Refugee Law & Policy Group | Law

Refugee Law & Policy Group

This Group has now been incorporated into the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law.

Welcome to the Refugee Law and Policy Group at UNSW Law

This page provides an overview of UNSW Law's wide range of research activities and clinical programs in refugee and migration law. 

More information, and links to publications, can be found by clicking on the profiles of the people listed below.

We welcome PhD and LLM applications in our areas of expertise.  We are also happy to respond to media inquiries relating to refugees, asylum seekers and migration.  Interested students may like to join the Forced Migration Reading and Writing Group, which meets regularly during semester (details under 'Events' below). 


Professor Jane McAdam

Professor Jane McAdam (BA (Hons), LLB (Hons) (Sydney), DPhil (Oxford)) is Scientia Professor of Law and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow.  She is the Director of the International Refugee and Migration Law project at the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law and the convenor of the Faculty's Refugee Law and Policy Group.  She publishes widely in the area of international refugee law, in particular on complementary protection and climate change-related displacement and migration.  Her current research examines human rights approaches to slow-onset climate change-related displacement and relocation in the Pacific.  She is the author of Climate Change, Forced Migration, and International Law (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012), Climate Change and Australia: Warming to the Global Challenge (with B Saul, S Sherwood, T Stephens and J Slezak, Federation Press, Sydney, 2012), Complementary Protection in International Refugee Law (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007), The Refugee in International Law (with GS Goodwin-Gill, 3rd edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007); and the editor of The Global Reach of European Refugee Law (with H Lambert and M Fullerton; Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, forthcoming 2013), Climate Change and Displacement: Multidisciplinary Perspectives (Hart Publishing, Oxford, 2010) and Forced Migration, Human Rights and Security (Hart Publishing, Oxford, 2008).

Please click here for a full profile and list of publications.


  • International refugee law
  • Complementary protection
  • Climate change and migration/displacement/relocation
  • International human rights law
  • Australian asylum law and policy

Contact 9385 2210

Bassina Farbenblum

Bassina Farbenblum leads the Australian Human Rights Centre’s Migrant and Refugee Rights Project, which engages in research and law reform initiatives to advance the human rights of refugees and migrants in Asia and Australia. Bassina also directs UNSW’s Human Rights Clinic, in which students gain practical lawyering experience in human rights advocacy, law reform and litigation in domestic, regional and international settings, focused on the rights of migrants and refugees.  Her current research projects focus on migrant workers’ access to justice in the Asia Middle East Migration Corridor (funded by a grant from the Open Society Foundations); the human rights law implications of Australian laws, policies and practices aimed at preventing asylum seekers from reaching Australia using people smugglers; human rights accountability for Australia’s interception and detention of asylum seekers abroad; and the application of international refugee law by US courts and tribunals.  Her research also separately focuses on clinical pedagogy and the teaching of human rights lawyering in Australia.

Please click here for a full profile and list of publications.


  • Human rights of refugees and migrants
  • Migrant workers
  • People smuggling
  • Advocacy for refugees and asylum seekers
  • Australian asylum law and policy

Contact 9385 9528

Dr Michael Grewcock

Dr Michael Grewcock teaches Criminal Law, Penology and Criminology subjects at UNSW Law and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Prior to taking up an academic post, Dr Grewcock worked as a solicitor in London for 13 years, specialising in immigration, prison and criminal law. He has published in the areas of criminal law; prisoners’ rights; immigration detention and state crime. His recent research has focused on Australian border policing policy and practice, with an emphasis on the criminalisation and punishment of unauthorised migrants, particularly refugees. He is currently conducting research into the use of section 501 of the Migration Act to detain and deport former prisoners whose visas have been cancelled as a result of their criminal convictions; how the concepts of punishment and deterrence operate in relation to the policing of people-smuggling; and the impacts of Australia’s immigration detention policies. He is a member of the London based International State Crime Initiative (; a member of the editorial board of the journal State Crime; and reviews editor for the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology.

Please click here for a full profile and list of publications.


  • Immigration detention
  • Border control
  • People smuggling
  • State crime
  • Australian asylum law and policy

Contact 9385 9563

Dr Gabrielle Simm

Dr Gabrielle Simm is a Senior Research Associate working with Professor Andrew Byrnes on the ARC Discovery Project on Peoples’ Tribunals and International Law.  She has taught Australian migration law at the Australian National University and completed her LLM in comparative refugee law at the University of British Columbia.  Prior to commencing her PhD, she worked as an international lawyer at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Attorney-General’s Department in Canberra.  She also worked as a refugee lawyer in Melbourne at Victoria Legal Aid and in a voluntary capacity at the Refugee & Immigration Legal Service.

