte finds fault in an EU policy approach linking refugee return and development in Afghanistan.
  • The OECD published IPPMD, a report drawing on the nexus between development and migration to underline the importance of a whole-of-government approach to migration policy in developing countries.
  • Writing for Refugees Deeply, Benjamin Hounsell reflects on the role of regional innovation and the digital divide between refugees in sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.
  • Watch IOM’s In Their Own Words and Voices, a documentary highlighting the experiences of refugees, IDPs and migrants in the Middle East.


Migration and Border Policy links: IOM's anti-trafficking app, Kenya’s High Court ruling and more

By Daniel Thambar, an intern with the Lowy Institute’s Migration and Border Policy Project.

  • The Kenyan government’s bid to close the largest refugee camp in the world (the Dadaab camp) has been blocked by the high court.
  • The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) released a report that looks at the mobility of skilled workers in ASEAN member states, and highlights how highly skilled workers are being under-utilised in the region.
  • Paolo Boccagni, writing for Comparative Migration Studies, investigates how migrants’ aspirations develop over time, building on a study of 224 immigrant domestic workers in Italy.  
  • In a recent report, Germany’s migration commissioner, Aydan Oezoguz, urges people to regard migration as something 'normal', and the government to grant limited electoral rights to non-naturalised migrants.
  • The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) identified 213 victims of trafficking in Slovakia in the last 10 years. IOM has developed a new mobile app to help combat this issue.  
  • IOM published the Iraq Community Stabilisation Handbook which looks at the social and economic conditions in 15 Iraqi governorates, and outlines some of IOM’s key achievements in those areas.
  • Alex Gray published a blog on 'Which countries have the most immigrants?' for the World Economic Forum, collating visual data from the Daily Telegraph and MPI.
  • Nauja Kleist from the Danish Institute for International Studies and Dorte Thorsen from the University of Sussex released a new book, Hope and Uncertainty in Contemporary African Migration. See a summary of the book here.
  • Human Rights Watch released a report titled 'Pakistan Coercion, UN Complicity: The Mass Forced Return of Afghan Refugees', which describes the coercive factors that caused Afghan refugees to leave Pakistan en masse in 2016.

Migration and Border Policy links: Trump’s ban, unaccompanied minors, Turkey's hackathon, and more

By Daniel Thambar, an intern with the Lowy Institute’s Migration and Border Policy Project.

  • The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) has published a fact-sheet on President Trump’s executive order on immigration, which outlines the key provisions of the order and compares them to past and present policy and practice.
  • Elizabeth Collett explores some of the difficulties faced by the EU in negotiating new migration partnerships with North African countries.
  • Professor Robert Barsky reviews Reece Jones’ new book, Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move.
  • UK Prime Minister Theresa May recently announced that Britain would help support the resettlement of refugees who arrive in Europe to Latin America and Asia. Tom Vickers analyses why this arrangement is problematic. 
  • Andriani Fili and Virginia Xythali, writing for the University of Oxford’s Law Blog, take a closer look at the plight of unaccompanied minors in Greece.
  • The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the UN’s Migration Agency, released its regional strategy for the Middle East and North Africa for the next four years.
  • The Turkey hackathon: find out how refugees, computer programmers and graphic designers are joining forces to develop innovative solutions for refugee challenges.
  • European leaders met in Malta to focus their efforts on tackling the migration crisis. IOM and the UNHCR issued a joint statement ahead of the meeting.
  • Indermit Gill, writing for the Brookings Institution, looks at perceptions on immigration, compares these with research findings, and then outlines what lessons we can learn from the gap between perception and reality. 

Migration and Border Policy links: The US immigration ban, the Calais camp saga, displacement tracking systems, and more

By Daniel Thambar, an intern with the Lowy Institute's Migration and Border Policy Project.

