Rethinking commonality in refugee status determination in Europe: Legal geographies of asylum appeals
Author(s): Jessica Hambly, Et al.
The Common European Asylum System aims to establish common standards for refugee status determination among EU Member States. Combining insights from legal and political geography we bring the depth and scale of this challenge into sharp relief. Drawing on interviews and a detailed ethnography of asylum adjudication involving over 850 in-person asylum appeal observations, we point towards practical differences in the spatio-temporality, materiality and logistics of asylum appeal processes as they are operationalised in seven European countries. Our analysis achieves three things. Firstly, we identify a key zone of differences at the level of concrete, everyday implementation that has largely escaped academic attention, which allows us to critically assess the notion of harmonisation of asylum policies in new ways. Secondly, drawing on legal- and political-geographical concepts, we offer a way to conceptualise this zone by paying attention to the spatio-temporality, materiality and logistics it involves. Thirdly, we offer critical legal logistics as a new direction for scholarship in legal geography and beyond that promises to prise open the previously obscured mechanics of contemporary legal systems.
Research theme: Human Rights Law and Policy
Experiencing Asylum Appeals: 34 Ways to Improve Access to Justice at the First-tier Tribunal
Author(s): Jessica Hambly
There is ongoing concern that Britain’s courts are places that are overwhelming, disorientating and confusing for court users. Asylum seekers are some of the most marginalised people in society and existing research highlights the difficulties they face in disclosing evidence throughout the legal process. Without an accessible process, appellants may be unable or unwilling to speak and participate in their appeal, and therefore important pieces of evidence may not be considered and justice may not be served. Although a lot of attention has been paid to asylum law by academics and policy makers alike, its day to day implementation often escapes critical academic scrutiny. This is arguably because relatively few non-legal scholars study the law, meaning that most analysis is focussed on substantive and doctrinal legal issues rather than questions of process, implementation and experience. It is also extremely time consuming to observe a sufficient number of hearings to be able to draw general conclusions about day to day issues.
Our project adopts an inter-disciplinary perspective on the day to day workings of asylum law within the UK’s asylum appeal hearings. In the following sections we report on a project which examined what happens during asylum appeals by closely observing them from the public areas of hearing rooms. Our observations ran from 2013 to 2019. We complement the perspective our observations offer with interview evidence from appellants as well as others involved in the process.
Co-authors: Nick Gill, Jennifer Allsopp, Andrew Burridge, Daniel Fisher, Melanie Griffiths, Jessica Hambly, Jo Hynes, Natalia Paszkiewicz, Rebecca Rotter and Amanda Schmid-Scott.