Dr Rayner Thwaites - Statelessness Seminar Series

The fourth seminar in the Statelessness Seminar Series took place on 6 September, and was presented by Dr Rayner Thwaites from the University of Sydney.

“Is Mr Pham a Vietnamese National? Citizenship Deprivation and Foreign Nationality Law in Municipal Courts”

Presented by - Dr Rayner Thwaites, Senior Lecturer in Public and Administrative Law at the University of Sydney

In Pham (2015), the United Kingdom Supreme Court decided that Mr Pham was, as a matter of Vietnamese law, a Vietnamese national. This conclusion was in conflict with the position of the Vietnamese authorities, who did not accept that he was. This divergence as to the content of municipal Vietnamese nationality law – between the institutions of the state of nationality and those of a foreign state – raises in dramatic form questions concerning the treatment of foreign nationality law in municipal courts.

Different conclusions were reached not only by the British and Vietnamese authorities, but by the relevant adjudicative bodies in the United Kingdom. The British litigation saw decisions that Mr Pham was not a Vietnamese national, and decisions that he was. These different conclusions arose from differences of interpretive approach between the relevant courts and tribunals. The interpretive differences were in turn informed by different readings of relevant international law materials, centrally guidance on statelessness provided by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

This seminar will analyse the different interpretive approaches employed in the Pham litigation, grounded in British public law and applied to both Vietnamese and international law. The context for this analysis is twofold: the common law tradition with regard to the treatment of foreign nationality law and the relevant international law debates on statelessness.

Dr Rayner Thwaites is a Senior Lecturer in Public and Administrative Law at the University of Sydney and an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher. His ARC grant project is titled “Conditional Citizenship: Revocation’s Implications for Australians” and is comparative study of citizenship deprivation, focusing on Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He is the author of the GLOBALCIT Report on Citizenship Law: Australia and of The Liberty of Noncitizens: Indefinite Detention in Commonwealth Countries (Hart Publishing, 2014), among other publications. His most recent paper accepted for publication, coauthored with Assoc Prof Andrew Edgar, is “Implementing Treaties in Domestic Law: Translation, Enforcement and Administrative law” in the Melbourne Journal of International Law (forthcoming). He has an SJD from the University of Toronto.