Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2019

Abstract

Each day, a vast network of low- and mid-level government officials at a variety of different agencies go about the business of implementing the international legal obligation of non-refoulement in Australia – one of the central tenets of international refugee law, which prevents states from returning an individual to a place where they fear persecution. Whether in a formal refugee status determination or in deciding whether to provide legal services information to asylum seekers in detention, officials routinely make decisions based upon organisational, legal, practical and other considerations that factor into how legal obligations are implemented. These determinations are not limited to formal legal processes or reviewable administrative decisions, nor are they limited to the decisions of public-facing officials. Yet, as refugee and asylum policy become increasingly subordinated to (and deemed incompatible with) state sovereignty and national security, gaining access to government officials and legal processes for the purpose of academic research faces serious challenges.

I begin with a brief overview of the intersection between international legal compliance scholarship and socio-legal studies, in order to situate a methodological discussion within a broader theoretical frame. I then turn to the challenges I faced in researching Australia’s compliance with the norm of non-refoulement, which required an exploration of how front-line state actors internalise, implement and influence the norm. I describe my attempts to gain access to agencies and actors to test one international legal compliance theory using multi-sited ethnography, doctrinal analysis and participant interviews in a grounded theory approach. I then recount my shift towards identifying and mapping the pathways and actors of internalisation using doctrinal and qualitative network analysis, resulting from geographical limitations and legal barriers that, among other things, prescribe imprisonment for officials who disclose broadly defined ‘Immigration and Border Protection information.

Publication Title

Journal of the Oxford Centre for Socio-Legal Studies

Volume

2019

Issue

1

First Page

49

Last Page

53

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Refoulement--Australia; Emigration and immigration law--Australia; Australia--Emigration and immigration--Government policy

Geographic Coverage

Australia

Genre/Form

essays

Type

Text

Rights

Copying of this document in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this document for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author’s written permission.

Language

English

Format

application/pdf

Included in

Law Commons

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