Please click here for a full profile and list of publications.

Contact 9385 7470

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Professorial Visiting Fellows

Professor Guy S. Goodwin-Gill

University of Oxford2010 Julius Stone Visiting Fellow (September–October 2010) 

Guy S. Goodwin Gill, MA, DPhil (Oxon), is a Senior Research Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford and Professor of International Refugee Law in the University of Oxford. He was formerly Professor of Asylum Law at the University of Amsterdam, and served as a Legal Adviser in the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in various countries from 1976-1988. He has been a member of the Council of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) since 2007, a Patron of AsylumAid since 2008, and from 1997-2010 he was President of Refugee and Migrant Justice (formerly the Refugee Legal Centre). He is the Founding Editor of the International Journal of Refugee Law (Oxford University Press) and was Editor-in-Chief from 1989-2001. Professor Goodwin-Gill has written extensively on refugees, migration, elections, and child soldiers. He also practises as a Barrister from Blackstone Chambers, London.

Professor Goodwin-Gill taught the UNSW Masters course 'International Refugee Law' in 2010.


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Visiting Fellows

Eleanor Taylor-Nicholson      

Research Director on the Migrant Worker Access to Justice Project, Australian Human Rights Centre, UNSW.

Patrick Earle

Patrick Earle has been the Executive Director of the Diplomacy Training Program (DTP) since 2003.  He has over 20 years of experience working in the human rights movement, both in Australia and internationally.  Since 2003, Patrick has facilitated over 25 human rights courses for the DTP across the Asia-Pacific region.  Since 2004, the DTP ( has maintained a thematic focus on the rights of migrant workers in and from that region.  It has worked with the regional NGO network, Migrant Forum Asia, to organise regional training programs to develop the knowledge and skills of civil society advocates to promote the application of international human rights standards to policy and practice relating to migrant workers.  In 2009, the Asia-Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions became a partner in the program.  For more information, please see

Contact 9385 3549

Sue Zelinka

Sue Zelinka is the Development Director of the International Association of Refugee Law Judges (IARLJ).  It was in this capacity that she was invited to become a Visiting Fellow at UNSW Law from August 2008.  In February 2010, Sue organized an IARLJ regional conference at UNSW Law, in conjunction with a training workshop on refugee law for candidates from Asia and the Pacific region.  In 2013, UNSW Law hosted the IARLJ Australasian Chapter Regional conference.  Sue was a full-time member of the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) for 10 years (1997-2007) and was a foundation member of the IARLJ Australasian Chapter.  She served as a member of the IARLJ Governing Council from 2002-08.  As Development Director for the IARLJ, she seeks to advance the training of new refugee law judges and facilitate contact between judges involved in refugee status determination around the world.

For more information on the IARLJ, see


The photo, taken at the function on 20 August 2008 to mark the Fellowship, shows (from left to right): Professor David Dixon, Dean of UNSW Law; Dr Jane McAdam, Faculty member and associate IARLJ member; Sue Zelinka, IARLJ Development Director and newly-appointed Visiting Fellow; and Justice Tony North, then IARLJ President.

Professor Geoff Gilbert

University of Essex

Geoff Gilbert is a Professor of Law at the University of Essex.  He has been Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Refugee Law since 2002.  He was the founding Director of Studies for UNHCR's annual Thematic Refugees and Human Rights course for judges, government officials and UNHCR staff at the International Institute for Humanitarian Law, Sanremo, Italy, from 2005 to 2007. He was Specialist Adviser to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights in its inquiry into the treatment of asylum-seekers, 2006–07. He was part of the Human Rights Centre's research programme on human rights in situations of acute crisis that was carried out on behalf of DFID. He has carried out human rights training on behalf of the Council of Europe and UNHCR in the Russian Federation (Siberia, the Urals and Kalmykskaya), Georgia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Kosovo. He has advised governments on their laws in Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the FSU, and was the Director of the OSCE training programme on combating torture for judges in Serbia and Montenegro. His areas of interest are international criminal law, the protection of refugees and other displaced persons in international law, the protection of minorities in international law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

Professor Gilbert teaches the UNSW Masters course 'International Refugee Law' and in 2010 taught 'Advanced Issues in International Law', focusing on the position of minority groups in international law and international human rights law.

Contact details:

Professor Kate Jastram

Berkeley Law, University of California(visited September 2010)

Kate Jastram joined the Berkeley Law Faculty in 2002. Prior to that, she was a legal advisor to UNHCR from 1991 to 2001 in Geneva and in Washington, DC. She prevously practised immigration and nationality law in San Francisco and directed a pro bono asylum program in Minneapolis. Her scholarly work explores the challenges states face in balancing protection for forced migrants with their national security concerns, by focusing on the intersections of refugee law, human rights law, international humanitarian law, and international criminal law.  Professor Jastram is an Associate Rapporteur of the Human Rights Nexus Working Party for the International Association of Refugee Law Judges, and has served as an expert on asylum issues for the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent bi-partisan federal agency.


