(Dis)trust in refugee law: the historical and contemporary narratives

This presentation discusses the arbitrariness and historical contingency of a legal category of a refugee as well as its effects on refugee positionality, by focusing on the exile experience of refugee scholars. By shifting the gaze from the law itself to the “refugee experiences” of the law the paper discusses its limits, consequences and (dis)trusts as discussed by scholars themselves.

The paper utilizes both historical and contemporary ethnographic data and focuses on such issues as shifting definition of a refugee, securitization of refugee law, inadequacy of the legal definitions and inconsistencies in refugee procedures. First, it studies the academic writing of refugee scholars on the topic of refugee protection by focusing on the work of Hannah Arendt, Louise Holborn and Otto Kirchheimer. Secondly, the paper discusses insights by four scholars “at risk” based at different European universities, interviewed during Autumn and Winter 2018/2019.

The right to stay and the (dis)trust of mobile law

In the contemporary world, mobile law is created primarily to close borders, to stop or limit the inflow of migrants, and to expel unwanted immigrants lucky enough to reach the Global North. The process of securitization of migration law observed since the 1990s now incorporates instruments of criminal law into migration law. As an effect, people on the move are punished just for being migrants. The legal provisions have become so strict and borders so tightly closed that for a lot of people it’s proving almost impossible not to break the law or commit a criminal act on their way. But being labeled a ‘criminal’ brings serious consequences – form prohibition to obtaining legal stay to forced expulsion from the country of residence.

Such practices result in victimization of migrants such as depriving them of rights that citizens have in similar legal procedures. But is this lawful and just? I would like to focus on answering this question during my presentation.