  • US President Donald Trump signed an executive order which imposes a 90-day visa ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations, suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days and indefinitely bans all refugees from Syria. See the commentary from the Migration Policy Institute and the Cato Institute. The UNHCR and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) issued a joint statement on the order.
  • EU leaders will meet in Malta to discuss how to deal with migration pressures from Libya, focussing on the need to increase cooperation with the Libyan authorities. However, Human Rights Watch warns that outsourcing responsibility to Libya is fraught with risks.
  • IOM reports that 5,483 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in the first 29 days of 2017. This was a substantial decrease from the 67,375 migrants and refugees that entered in the same period in 2016.
  • The Transatlantic Council on Migration examines whether there are viable alternatives to territorial asylum, and explores how they might be implemented.
  • Was Barack Obama a 'deporter-in-chief' or was he soft on unauthorised immigrants? Muzaffar Chishti, Sarah Pierce and Jessica Bolter examine the former US President's record on deportations.
  • Celia Rooney, writing for the University of Oxford's immigration blog, outlines the key cases in the Calais camp saga and examines the role of litigation in protecting unaccompanied migrant children.
  • IOM reports that over 600,000 refugees and undocumented Afghans have returned home from Pakistan, and that a further 1 million are expected to return in 2017. In response to this, a new displacement tracking system will be launched by IOM to better understand population movements and needs. Learn more about the system here.
  • The Migration Policy Institute hosts a panel discussion focussing on the long-term interventions which the European Union may pursue to find solutions for asylum-seekers.

Migration and border policy links: Suprising maps, top 5 global risks, Niger and more

By Rachael Buckland, an intern with the Lowy Institute's Migration and Border Policy project

  • A must see: The World Economic Forum shares Jakub Marian’s four maps on migration trends in Europe.
  • Large-scale involuntary migration takes second place in the World Economic Forum’s list of global risks in terms of likelihood. See which trends are most connected to this risk.
  • Writing for Border Criminologies, Cecilia Rooney unpacks the European Court of Human Rights decision in Abdullahi Elmi & Ameys Abubakar v Malta and its implications for global detention policy and international law compliance.
  • Ahead of Davos, PwC’s Norbert Winkeljohann reflected on the role big business can play in refugee resettlement.
  • The experiences of Muslim Australians are under the spotlight in the run up to Australia Day next week after an advertising billboard was taken down in Melbourne. Follow the grassroots crowdfunding response here.
  • Human Rights Watch reports on the experiences of disabled refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants in Greece.
  • With rising irregular migration from Africa, Peter Tinti questions the reported effectiveness of the EU’s focus on Niger.
  • On 17 January, the Nigerian military mistakenly launched an aerial attack on a refugee camp in Rann. MSF estimates at least 52 were killed and 120 injured.
  • The Lowy Institute’s Jiyoung Song and Isobel Crealy consider the importance of refugee education.
  • In the context of increasing regional integration and recent census data, MPI’s Alex Ma examines the key flows, drivers and consequences of international labour migration from Myanmar.
  • The nexus between criminal conviction and deportation under US law is under siege with the widely publicised case of Lynch v Dimaya.

Why teaching refugee children is so critical

Last year Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton made a link between refugee intakes and terrorism. He has also suggested an increase in the humanitarian refugee intake would result in ‘Illiterate and innumerate’ refugees either taking Australian jobs or languishing on government handout.

While Mr Dutton’s decision to spotlight one particular ethnic group of refugees – in this case, the Lebanese Muslims Australia welcomed under the Fraser
government – was roundly criticised, is there a link between the levels of education refugees receive and their propensity to live law abiding, as well as taxpaying, lives?  Can a bow be drawn from refugee education levels to radicalisation and terrorism?

Nexus between education and terrorism

Research suggests there is such a link but it may not be Minister Dutton would expect. Academics find no direct causality between education and terrorism in country of origin. Low levels of education do not lead to terrorist acts. In fact, terrorist organisations appear to actively seek out well-educated and/or well-off members well versed in the use of sophisticated modern technology. One study found 30% of those who had joined certain violent Islamic groups held engineering degrees.

The popular belief that education can be an antidote to terrorism is therefore at odds with the academic viewpoint. A more nuanced view suggests the link between education and education needs to be considered alongside country-specific socio-economic conditions.

However, displaced persons in camps or camp-like situations are in a totally different situation. For these people, movements outside of the camps and contact with outsiders is highly restricted. Yet terrorist recruiters, human traffickers and migrant smugglers often seem to find a way to access these restricted premises. Women and children are particularly vulnerable. Terrorist recruiters target disenchanted refugee children who see no hope for their future and who would like to escape from camps.