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Postgraduate Research Students

Tamara Wood, PhD candidate and Nettheim Doctoral Teaching Fellow

PhD topic: ‘Does Broader Scope Equal Broader Protection? Article I(2) of the 1969 Organisation of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa’

The so-called ‘expanded’ definition of a refugee in Article I(2) of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa has been widely praised for being more humanitarian, more reflective of current causes of displacement and providing better protection than its counterpart in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.  This thesis investigates the truth of these claims by seeking, first, to elaborate on the meaning of the definition’s terms, and second, to consider the impact of the definition on refugee protection in practice.

Please click here for a full profile and list of publications.

Chantal Bostock: PhD candidate

PhD topic: '"Character" in the AAT's Immigration Jurisdiction'

This thesis explores the character test in various contexts relevant to deportation of non-citizens from Australia.  In Australia, poor character has been an element upon which a non-citizen might be deported even before Federation.  It is a common element in migration laws internationally.  In recent years, failure to satisfy the character test has become an increasingly common basis for excluding non-citizens from Australia.  This reflects a growing international trend, exacerbated by recent terrorist attacks.  In Australia, determinations are made by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) that are then subject to review in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and in limited circumstances, an appeal to the Federal Court.  This thesis analyses the concept of character and what it embodies in terms of rights to residency, especially exploring context where non-citizens have no links with their country of birth, but have major links with Australia through a lifetime since infancy of residency in Australia.  


Sally Richards: PhD candidate

PhD topic: 'The Acquisition and Circulation of Legal Knowledge in Refugee-Related Merits Review'

This thesis investigates the sociological and organisational factors that influence merits review officers’ understandings and applications of the law in the Refugee Review Tribunal of Australia to better understand how legal knowledge is acquired and circulated in second level governmental decision making.  Through focussing on professional networks, internal and external policy, hierarchical structures and training initiatives, it posits a range of factors that act as conduits for compliance with law in merits review.  It takes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) refugee-related decision making as its core case study for examining these factors and their impact on understandings and applications of the law.  In doing so, it applies a conceptual framework developed in relation to first instance governmental decision making in the UK to the original merits review, Australian and refugee context, intending to function as a heuristic that might then be applied and tested in other contexts and jurisdictions.


Niamh Kinchin: PhD candidate

PhD topic: 'Accountable Decision-Making in the Global Context: UNHCR and Refugee Status Determination'

Can accountability in global governance be conceptualised in terms of plurality in a way that takes into account the intersecting, and often-conflicting accountability relationships of individual decision-making bodies to reveal the reasons why those bodies fail to be accountable?  The global space exists beyond the traditional boundaries of sovereignty or international law, yet its scope defies identifiable parameters. If there is a legal order, it is fragmented (at best) and if there is a constituency, it is a fractured one.  It is a place where decision-making and regulation involve diverse actors who act outside of State control yet who affect the rights and obligations of individuals and groups.  The fact that global decision-making bodies are generally less accountable than decision-making bodies at the domestic level points to an accountability deficit in the global space.  The innate plurality of the context however, speaks against a temptation to approach accountability in terms of regimes (i.e. legal, social or market accountability) or through the uniform application of accountability standards (i.e. transparency, participation, human rights). Using UNHCR and its refugee status determination practices as an example, it is argued that accountability in this context should be reconceptualised through accountability relationships.


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The People Smuggler – Robin de Crespigny, Friday 3 May 2013, 1–2pm, UNSW Law Theatre G23

Award-winning author, Robin de Crespigny, will talk about her book The People Smuggler.  This is the true story of one man’s epic journey to find a safe place in the world. 

When Ali Al Jenabi fled Iraq after four years in Abu Ghraib, he was forced to leave his family behind. What followed was an incredible international odyssey through the shadow world of fake passports, crowded camps and illegal border crossings, each day filled with uncertainty about what the next would bring.  After being betrayed by a people smuggler in Indonesia, Ali became one himself.  He succeeded in getting his family to safety in Australia, and eventually helped over 500 fellow Iraqis do the same.  When he was tried in a Darwin court, he came to be known not as a heinous criminal, but rather as the Oskar Schindler of Asia.  With enormous power and insight, The People Smuggler tells a story of daily heroism, bringing to life the forces that drive so many people to put their lives in unscrupulous hands.  It is a gripping portrait of a man attempting to retain his dignity and humanity, taking whatever path he can out of an impossible position. 

