Opinion pieces


A Half-Century of Universal Refugee Protection Under Threat

Guy S Goodwin-Gill

First published in Refugees Deeply, 4 October 2017

Fifty years ago, the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees entered into force. It would finally put the international protection of refugees on a universal basis, without limit of time or place. It would thus provide the framework for a truly international response to international problems that no one state should bear alone.

Australia’s long history of offshore detention

Dr Claire Higgins

First published in the Lowy Interpreter, 8 September 2017

Shutting down the Manus Island detention centre by 31 October, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has said, will represent 'the closure of a sad chapter'. Much remains unclear about this planned closure, but the eventual failure of offshore detention was clearly foreseen by the Immigration Department – not in 2012, when Manus and Nauru were re-opened, nor even in 1992, when mandatory detention became law. The failure was predicted at the very beginning, when asylum seekers were sailing to Australia in sustained numbers for the first time.

Dutton should learn to live with lawyers helping in matters of life and death

Dr Claire Higgins

First published in The Guardian.

Lawyers who defend asylum seekers, the Immigration Minister believes, are ‘un-Australian’. Peter Dutton is not the first Minister to level criticism at asylum seeker advocates. But history shows that things could –and should – have turned out very differently.

Australia is bankrupting its standing with 'deportation by destitution' policy

Dr Claire Higgins

Australia’s latest asylum policy appears to be deportation by destitution. By cutting financial support from 100 asylum seekers and issuing a new ‘final departure Bridging E Visa’, the government is putting vulnerable people at risk of homelessness and privation. This might seem like an act with purely domestic consequences. But Australia’s harsh asylum policies impact not only on those individuals living onshore and in limbo, or held on Manus or Nauru. They also have a deep and abiding impact on the nation’s international reputation, which matters.

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.

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.

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.