Education is one of the critical areas in the current global refugee crisis. If we don’t act now, we’ll have to face bigger security issues in the next generation.

Human traffickers target refugee women and children for sex and labour exploitation in conflict-ridden areas and young people without skills and knowledge are particularly exposed. Amongst young Syrian refugees, for example, low school attendance has been linked to a rise in early marriage and child labour.

Education is also the single most powerful factor in reducing terrorist recruitment in crisis situations. The Taliban in Afghanistan, for instance, have been recruiting uneducated youth and those in Islamic religious schools to use as human shields. Without literacy, numeracy and self-realisation through education, many young refugees may fall into the hands of abusive and violent adults. Violence can cycle through a new generation.

Whilst not a fail-safe prevention, basic education and vocational training, together with interaction with the world outside the camp, give refugee children (who represent 51% of the world’s 21.3 million refugees today) skills and opportunities to build their own future. It provides a tangible alternative to violence and terrorist affiliations.

Broader impact of education

Refugee education also has significant impacts on both the society hosting refugees and refugees’ countries of origin.

At a societal level, inadequate schooling for refugees who come from different backgrounds may lead to a growing number of isolated and marginalised individuals in the hosting society. These individuals can contribute to poor social cohesion and community safety. Potential threats include radicalisation of isolated individuals, abusive anti-social behaviour and potential crimes.

A ta state level, lack of education among refugee children can have negative long-term consequences for growth, productivity, innovation and diversity in both sending and receiving countries. History tells us how host countries have benefited from settled refugees’ motivations to survive and thrive in a new country, work ethics and innovation. There are so many successful refugee entrepreneurs and innovators worldwide, who contribute immensely to their own refugee communities and host countries.

Furthermore, returning refugees can make a significant contribution to the resilience and sustainability of conflict resolution processes back in their countries of origin. They can also help improve bilateral relations between host countries and their countries of origin. It’s essential that returnees receive proper education and training to be able to make valuable contributions to this healing and rehabilitation process. Save the Children projects the disrupted education post-war economy of Syria’s youth could cut the GDP of the post-war economy by 5.4%.

New thinking on refugee education

All refugee children need education beyond a primary level for their own self-realisation, societal resilience and long-term national interests. This must include settled refugee children in Australia, as well as those held in refugee camps or detention centres. It is a daunting task to educate all refugee children in conflict-ridden areas; one attempt to educate children in situ occurs on the Thai-Burma border, where Karen, Mon and Shan refugees have been residing for the past few decades.

Approximately 106,000 refugees currently reside on the 1800km border between Thailand and Burma. Many foreign governments and non-government sectors provide basic subsistence, livelihood and education for refugees. Refugee parents depend on foreign donors and teachers for their children’s education.

Primary education is widely offered, but secondary education is barely supported, mainly due to lack of funding and human resources. New strategies are needed, such as teaching and empowering refugee adults to teach the youth themselves. UNHCR has long been promoting such teacher training, seeing refugees themselves as critical actors in education provision. The International Rescue Committee, led by the former UK Foreign Secretary, David Milliband, (himself the son of refugees) runs programmes for training refugee teachers. Apart from these international efforts, Karens themselves, with the help from local universities, run a Teacher Training program for Karen refugees in the Thai-Burma border.

Source: Karen Refugee Education Committee

Jiyoung Song visited the Ban Dong Yang camp in 2013-2014 to conduct a human security assessment of the camp. The camp’s total population of approximately 3300 and included 1100 aged between 5 and 17. Only 26 students were enrolled in school. Big camps like Mae La with 43,600 refugees have well-established programmes run by the Australian Catholic University and others. Smaller camps – such as Ban Dong Yang – have fewer resources.

Given the limited financial support provided to Ban Dong Yang, this camp needed a new strategy to tackle the lack of education. Rather than teaching refugee students directly – thereby facing language and cultural barriers – it was found to be more cost-effective, culturally contextualised and sustainable to train refugee adults as teachers. Such an approach empowers individuals as well as the community as a unit.