Forced Migration Reading and Writing Group: We hold regular meetings throughout the semester.  Please contact Tamara Wood for details:

‘Borderline Justice: The Fight for Refugee and Migrant Rights’ – Frances Webber, Tuesday 12 March 2013, 1-2pm (Law Boardroom)

Frances Webber spent many years working as a barrister in London specialising in immigration, refugee and human rights law. She co-edited Macdonald’s Immigration Law and Practice (5th edition, 2001, 6th edition 2005) and Halsbury’s British Nationality, Immigration and Asylum (4th edition, 2002 reissue). She is Vice-Chair of the Institute of Race Relations and lectures part-time at the University of Warwick and Birkbeck College. She has written extensively on migration and human rights issues in the UK and European Union. She will be discussing themes from her latest book:  Borderline Justice: The Fight for Refugee and Migrant Rights, which describes the exclusionary policies, inhumane decisions and obstacles to justice for refugees and migrants in the current legal system.

‘Climate Change and Migration in the Asia-Pacific: Legal and Policy Responses’, Sydney, 10–11 November 2011 (NSW Parliament House)

This was a two-day international conference on climate change, migration and displacement in the Asia-Pacific region.

Podcasts, papers and related media are available on the conference website.

The Asylum Debate, 21 September 2010 (UNSW Law Theatre)

This Q&A‐style panel discussion featured four of the world’s leading scholars of international refugee law: Professor Guy Goodwin‐Gill (Oxford); Professor Geoff Gilbert (Essex); Professor Kate Jastram (Berkeley); and Associate Professor Jane McAdam (UNSW).  The discussion was moderated by Professor George Williams (UNSW).

Drawing on comparative perspectives from the UK, US and Australia, it explored issues such as the right to seek asylum, whether offshore processing is lawful as a matter of international law, the impact of terrorism on refugee claims, how a bill of rights would affect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, the role of UNHCR, whether a hung Parliament may reshape refugee law in Australia and the UK, and how future movements of so-called ‘climate change refugees’ may impact on law and policy.

A video of the event can be seen here.  

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Current Research and Publications

Please see individuals' profiles via the links above for details of current research projects and publications.

Managing and Understanding Psychological Issues among Refugee Applicants: Resources Manual and Guidelines for Best Practice

We are pleased to profile the findings of an interdisciplinary research project undertaken by colleagues in UNSW Law and the Psychiatry Research and Teaching Unit of UNSW Medicine.  The report seeks to assist refugee applicants and all those who participate in the refugee status determination process, including migration agents, lawyers, health and allied health professionals and decision-makers.  The report and guidelines can be accessed here.

The legal research was undertaken by Jill Hunter, Linda Pearson, Mehera San Roque and Ronnit Redman.  The mental health research was undertaken by Zachary Steel, Naomi Frommer and Derrick Silove.

Research Projects with UNHCR

Through a Memorandum of Understanding between UNSW and UNHCR, UNSW students are engaged from time to time in research projects for UNHCR's Division of International Protection in Geneva.  To date, they have worked on a project concerning refugee claims based on sexual orientation and gender identity; and a project on the laws relating to statelessness and citizenship in the Pacific, which will ultimately form part of a UNHCR database on nationality laws around the world.  Students interested in getting involved in future research opportunities are encouraged to email Professor Jane McAdam:

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Research Grants



  • Australian Research Council Future Fellowship, ‘Moving with Dignity: A Human Rights Approach to Slow-Onset Climate Change-Related Displacement and Relocation in the Pacific’ (Jane McAdam)
  • Australian Research Council Discovery Grant, ‘Immigration Restriction and the Racial State, c. 1880 to the Present’ (Jane McAdam, Alison Bashford (Sydney))
  • Australian Research Council Discovery Grant, ‘Exporting Risk: The Australian Deportation Project’  (Michael Grewcock,  Sharon Pickering (Monash), Leanne Weber (Monash), Marie Segrave (Monash))
  • Open Society Foundations, ‘Transnational Access to Justice Project, Asia-Middle East Migration Corridor’ (Bassina Farbenblum, Sarah Paoletti (University of Pennsylvania))


  • Australian Research Council Discovery Grant, ‘Weathering Uncertainty: Climate Change “Refugees” and International Law’ (Jane McAdam)

  • Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council International Opportunities Fund, ‘War Crimes and Refugee Status: The Application and Interpretation of International Humanitarian and International Criminal Law to the Adjudication of Refugee Status in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand’ (Jane McAdam, Guy Goodwin-Gill (Oxford), Geoff Gilbert (Essex), Kate Jastram (Berkeley), James Simeon (York University, Toronto))

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Other UNSW Links

Centre for Refugee Research