Migrant and refugee rights project

migrant worker in mid east


Led by Bassina Farbenblum, this project undertakes applied research to advance the human rights of migrants and refugees in Asia and Australia.  In recent years it has focused on the rights of migrant workers from South and South East Asia who work in the Middle East, and on temporary migrants working in Australia. It focuses in particular on migrant workers’ access to justice in their countries of origin and destination, and on governance and accountability within migrant worker recruitment. The project is affiliated with UNSW’s Human Rights Clinic, and works directly with governments, civil society organisations, trade unions, international organisations and UN mandate-holders on initiatives to advance migrant worker protection in Australia, Asia and globally.

Research projects include:

  • the first major empirical studies examining migrant workers’ access to justice in their own country or via their embassy.  The research examines the barriers to migrant workers’ access to informal, administrative, commercial and court-based justice mechanisms, against an overlay of the current domestic and international legal frameworks that regulate migrant workers and provide sources of legal rights and obligations. The studies were funded by grants from the Open Society Foundations and TIFA Foundation (Indonesia), and were conducted in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Transnational Legal Clinic and local partners in Indonesia and Nepal. For more information and copies of reports, policy briefs and other documents related to the project see http://www.migrantworkerjustice.org/.
  • an examination of temporary migrants’ access to justice in Australia. Working with Laurie Berg (UTS), this is a detailed empirical analysis of the mechanisms through which international students, working holidaymakers, skilled 457 workers and other temporary migrants in Australia might access remedies for underpayment and other work-related harms. Engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, the study aims to provide recommendations for law, policy and institutional reform to address current barriers to justice.