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Making Migration Law
  • Eve Lester, Institute for International Law and the Humanities, Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne

Book description

The emergence of international human rights law and the end of the White Australia immigration policy were events of great historical moment. Yet, they were not harbingers of a new dawn in migration law. This book argues that this is because migration law in Australia is best understood as part of a longer jurisprudential tradition in which certain political-economic interests have shaped the relationship between the foreigner and the sovereign. Eve Lester explores how this relationship has been wrought by a political-economic desire to regulate race and labour; a desire that has produced the claim that there exists an absolute sovereign right to exclude or condition the entry and stay of foreigners. Lester calls this putative right a discourse of 'absolute sovereignty'. She argues that 'absolute sovereignty' talk continues to be a driver of migration lawmaking, shaping the foreigner-sovereign relation and making thinkable some of the world's harshest asylum policies.


‘This book exposes the moral and political bankruptcy that comes with ‘absolute sovereignty' - a domestic law doctrine with its origins and currency in the politics of xenophobia and racial discrimination - particularly when courts fail to assert control and apply the principles of legality integral to their duty to do justice. Dr Lester's work is a major point of departure; as she clearly shows, now is the time to question such a serious challenge to democratic government and the rule of law.'

Guy S. Goodwin-Gill - Emeritus Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford

‘Eve Lester's personal energy and passion for this subject shines through this accessible and highly engaging book. It should be a foundational text for all students and scholars seeking to understand Australia's migration law system.'

Kim Rubenstein - Australian National University, Canberra

‘Eve Lester's in-depth analysis is most timely and valuable. At a time when migration and refugee policies are at the forefront of international attention and domestic debate, it is hoped the evidence base it provides will contribute to a serious reorientation from current exclusionist thinking towards policies of inclusion and diversity that guarantee freedoms from want and fear.'

Volker Türk - UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees (Protection), UNHCR

‘This is a book for law and policy makers as well as for judges, human rights lawyers and activists. It provides the backstory so necessary for a proper understanding of Australia's uniquely harsh response to unsolicited migration.'

The Honorable Catherine Branson, QC - former President of the Australian Human Rights Commission and former judge of the Federal Court of Australia

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