This timely and prestigious Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship tackles a crucial issue of our time: evacuations from crises – including disasters, climate change, conflict, pandemics and other humanitarian emergencies.
Evacuations can be a lifesaving tool. But as recent global conflicts and unprecedented disasters have shown, without careful planning and oversight, evacuations can also displace people – often for prolonged periods and at great social, economic and personal cost.
The emergency nature of evacuations means that governments tend to focus on immediate assistance and may overlook longer-term needs, potentially leaving people in legal, physical and emotional limbo, without homes, livelihoods or support networks.
This Australian Research Council Laureate research program provides the first sustained, integrated legal analysis of how, when and why evacuations are carried out. Despite their widespread use, evacuations have been largely overlooked as a concept in both the forced migration and international law literature, and they are siloed in policy and practice.
This blind spot creates a risk that the needs and rights of millions of evacuees will remain invisible and unaddressed – especially since evacuations account for the vast majority of disaster-related displacement each year.
This five-year, multi-million-dollar Laureate research program provides the first comprehensive analysis of evacuations across multiple countries and contexts. By ‘seeing’ evacuations as a form of displacement, and by overcoming existing fragmentation across a diverse range of legal sub-fields, it identifies the legal and policy innovations required to ensure that evacuees’ human rights are respected and that they do not end up in arbitrary or protracted displacement without durable solutions.
Laureate Fellowships are Australia’s most prestigious research grant, supporting outstanding research leaders who can build Australia’s research capacity, undertake innovative research programs and mentor early career researchers.
‘With the number of displaced people increasing globally – and likely to grow as the impacts of climate change are felt more intensely – this research is exceptionally timely ... Its highly innovative, practical applications are set to be a game-changer in transforming how the international community understands, responds to and manages evacuations, be they from floods and fires in Australia, emergencies such as we have seen in Afghanistan and Ukraine, or sea-level rise in the Pacific.’
— UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise), Professor Nicholas Fisk
This Laureate research program reorients the orthodox starting point for evacuations by hypothesising that while evacuations can be life-saving, they can also displace people and undermine long-term protection needs.
The research program analyses why and how evacuations are used; what legal standards govern their conduct; and when and how they come to an end. It clarifies the scope of governments’ obligations to ensure that people are properly assisted and neither subject to arbitrary displacement nor left to fend for themselves.
It shows why protection principles derived from international refugee law, human rights law and humanitarian law should be incorporated into the conception, planning and implementation of evacuations in order to safeguard against such risks. It aims to provide law and policymakers with conceptual clarity about whom to evacuate, when and for how long, thereby embedding more protective and sustainable legal and policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels.
The Laureate program aims to improve preparedness for crises – boosting community resilience, enhancing stability and saving millions in post-disaster recovery and humanitarian assistance.
Jane McAdam, Submission No 104 to the Select Committee on Australia’s Disaster Resilience (1 May 2023)
Jane McAdam, Erica Bower, Sanjula Weerasinghe and Tamara Wood, Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons on ‘Climate Change and Internal Displacement’ (16 June 2023)
Jane McAdam, Submission to the US Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration on the impact of relocations, evacuations and statelessness (7 June 2021)
Jane McAdam, ‘Should They Stay or Find Another Home? First, Talk to the Flood Victims’, Sydney Morning Herald (4 November 2022)
Jane McAdam, ‘Evacuations: Sometimes the Real Disaster Is What Happens After’, Sydney Morning Herald (22 March 2022)
Jane McAdam, ‘Millions of People were Evacuated during Disasters Last Year: The Rising Human Cost of Climate Change’, The Conversation (20 October 2021)
Jane McAdam and Regina Jefferies, ‘Bring Them Home: Why We Can’t Leave Australians Stranded in India’, Sydney Morning Herald (28 April 2021)
Jane McAdam and Ben Saul, ‘Under Human Rights Law, Australia Runs out of Excuses for Leaving Citizens Stranded Overseas’, Sydney Morning Herald (10 December 2020)