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Newsletter | December 2020

Welcome to the Peter McMullin Centre's final newsletter for 2020. We are pleased to once again share with you our current activities, publications, engagements and opportunities.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our collaborators and colleagues who assisted in keeping the Centre's program so full and interesting throughout the year, adapting to a new way of working, and making the most of the opportunities offered by the online environment. We also would like to thank all of those who showed an interest in our seminars, research and projects during what has been a challenging year for many.

We are looking forward to a less stressful 2021, and are thrilled to be starting the year with our online Statelessess Intensive Course in February.
Centre staff win prestigious Australian Research Council grant
Centre Director Michelle Foster and Centre Senior Research Fellow Christoph Sperfeldt have been awarded an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery project grant. The three-year “Understanding Statelessness in Australian Law and Practice” project aims to undertake the first comprehensive study of stateless persons in Australia. It has potential to generate groundbreaking insights into Australia’s role historically in protecting stateless persons, and to identify the protection needs of stateless persons in Australia today. Expected outcomes include an empirically-grounded statelessness mapping and a comprehensive analysis of statelessness in Australian law. The project will improve the quality of Australian public policy and administrative decision-making, and position Australia as a core node of expertise on an important issue that has implications for the rule of law, security and social cohesion in our region. This ARC Discovery project will also build upon and expand the Centre’s strong partnership networks in Australia.
Citizenship and Statelessness in India

India is in the midst of a crisis around citizenship and statelessness. Drawing on partnerships developed through the Statelessness Hallmark Research Initiative, the Centre has built networks with Indian universities and international scholars to support engagement regarding this crisis. Together with other MLS faculty members, as well as colleagues at Jindal Global Law School and the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at Oxford University, the Centre has established a collaborative initiative on Citizenship and Statelessness in India. Since 7 October 2020, the partners have hosted six virtual weekly roundtables with dozens of participating Indian and international scholars. Further roundtables are scheduled before the end of the year. The outcomes will inform ongoing litigation before Indian courts and be published in academic journals. Read more.


Featured Seed Funding Project –
Legal identity formation in the context of hybrid political orders

Supported by the Statelessness Hallmark Research Initiative Seed Funding Scheme, this project explores how legal identities are formed, and how citizenship is operationalised, in contexts of hybridity. The project team is a multi-disciplinary one and consists of Cheryl Saunders (Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne), Anne Carter (Faculty of Business and Law, Deakin University), Patrick Emerton (Faculty of Law, Monash University), Zim Nwokora (Political Science, Deakin University) and Jayani Nadarajalingam (Melbourne School of Government, University of Melbourne).

“Hybridity”, in the sense used by this project, refers to contexts in which the state is not the only actor in the performance of governance functions but instead is one among other actors including, for instance, clans, extended families and village communities. Many parts of the Pacific are hybrid in this sense and it is arguable that many parts of the Global South, more generally, are hybrid in this sense also. Further, it is possible that even countries with strong states – such as Australia and New Zealand – contain what may be best described or characterized as hybrid dimensions. Whilst it is widely acknowledged that legal identity formation in contexts of hybridity is, in many important respects, different from legal identity formation in contexts where the modern state is the main actor, it is a topic that remains largely under-explored. One of the central aims of this project, therefore, is to explore this question in depth and from various inter-disciplinary perspectives.

In October-November 2020, the project team ran a successful virtual reading group on hybridity which focused on the following four topics: (i) hybridity understood, in part, as a response to the analysis of state-society relations put forward in Joel Migdal’s classic Strong Societies and Weak States; (ii) the relationship between hybridity, legal pluralism and legal transplant; (iii) what it means to classify or characterize a society as meaningfully hybrid; and (iv) the relevance and usefulness of hybridity with a particular focus on its strengths and limits. The reading group sets the scene nicely for two workshops which will be held in 2021, with the first of these – a work-in-progress academic workshop on hybridity and legal identity formation - scheduled in February. Two leading academics on hybridity, Kevin Clements and Volker Boege, will begin the workshop with a joint keynote. This will then be followed by papers from Anna Dziedzic, Sarah Phillips, Elisa Arcioni, Sam Balaton-Chrimes and Ihsan Yilmaz.

