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Dr Alice M Nah
Senior Lecturer



Alice is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Applied Human Rights.

She conducts research on the security and protection of human rights defenders at risk, and on asylum and migration in Asia.

She has been invited by governments, intergovernmental bodies, and civil society actors to participate in dialogues as an independent expert on the security and protection of defenders at risk and on forced migration in Asia.

Alice is one of the co-founders of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, which advocates for the rights of refugees and others in need of protection in the Asia Pacific region. She chairs the Boards of the International Detention Coalition, a global network that advocates to secure the human rights of people impacted by and at-risk of immigration detention, and Protection International, an international network that supports human rights defenders in developing their security and protection management strategies.

Alice is a judge on the Ockenden International Prizes, which support locally-based and/or refugee-led organisations that work directly with refugees and displaced people to advance self-reliance. In 2009, the US State Department presented Alice with a TIP Report Hero Acting to End Modern Slavery Award.

Before joining CAHR, Alice held an Endeavour Cheung Kong Research Fellowship at Monash University, Melbourne; the President's Graduate Fellowship and postgraduate research scholarships at the National University of Singapore; and a visiting fellowship with the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford.

Alice gained a PhD and M.Soc.Sci. at the National University of Singapore. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Leeds as a Chevening Scholar. 

Departmental roles

At CAHR, Alice convenes the MA in Applied Human Rights, and is a member of the Politics Graduate Taught and Research Committee.

University roles

Alice is on the University of Sanctuary monitoring and evaluation group, and is a member of York Migration Network and the York Asia Research Network.



I focus on two areas of research.

The security and protection of human rights defenders at risk

I am interested in how human rights defenders navigate the risks involved in their work, how they perceive and manage their own security, and how they collaborate with protection-oriented actors in the pursuit of their work.

I am interested in the construction and function of the multi-level international protection regime for human rights defenders. I am interested in what 'protection' means for human rights defenders, and how states and non-state actors (such as NGOs, donors, and civil society groups) collaborate to protect human rights defenders at risk.

Current research

I am the Principal Investigator of a funded international research project, The Protection and Wellbeing of Human Rights Defenders with Disabilities that examines how human rights defenders understand and manage their disabilities as they navigate risks, and how protection actors understand and respond to their disabilities when providing support.

Migration and Asylum in Asia

I am interested in the experiences of migrants and refugees in Asia, and how their lives are shaped by laws, policies and practices. I am interested in how state authorities, civil society groups, UNHCR, and non-citizens understand the place of migrants and refugees in Asian societies. I am interested in how 'protection' is understood, organised, and enacted by state and non-state actors.

Current research

I am a Co-Investigator on a British Academy funded research project The Verandah of Protection: Violence, History and the Protection of Rohingya refugees in Aceh and beyond (led by Martin Jones), examining how histories of violence and displacement as well as sharia and local customary law influence the the protection of refugees in the province of Aceh and others parts of Indonesia and Malaysia.


I am interested in supervising PhD students in these areas.


Selected publications

To see Alice's full list of publications, please visit PURE



She lectures on the Human Rights and Wrongs in a Globalised World module. 


MA in Applied Human Rights and LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice

Alice convenes core modules such as The Practice of Fieldwork and the Dissertation, and supervises student groups on the Project Placement module.

She is a guest lecturer on the Centre for Women's Studies Women, Citizenship and Conflict module. 

Other teaching

Alice is a regular guest lecturer at the University of Pavia's multidisciplinary Master of Arts in World’s Politics and International Relations, teaching on migration, asylum, and human rights.

She also provides guest lectures on the Annual Short Course on Advocacy and Refugee Rights run by the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network.

External activities


Alice is a co-convenor of the British Sociological Association's Sociology of Rights Study Group.

Alice has completed a number of consultancy projects with human rights and humanitarian organisations, such as Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Labour Organisation, and Forum Asia.


Invited talks and conferences

Expert Meetings and Consultations

2016 and 2017. Meetings of the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration; organised by the Centre for Policy Development, Australia, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University, Thailand, and the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Malaysia.

2015. Jakarta Declaration Roundtable Meeting on Addressing the Root Causes of Irregular Movement of Persons; Jakarta, Indonesia; 27-28 November.

