UQ Migrant Smuggling Working Group

UQ’s Migrant Smuggling Working Group brings together a team of experts, students, and staff from The University of Queensland’s TC Beirne School of Law and the School of Political Science & International Studies and from the University of Vienna, Department of Criminal Law and Criminology. 

The Working Group is also supported by a network of research assistants and students from around the world who identify and disseminate laws, court decisions, academic literature, and other reports on smuggling of migrants.  The project is coordinated by Professor Andreas Schloenhardt and Dr Melissa Curley.

The Working Group exposes and analyses the reality of and responses to migrant smuggling in a range of jurisdictions and continuously monitors national and international developments.


The specific objectives of this project are to:

  • provide accurate, complete, up-to-date and in-depth information on migrant smuggling;
  • examine domestic policy, legislative, and administrative frameworks designed to combat migrant smuggling;
  • collate, disseminate, and analyse judicial decisions and other reports on individual cases of smuggling of migrants;
  • assess domestic measures against international law and best practice guidelines;
  • raise awareness and inform the public about the causes, consequences, and signs of migrant smuggling;
  • develop recommendations to prevent and suppress migrant smuggling more effectively; and
  • provide an ongoing research capacity to monitor and analyse national and international developments in this field.

The Migrant Smuggling Working Group was established in 2011 by the TC Beirne School of Law in conjunction with the School of Political Science & International Studies to undertake comprehensive analysis of the phenomenon of migrant smuggling. The work of the UQ Migrant Smuggling Working Group complements the research conducted by the Trafficking in Persons Working Group, established in 2008.

The Working Group comprehensively and systematically analyses the levels and characteristics of migrant smuggling in all its forms. 

Based on these findings, legislative, judicial, administrative, and policy responses of national governments in preventing migrant smuggling, protecting victims, and prosecuting those responsible are critically evaluated. 

International law and other global initiatives to confront migrant smuggling and associated issues are drawn upon to develop recommendations for policy change and law reform.

All research for this project is based exclusively on the examination of open-source materials as well as consultation with relevant government, international and non-government organisations and other experts in the field.

Students are central to the learning and discovery that takes place in the Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Working Groups with a focus on academic research and the development of communication skills.

Professor Schloenhardt and Dr Curley have developed a pedagogical method for the Working Group which aligns with the teaching-research nexus, where students operate as scholars engaged in research and inquiry.  It is widely recognized that there are more positive student learning outcomes when the “students participate in research and inquiry, where students become producers, not just consumers of knowledge” - and this is what the students of the Working Groups do.  Students in this course undertake independent research to prepare and deliver an oral presentation and a written research paper, supported by the academic team who conduct research training with them and deliver content background briefings.

The research the students conduct in this course, with the allure of the opportunity to create a publishable work, offers the student a ‘taster’ of academia within a supportive environment.  The teaching-research nexus approach has benefits, not just those contemplating a future in research, but for all students.  For the undergraduate student, engaging in research develops “the ability to investigate problems, make judgements on the basis of sound evidence, take decisions on a rational basis, and understand what they are doing and why it is vital”.  It develops transferrable skills and leads lifelong learning.

For further information about the teaching method and philosophy of the Working Group, visit http://itali.uq.edu.au/content/undergraduate-research-model.