Karen refugee children in the Ban Dong Yang Camp (Photo: Jiyoung Song)

What can we do?

There is much we in developed countries to aide the education of refugees, particularly those in camps. Training refugee teachers is one way to influence the future direction of the current refugee crisis. High-income countries like Australia can set aside aid funds to invest in refugee education. We can also send qualified teachers to train future refugee teachers. Businesses can hire skilled refugees and also donate funds for teacher training schools. NGOs can help coordinate and allocate funds to most needed places and implement teacher training schemes where wanted. Individuals can volunteer or make small financial contributions to those who are implementing training courses on the ground.

The education vacuum often created by conflict and displacement can – and should be - combated by action and investment from outside governments and individuals. Education of refugees, particularly in camps, needs to be looked at through a very wide lens, rather than the narrow prism of terrorism prevention.

Jiyoung Song runs a crowdfunding campaign for Project Borderlands to help Refugee Teachers Training in Thailand.

Migration and Border Policy links: Climate-induced migration, refugee needs, immigrant skills and more

By Rachael Buckland, an intern with the Lowy Institute's Migration and Border Policy Project.

  • The Kaldor Centre’s Professor Jane McAdam considers the human impact of and the responses needed for climate-induced migration.
  • UNHCR reports have revealed that only one in four refugees met their basic needs in 2015.
  • Listen to IMI’s Jane Freedman analyse the refugee crisis from a gendered perspective.
  • Weeks after an MPI report stressed the need for a 'whole-of-society approach' to new waves of migration in Europe, Meghan Benton discusses the role of new actors supporting refugees, and implications of their involvement.
  • Writing for Foreign Affairs, Tania Karas examines 2016 Greece in light of recent comparisons to Nauru.
  • UNCHR released its updated 10-point plan to assist those formulating and evaluating migration policy.
  • MPI unpacks the underutilisation of immigrant skill in the US.
  • Development partners, experts and senior Pacific island government officials from nine nations are currently meeting to discuss climate change migration, displacement, roles and responsibilities in the region.
  • After a visit to Rakhine state in Myanmar, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan pointedly did not use the word genocide to describe treatment of the nation’s Rohingya minority.
  • Following criticism from Prime Minister Najib Razak, Myanmar has banned movement of Rohingya workers to Malaysia.
  • Amnesty International has criticised Turkish authorities for measures taken against the predominantly Kurdish population in Sur, in Turkey’s southeast.
  • Watch former president of Ireland and former UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson speak of the nexus between climate change, displacement and justice at 107th IOM Council.


Migration and border policy links: Economic benefits, UK public opinion, Ukraine and more

By Rachael Buckland, an intern with the Lowy's Institute's Migration and Border policy project

  • McKinsey Global Institute research reveals that migration generates significant economic benefits, with immigrant integration playing a role in maximising this.
  • In 2015, migrants sent half a trillion dollars home. The World Economic Forum mapped the flow of funds.
  • Writing for The Guardian, the Lowy Institute’s Jiyoung Song highlights how little is known about the Australia-Costa Rica refugee deal.
  • Speaking at the Trust Women conference, Human Rights Watch Researcher Hillary Margolis told of women migrants having contraceptive injections as they flee their countries, fearing sexual violence but still determined to make the journey.
  • OCHA figures paint a worrying picture of 2016 Afghanistan, with more than 511,762 people displaced since January this year.
  • More than 2 million people are displaced in Ukraine. Read what UNHCR and various local partners are doing to provide aid to those fleeing conflict ahead of winter.
  • Results from a recent University of Oxford study of UK public opinion towards migration reflect the public’s apprehension about cultural impacts of migration, with majority surveyed preferring a reduction in migration numbers.
  • Various sources have reported on the UNHCR-Malaysian Government pilot scheme extending working rights to 300 Rohingya refugees in Malaysia. UQ’s Gerard Hoffstaedter praises this initiative but urges the need for adequate protections.
  • The Kaldor Centre’s Elizabeth Ferris reflects on the 2016 refugee summits and subsequent election of Trump, and what this means for the refugee crisis.
  • MPI unpacks Trump’s deportation discourse in relation to unauthorised immigrants with criminal convictions.

Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images