Bodean Hedwards is currently undertaking her PhD at Monash University examining the forced and irregular migration of Tibetan refugees on the Tibet-Nepal border. She is also a Research Associate at the Border Crossing Observatory, where she is working with the team to develop an innovative research platform on major border crossings in Southeast Asia. In this position, Bodean is also part of the research team investigating the regulation and exploitation of migrant workers in Australia.
Prior to this, Bodean was a researcher with the Walk Free Foundation where she specialised in assessing government responses to modern slavery throughout Southeast Asia. Bodean has also worked with the Australian Institute of Criminology in Canberra on a range of issues, including anti-human trafficking, countering violent extremism and indigenous justice. Outside her formal employment, Bodean was also the Vice-Chair of the Canberra Chapter of Young UN Women.
Bodean has published on a range of issues, including the government responses to modern slavery, challenges facing Tibetan refugees in Australia, people smuggling, forced migration, Indigenous justice programs and technology and crime. Following her time living in India, Bodean returned to Australia and established ‘A Million Hands Project’, a charity that supports a health clinic in Lucknow.
Criminalisation of Tibetan migrants in Asia’s borderlands
There is an increasing body of research examining the Tibetan experience in exiled communities, and within the parameters of the Tibetan Autonomous Region; however, the experience of Tibetan refugees on the border remains unknown. Despite allegations of arbitrary border control practices, and criminalizing monitoring policies, the borders in the Tibet-Nepal region have been neglected in contemporary criminological inquiry.
The limited evidence suggests that Tibetan refugees face physical and sexual abuse, beatings, detention and repatriation if caught on the Nepal border. While these experiences are not uncommon in other contentious border regions around the world, the cultural, historical and political context creates a complex situation for Tibetan refugees to navigate. It is in this context that borders, human rights and gender become potentially influential factors on border experiences in this region.
The Tibetan border presents an opportunity to challenge the current perceptions about the way that Tibetans experience the border. Premised on our understanding of borders and border control globally, the aim of this research is to examine the extent to which the ways that borders are created and enforced applies to, or at least resonates with different geopolitical sites. Based on this, it documents and examines the experiences of Tibetan migrants fleeing Tibet to Nepal and India, and seeks to understand the processes involved in their departure, border crossing, arrival and life after migration. More specifically, it seeks to answer three research questions:
- What is the experience of forced and irregular Tibetan migrants fleeing Tibet to Nepal, and India?
- What are the structural, institutional and contextual factors that shape Tibetan migration experiences and outcomes?
- What is the impact of the national and regional border control policies on the experience of Tibetan migrants?
Forced and irregular migration, refugees, anti-slavery, human rights and gender.