The Australian Deportation Project – Design

This project brings together four areas of traditional criminological concern with emerging areas of criminological significance. The ethnographic data will yield important methodological developments in comparing and contrasting these often separate domains of study. 

The methodological approach of studying areas traditional to migration, labour and protection of international markets with more traditional aspects of criminology (national security and criminal justice) has the potential to yield broader understandings of how a specific practice may have similar or differential impacts at the individual, institutional and community level.

Moreover the goals of the project include an important historical component. The proposed methodology couples systematic data analysis to an historically informed ethnographic approach, further enhanced by a comparative element, to produce an integrated understanding of the institutional, individual and community experience of deportation. The result will be a comprehensive picture of deportation in Australia.

The study will build on related current and recent research undertaken separately by each of the CIs; in particular a completed ARC Linkage project on policing and national security (Pickering et al 2008); an ongoing ARC Discovery project on migration policing networks (Weber forthcoming); a pilot study on labour regulation in the Riverina (Segrave, 2009) and a preliminary study on s501 criminal deportees (Grewcock, 2009). Between them, these individual projects provide a foundation for detailed study in each of the research domains identified for this project.


The methodology is organised around four domains:

  1. National security: defined procedurally as including any deportation or attempted deportation on national security grounds, regardless of visa type or legal status.
  2. Community safety: defined procedurally as including any administrative removal of a criminal suspect in lieu of prosecution, or deportation of convicted persons following visa cancellation under s501 of the Migration Act.
  3. Workforce protection: defined both procedurally and by visa category as concerning any forced removal of individuals found to be working without an appropriate visa (whether lawfully or unlawfully present), with particular emphasis on the holders of s457 visas.
  4. Market retention: defined exclusively by visa category for the purposes of this study, focusing on deportations of individuals holding international student visas.

Research Questions

The research will focus particularly on the use of deportation when lawful non-citizens are deemed unlawful by virtue of criminal record or breach of visa regulations.

Across the four domains the project has four research questions:

  1. Historical Use: How and why has deportation been used?
  2. Contemporary Trends and Frameworks: How do contemporary deportation policies and legal frameworks in Australia compare with similarly placed countries?
  3. Systems and Processes: How do current processes for deporting non-citizens vary across a range of legal statuses and social contexts and what are the institutional implications for the use of deportation in some categories?
  4. Individual and Community Impact: What are the individual and community impacts of deportation?

1. Historical use of deportation

To establish the historical use of deportation specific to each domain a review of secondary sources will be conducted, analysing historical immigration control practices in Australia using standard literature searching techniques.

We will build a statistical database indicating the number of deportations and removals under different legal categories from the earliest starting point possible, drawing on recent DIAC statistics and archival materials. Data for 2000 to 2010 will be collected and analysed in far greater detail. We will construct a chronology of deportations showing the key groups targeted for deportation over different periods, and indicating major events such as high-profile or mass expulsions.

2. Contemporary trends and legal frameworks

Federal and state national security, criminal justice, labour regulation and international student policies over the 2000-2010 period will be accessed electronically to track trends and changes relevant to the management of non citizens and the use of deportation. Hansard records including second reading speeches, Senate Estimate Committee and other special committee reports, and Ministerial and

Departmental media releases will be accessed to identify major policy debates and reforms. Deportation statistics from North America, Europe and New Zealand will be collected for the same period and compared with the Australian data collected under Goal 1.

As far as possible the data will be disaggregated across the four domains as well as in relation to key variables of age, gender and country of origin. The Australian legal framework for deportation will be compared with overseas jurisdictions from the selected regions using government documentation and independent commentaries where available, to identify alternative strategies and practices. Relevant international human rights instruments, including conventions setting out the rights of migrant workers and other non citizens will be identified in this comparative phase of research.

3. Systems and process analysis

Detailed information on multi-agency involvement in detection practices will already be available to the project through the Migration Policing project (Weber forthcoming).

That study will also provide some limited data on detention and deportation practices. Additional semi-structured interviews (N=40) will be conducted with key decision-makers in stakeholder agencies, namely national security agencies, immigration, the criminal justice system, labour regulation and educational service providers.

The interviews will be focused on key decision points in the deportation process and the identification of institutional impacts of deportation.

4. Individual and community impact

  • Individuals: Targeted participants will be non-citizens who are currently in Australian detention awaiting deportation. Between 10 to 12 participants will be interviewed across NSW, Victoria and South Australia to ascertain the impact on themselves and their families of their detention and impending deportation.
  • Communities and social networks: Drawing on a network approach to research and sampling, the third group of participants will be accessed via detainees interviewed in the individual phase of this component of the study. Individuals in detention will be asked to nominate 1-2 support people (family members, friends, colleagues etc) who will be interviewed. Total sample size will be at least 50 persons.
  • Integrated case studies: The interviews with individuals detained awaiting deportation, their support groups in the community and community leaders will be integrated into 10-12 in-depth case studies tracking the experiences of individuals within their community or social setting. This will enable the first-ever documentation of the impact of deportation on local Australian communities.
  • Community organisations: This focused work will be supplemented by a series of interviews (n=30) with community-based support organisations and identified spokespersons to identify more general attitudes and impacts of deportation.