Opinion pieces


Explainer: how do Australia’s proposed citizenship laws compare internationally?

Sangeetha Pillai

First published in The Conversation.

Debate will resume in parliament this week over the government’s proposed changes to Australian citizenship laws. Among the reforms is a requirement for migrants to be permanent residents of Australia for four years before applying for citizenship - an increase from the current requirement of one year.

Humanitarian corridors: Safe passage but only for a few

Dr Claire Higgins

First published in Lowy Interpreter

There is a counter-narrative emerging in Europe’s approach to irregular migration, even as EU governments seek new ways to discourage desperate journeys across the Central Mediterranean route to Italy. Via the skies over Rome and Paris, other journeys are getting safer, as church groups fly asylum seekers in to claim protection.

Proposed citizenship test would forgo a ‘fair go for all’


By Khanh Hoang

The Australian Government this week introduced a new Bill into parliament to amend the Citizenship Act 2007. The move comes just two weeks after submissions to its discussion paper had closed – those submissions have not been made public.

In short, the proposed changes will require prospective citizens to apply and be approved for Australian citizenship. Applicants must then make a pledge of allegiance to Australia before they can become an Australian citizen.

Offshore detention: What the landmark settlement fails to resolve

Sangeetha Pillai

First published in The Interpreter.

Australia’s largest ever immigration detention trial has ended before it began, with the largest human rights settlement in Australian legal history. The Australian government and its offshore detention contractors will pay $70 million in compensation to lead plaintiff Majid Kamasaee and 1904 other asylum seekers detained on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island between 2012 and 2016, plus legal costs estimated at $20 million.

The settlement agreement is unquestionably a practical win for the plaintiffs in the case, who stand to receive substantial individual payouts. But it’s also the latest, and largest, lost opportunity to clarify the legal boundaries of Australia's immigration detention.

Minister to get unprecedented power if Australia’s new citizenship bill is passed

Sangeetha Pillai

First published in The Conversation.

The government has introduced legislation to reform Australia’s citizenship regime, under the guise of strengthening the integrity of citizenship. The bill, if passed in its current form, confers sweeping new powers on the immigration minister.

Access to Australian citizenship has always involved some executive discretion. But if the bill is passed, the minister will gain unprecedented control over the criteria governing citizenship acquisition, the time it takes for a person to gain citizenship after their application has been approved, and even the circumstances in which citizenship can be revoked.

Seven reasons the UN Refugee Convention should not include 'climate refugees'

Professor Jane McAdam

Critics of the United Nations Refugee Convention tend to fall into two camps. In one camp are those who think the treaty is too old to respond to the displacement challenges of the 21st century, such as climate change and disasters. In the other camp are those who think the treaty is too generous and somehow responsible for the large numbers of refugees we see around the world today.

Curiously, the convention is somehow too narrow and too broad at the same time; simultaneously blocking yet facilitating access to protection.

Plaintiff M96A and the elusive limits of immigration detention

Sangeetha Pillai

In Plaintiff M96A/2016 v Commonwealth, the High Court unanimously held that a mother and daughter, who were transferred from detention in Nauru to Australia to obtain medical treatment, were validly held in immigration detention during their treatment. The case is the most recent piece in the evolving jurisprudential puzzle on the constitutional limits of mandatory immigration detention in Australia. This post traces the history of this jurisprudence, and considers the contribution that Plaintiff M96A makes.

Risks and rewards in Australia's plan for private sponsorship


By Khanh Hoang

Australia is set to roll out a new private sponsorship programme for refugees and humanitarian entrants on 1 July, following in the footsteps of Canada. 

Does it matter how we “stop the boats”?


Violeta Moreno-Lax questions the triumph of boat turnbacks, deterrence and containment without protection in Australia and Europe.

The 1969 African Refugee Convention: A Panacea to Mass Movements of Refugees in Africa?


First published in the Refugee Law Initiative Blog on Refugee Law and Forced Migration, 19 April 2017

by Tamara Wood (Kaldor Centre/UNSW) and Dr Marina Sharpe (McGill) who will both present on the ‘Mass Displacement and Regional Protection Frameworks in Africa’ panel at the upcoming RLI 2nd Annual Conference.