‘Undesirable and unreturnable’ – the migrants states can’t handle

Monday 21 July 2014

High-profile legal cases reveal governments tying themselves into legal knots trying to get rid of asylum seekers and other migrants suspected of serious criminality. Now an ambitious new international project based at the School of Advanced Study’s Refugee Law Initiative (RLI) research centre, is attempting to unravel these knots to create new policy that simultaneously upholds countries’ criminal laws and the human rights of migrants.

The two-year project – Undesirable and unreturnable? Policy challenges around excluded asylum-seekers and migrants suspected of serious criminality but who cannot be removed – is funded by a research network grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Co-led by Dr David Cantor, the director of the RLI, it will examine the legal and policy challenges posed by such asylum seekers and other migrants.

From October 2014 Dr Cantor will collaborate with project co-investigator Joris van Wijk, a criminal law expert at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and director for the Center for International Criminal Justice, to create a global network of academics and policy makers. This group will explore a subject that has raised empirical and theoretical questions for refugee, criminal and human rights law, as well as for political philosophy and history.

‘By providing a forum for advancing thinking on these topics, the new project network “crosses boundaries” in several ways,’ said Dr Cantor. ‘First, it integrates a wide range of participants from the academic community and beyond, including new researchers, research students and national and international policy-makers. Second, it addresses the topics in a comparative international perspective and brings together participants from the most affected countries.

‘Third, it addresses the conceptual problems raised by these topics from the standpoint of both legal and non-legal disciplines. Finally, as no networks or projects presently exist on this topic, the potential for impact among both academic and policy-makers is substantial.’

Academics and practitioners from countries including Brazil, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, the UK and the USA will address core legal and policy questions, such as: ‘Do these cases represent the emergence of a “fundamental system error” in international law or merely a practical problem in application of the law?’

Their responses will be communicated in a number of ways including on the RLI and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam’s websites through open discussions and published materials. The project will culminate with a conference in London in January 2016 and the publication of a research report.

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Notes for editors:
1. For further information please contact Dee Burn at the School of Advanced Study, University of London at dee.burn@sas.ac.uk / 020 7862 8670. Images available on request.

2. The Refugee Law Initiative at the Human Rights Consortium of the School of Advanced Study, University of London is the only academic centre in the UK to concentrate specifically on international refugee law. As a national focal point for leading and promoting research in this field, it works to integrate the shared interests of refugee law scholars and practitioners, stimulate collaboration between academics and non-academics, and achieve policy impact at the national and international level. The Refugee Law Initiative hosts seminars, workshops, short courses and other events to promote and facilitate cutting-edge research on the protection of refugees and other displaced persons. It leads and manages high-impact research, policy and training projects, and carries out consultancy work on refugee law and protection. www.sas.ac.uk/rli

3. The Human Rights Consortium, founded in 2009, brings together the multidisciplinary expertise in human rights found in several institutes of the School of Advanced Study, as well as collaborating with individuals and organisations with an interest in the subject. The main aim of the Consortium is to facilitate, promote and disseminate academic and policy work on human rights by holding conferences and seminars, hosting visiting fellows, coordinating the publication of high quality work in the field, and establishing a network of human rights researchers, policy-makers and practitioners across the UK and internationally, with a view to collaborating on a range of activities. www.sas.ac.uk/hrc

4. The School of Advanced Study, University of London (SAS) is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. SAS and its 10 member institutes offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. In 2012-13, SAS: welcomed 833 research fellows and associates; held 2,231 research dissemination events; received 21.7 million visits to its digital research resources and platforms; and received 194,529 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. Find out more at www.sas.ac.uk or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews

5. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. www.ahrc.ac.uk

6. The University of London is a federal University and is one of the oldest, largest and most diverse universities in the UK. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University is recognised globally as a world leader in Higher Education. It consists of 18 self-governing Colleges of outstanding reputation, together with a number of prestigious central academic bodies and activities. Learn more about the University of London at www.london.ac.uk