For more information, please contact Jayani Nadarajalingam at

UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Universal Periodic Review Update
Australia’s human rights record is being examined at the UN Human Rights Council in January 2021 as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process. The McMullin Centre was proud to lead a joint submission to this process with our partners The Institute of Statelessness and Inclusion, the Refugee Advice Casework Service and the Statelessness Network Asia Pacific highlighting human rights challenges pertaining to statelessness in Australia.


The submission raised four key areas of concern, including –

  • Australia’s lack of a statelessness determination procedure or specific visa category for stateless persons, leaving stateless people in Australia in a state of limbo;
  • That stateless persons in Australia face a real risk of mandatory, prolonged and indefinite detention;
  • That Australia’s existing citizenship deprivation powers risk rendering persons stateless; and
  • That stateless persons face a disproportionate risk as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 3 December Centre Director Professor Michelle Foster had the opportunity to explain the key concerns outlined in our submission pertaining to citizenship deprivation in Australia at an international briefing session attended by members of the diplomatic community, civil society and embassies.

You can find out more information regarding the UPR process and our submission in our Factsheet: The United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review and Summary of the UPR Joint Submission, or read our full submission here.

The Critical Statelessness Studies Blog
In the latest contribution to the Critical Statelessness Studies Blog,
Christiana Bukalo, founder of State Free, reflects on her experiences researching statelessness as a stateless person. 

Last month on the blog,
Victoria Reitter's piece critiqued the heavy reliance on quantitative data in the statelessness field and sought to expand the lens through an ethnographic approach.

Read the pieces and learn more about making a contribution to the CSS Blog.

Securing Citizenship report

The Centre for Public Interest Law (CPIL) at Jindal Global Law School has recently released a report, Securing Citizenship: India’s legal obligations towards precarious citizens and stateless persons. Drawing from both Indian and international law, the report argues that the Indian state is legally bound to prevent and reduce statelessness. India must affirm the citizenship of precarious citizens in Assam being subjected to arbitrary citizenship deprivation procedures. It also argues that India cannot detain precarious citizens and stateless persons, and must ensure the full gamut of socio-economic rights is available to stateless persons in the Indian territory. Centre Director, Michelle Foster, wrote in an endorsement:

This is a thoroughly researched, comprehensive and insightful study of the law and policy on statelessness in India today. An extremely timely intervention, the report makes a series of important recommendations and is a must-read for students, academics, activists, lawyers, policymakers, and legislators, and all those concerned with citizenship and statelessness issues in India.

The Securing Citizenship report can be accessed here


Statelessness & Citizenship Review

The submission deadline for Volume 3 Issue 1 of the Statelessness and Citizenship Review is 31 January 2021. In addition to general submissions, Volume 3(1) will feature a symposium on 'Citizenship and Statelessness in India'.  The special guest editor of the symposium is Dr Adil Hasan Khan, Melbourne Law School.  Please direct any queries about the symposium to Dr Khan at  Submissions for the symposium follow the usual submission process. Visit the website for more information.

Migration, Refugees & Statelessness Seminar Series: Dr Rennie Lee
On 16 October, Rennie Lee, Assistant Professor in Global and Sociocultural Studies at Florida International University, presented a webinar titled Understanding Immigrants’ Diverse Employment Trajectories: The Role of Immigration Policy and Gender. Focusing on empirical results from the United States and Australia, Dr Lee discussed the enduring effects of immigration policy, specifically visa categories, on immigrants’ labor market participation and employment behaviour and how these effects differ for immigrant men and women. Our thanks to Rennie and to all of those who attended this fantastic presentation.

The Centre would like to thank the
Melbourne Social Equity Institute for partnering with us on the 2020 seminar series.
Webinar -
Understanding Statelessness in North Africa
On 10 December, the MENA Statelessness Network (Hawaiti) is hosting a webinar (in Arabic) on the topic of 'Understanding Statelessness in North Africa'. The webinar will be hosted by McMullin Centre graduate researcher Thomas McGee and will begin at 3pm Cairo-time. Watch via live broadcast on the Youtube Channel.
Recent Publications by the PMCS Team
  • Thomas McGee, 'Recognising Stateless Refugees', Forced Migration Review (2020) Issue 65, 45-47.
  • Thomas McGee 'Book Review: Offshore Citizens: Permanent Temporary Status in the Gulf by Noora Lori', Statelessness and Citizenship Review (2020) 2(2), forthcoming.