top of page
How will we identify people in need of protection?

Panel discussion

The decade ahead.jpg

Each of our panels will discuss a scenario set a decade in the future. This scenario is not a prediction, but provides a picture of a plausible future in order to help us to explore and anticipate some of the issues we might need to grapple with to ensure protection for displaced people.

Panel 2 with discuss the following scenario:

It is 2033 and the factors driving people from their homes are becoming increasingly complex and interconnected. Persecution, armed conflict, the impacts of climate change and disasters, growing food insecurity and human rights violations intersect to create mixed movements of people in search of international protection, livelihood opportunities and a more dignified existence.

In this context, the task of distinguishing those eligible for international protection from those who are not has become increasingly challenging.

Across both the Global North and South, access to robust individualised refugee status determination (RSD) procedures is the exception rather than the rule, with governments adopting a variety of measures aimed at increasing ‘efficiency’ in the face of increased protection claims and extended backlogs.

This includes an increased reliance on group determination, where applicants from certain countries with specific characteristics are granted protection, while other groups are automatically denied.

Faster decision-making is also supported by widespread use of AI and other technologies. Machine learning algorithms are used to stream and allocate applications to different procedures based on an assessment of a case’s complexity and the likelihood of success. Biometrics are used to establish identity and AI tools analysing facial micro-expressions, body language, eye movements, and voice are employed to assess the credibility of an applicant. Additional data collected through digital forensics, such as social media analysis, are factored into the decision-making process. AI systems synthesise all collected data to provide a recommendation as to whether the applicant meets the legal criteria for protection. Final decisions, however, still involve human oversight.

Meanwhile, new actors have become involved in determining protection claims. Private corporations are involved in designing and implementing RSD procedures and assistive technologies. At the same time, there has been a significant increase in the number of states with functioning asylum systems. These are the result of successful efforts to incentivise states in the Global South to establish new national asylum systems, which have been supported through the transfer of resources and technology. This has reduced the role UNHCR plays in processing asylum claims, allowing it to hand over responsibility to national governments.

Audience Q&A can be submitted through Slido at this link or #1589574.


Cathryn Costello

Full Professor of Law, Sutherland School of Law, University College Dublin


Cathryn Costello is Full Professor of Law at University College Dublin’s Sutherland School of Law. She was previously Professor of Fundamental Rights, and Co-Director of the Centre for Fundamental Rights at the Hertie School, Berlin and Andrew W Mellon Professor of International Refugee and Migration Law at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford. She is a visiting professor at the University of Oslo, and has held fellowships at the University of Melbourne and New York University. She is a leading scholar of international refugee and migration law, and has pioneered the study of the intersection of labour and migration law. She is co-editor with Michelle Foster and Jane McAdam of the Oxford Handbook of International Refugee Law (OUP 2021). She is Principal Investigator of the RefMig project, examining mobility, status and rights in the global refugee and migration regimes, and is the lead principal investigator of a Volkswagen European challenges project on automated decision-making in asylum and migration, AFAR. 

Shahyar Roushan

Senior Member, Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Migration & Refugee Division

Shahyar Roushan is a lawyer with a background in human rights and administrative law. He was appointed as a Member of the former Refugee Review Tribunal in 2001 and subsequently as a Senior Member of the amalgamated Refugee and Migration Review Tribunals. He is currently a Senior Member and the National Practice Leader (Protection) in the Migration and Refugee Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. He is also a Senior Member of the Guardianship Division of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Before his tribunal appointments, he worked as a Government Lawyer in Canberra and a Lawyer with the South African Human Rights Commission in Cape Town. He is an Advisory Board Member of ANU’s Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies. He is multilingual and has a keen interest in sociolinguistics.

Niamh Kinchin

Acting Dean and Associate Professor, School of Law, University of Wollongong

@TheLawPublic @uowresearch

Niamh Kinchin is an Associate Professor at the School of Law, University of Wollongong, where she has been Acting Dean since 2022. She teaches and coordinates refugee law, administrative law and constitutional law. She was admitted as a legal practitioner to the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 2002. She holds a Bachelor of Social Science from the University of Newcastle, a Bachelor of Laws (Hons Class 1) from Western Sydney University, a Master of Administrative Law and Policy from the University of Sydney and a PhD from UNSW. Her PhD examined the topic, ‘Accountability in the Global Space: Plurality, Complexity and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’. Her primary research interests are in refugee law, the impact of technology on forced displacement and migration, global accountability, administrative justice and public law within the international and Australian contexts. Her current and primary research focuses on the digital transformation of the Australian migration and refugee system through a law and justice lens. Other projects include the interpretation of the constitutions of international organizations and the evolution of Australian constitutional principles. She is the author of Administrative Justice in the UN: Procedural Protections, Gaps and Proposals for Reform (Elgar, 2018). 

Edward Santow

Industry Professor and Director, Policy and Governance, Human Technology Institute, University of Technology, Sydney

@esantow @HTI_UTS

Edward Santow is Industry Professor - Responsible Technology at the University of Technology Sydney, and the Director - Policy & Governance at the Human Technology Institute, which he co-founded and leads with Prof Nicholas Davis and Prof Sally Cripps. He leads a number of major initiatives to promote human-centred artificial intelligence, including in the areas of digital government, the future of AI regulation, and facial recognition and digital identity. His areas of expertise include human rights, technology and regulation, public law and discrimination law. From 2016-2021, he was Australia's Human Rights Commissioner, where he led the Australian Human Rights Commission's work on AI & new technology; refugees and migration; human rights issues affecting LGBTIQ+ people; national security; and implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law, a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Human Rights and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and of the NSW Government AI Review Committee. He is a patron of the Refugee Advice + Casework Service, and serves on a number of boards and committees. In 2009, he was presented with an Australian Leadership Award, and in 2017 he was recognised as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He previously served as chief executive of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and was a Senior Lecturer at UNSW Law School, a research director at the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law and a solicitor in private practice. 

Chair: Daniel Ghezelbash

Deputy Director, Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law

@DanGhez @KaldorCentre

Daniel Ghezelbash is Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law and an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow. He is the author of Refuge Lost: Asylum Law in an Interdependent World (Cambridge University Press, 2018). He has been a Visiting Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford University, and a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Law School, Brooklyn Law School and New York Law School. Daniel is passionate about using technology to increase access to justice and to counter systemic discrimination and bias in the legal system, and established the Kaldor Centre’s Data Lab. As a practicing refugee lawyer, he is Special Counsel at the National Justice Project, and sits on the boards of a number of not-for-profit legal centres, including Refugee Advice and Casework Services and Wallumatta Legal. Daniel regularly features and published in domestic and international media outlets on refugee, migration, access to justice and legal technology issues. In 2021, he was selected for the ABC Top 5 Humanities Media Residency.

Image credit: Guillaume Bourdages/Unsplash

bottom of page