2015. Expert Roundtable on Onward Movement of Asylum-seekers and Refugees; co-organised by UNHCR and the Global Migration Centre, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies; Geneva, Switzerland; 1-2 October.

2015. Track II Dialogue on Forced Migration in the Region; organised by the Centre for Policy Development, Australia; Melbourne, Australia; 24-25 August.

2014. High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection at Sea, UNHCR, Geneva, Switzerland, 10-11 December.

2013. UNHCR’s Global Expert Roundtable on Temporary Protection, San Remo, Italy, 15-16 July.

2012. UNHCR’s Roundtable on Temporary Protection, San Remo, Italy, 19-20 July.

2010. UNHCR’s Consultation on Detention Issues, Bangkok, Thailand.

2009. UNHCR’s Consultation on the 10 Point Plan of Action, Bangkok, Thailand.

2007. High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges: Refugee Protection, Durable Solutions and International Migration, UNHCR, Geneva, Switzerland, 11 December.

Invited Presentations

2017. "Hierarchies of Deservedness: Rights, Nationalism, and Globalisation", Keynote Address at the inaugural workshop of the Centre on Global Migration, University of Gothenburg, 29 March, Gothenburg.

2017. "Rethinking 'Protection' and 'Security': A Critical Appraisal of the Human Rights Defender Protection Regime, presented at the Workshop on Understanding Human Rights in Practice organised by the Department of Sociology and the Human Rights Centre, 12 July, University of Essex.

2016. "Risks faced by Academics and Human Rights Researchers", presented at the Human Rights Researchers Network's Workshop on Strategies to Protect Human Rights Researchers and Academics at Risk, 9 December, School of Advanced Study, University of London.

2016. “Researching Forced Migration in South and Southeast Asia: Contexts, Obligations, and Ways Forward”, Keynote Address at the Workshop on South to South Migration, Refugees, and Diasporic Communities, 16-17 February, National University of Singapore.

2014. “Operationalising the Djibouti Model Framework”, presented at the High Commissioner’ Dialogue on Protection at Sea, 10-11 December 2014, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

2014. Roundtable on “The Malaysian Dream and the Future of Malaysia”, Southeast Asia Studies Symposium 2014 on “Southeast Asia in Transition”, 22-23 March, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

2013. “Activism in Academia: Challenges and Lessons”. Presented at the British Sociological Association’s Annual Conference, 3-5 April, London, United Kingdom.

2012. “Regional Cooperation in the Context of Mixed Migration Flows”, presented at the 4th Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights, 22-24 August, Korea University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.

2012. “The Integration of Refugee: Examples from UK and Canada”, presented at the Conference on Government and Civil Society Cooperation to Protect Refugee Rights and Development, organised by Human Asia, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, and the Korea University Graduate School of International Studies, 21 August 2012, Korea University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.

2012. “The ‘Hierarchy of Deservedness’: Dividing Practices, Identity, and the Rights of Non-Citizens”, presented at the Workshop on the Everyday Political Economy of Southeast Asia, 26 July, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom.

2012. “Immigration Control, Identity, and Rights: The Experiences of Foreign Spouses”, presented at the Workshop on New Ethnoscapes of a Cosmopolitan Malaysia, 7-9 June, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

2011. “Responding to Globalisation: Malaysia’s Differential Approach to the Integration of Different Categories of Migrant Workers”. Presented at the Workshop on Exit and Integration Strategies for Labour Migrants in South East Asia: Putting Principles into Practices, 28-30 November, Monash University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

2011. “The Significance of National Civil Society in Refugee Protection: Examples from the Asia Pacific Region”, presented at the 22nd International Summer School in Forced Migration, 25 July, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.

2010. “Civil Society and Refugee Protection in the Asia Pacific Region”, presented at the 21st International Summer School in Forced Migration, 19 July, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.

2010. “Is MSF Ignoring City Populations?”, presented at Médecins Sans Frontières Hong Kong’s Annual General Meeting, August 28, Hong Kong SAR, China.

Contact details

Dr Alice M Nah
Centre for Applied Human Rights
University of York
6 Innovation Close
Science Park
Heslington, York
YO10 5ZF

Tel: +44 (0)1904 325824

Office hours

Wednesdays 11:30-12:30 and Fridays 11:30 - 12:30

(Autumn term 2021)

For an appointment please email