Fiona Chong ’18 LL.M.
2017 – 2018 Human Rights Fellow
While in law school at the University of New South Wales in Australia, Fiona Chong ’18 LL.M. took a class with Jane McAdam, the director of the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at the university. “Refugee policy in Australia was in a state of flux at the time I was an undergraduate student,” Chong said. “I took Professor McAdam's course because I wanted to make sense of the debates around the issue.”
McAdam, who has also served as an expert adviser to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and for the International Organization for Migration, subsequently hired Chong in 2012 as a research assistant, and then, in 2014, the pair wrote a book together, Refugees: Why Seeking Asylum is Legal and Australia’s Policies are Not.
Chong said the book examines how Australia’s “deeply problematic” refugee policies—including turning away boats and processing asylum seekers on offshore islands—violate international law. The book, which was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in 2015, also offers alternatives to those policies.
After law school, Chong took a job at a firm where she worked on commercial disputes in state and federal courts. The firm’s pro bono program sponsored her secondment at a nonprofit organization that represents asylum seekers.
Now, as an LL.M. Human Rights Fellow at Columbia Law School, Chong is taking an interdisciplinary approach to refugee issues. For the fall semester, she is enrolled in a course on narrative and human rights with Professor Joseph Slaughter in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, as well as a course at the Law School on intersectionality with Professor Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw.
Chong’s goal for her LL.M. year is to “gain a deeper understanding of what role the human rights framework can play in helping us address one of the greatest challenges facing the international community today—finding safe and durable solutions for refugees and other forced migrants,” she said. “Columbia provides an unparalleled environment in which to do that.”