On 25 and 26 January, CICJ and the Refugee Law Initiative host an international conference at the University of London on ‘undesirable and unreturnable’ migrants. Impediments to the expulsion of migrants suspected or convicted of serious criminality pose an increasing challenge for public policy in both the national and international spheres. These obstacles can be ‘practical’, such as the lack of means to send the person to their country of origin, or ‘legal’ in nature, as where human rights standards prevent removal. However, even though such cases appear comparatively few in number, they tend to attract significant public interest due to the real concerns that they generate for State migration control, the integrity of the institution of asylum, the role of human rights in contemporary society, and the bringing to justice of perpetrators of serious crimes.
The archetypal expression of this problem is presented by those asylum-seekers excluded from refugee status due to suspected involvement in serious crimes – as defined by Article 1F of the Refugee Convention – but who cannot be removed from the host State’s territory on other legal or practical grounds. The alleged Rwandan genocidaires seeking asylum in the UK are a case in point. A greater tendency to apply exclusion clauses in the last decade means that such cases are becoming increasingly common. Moreover, other migrants who have attracted adverse attention as a result of alleged criminal activities in the host State may end up in a similar situation, including former refugees such as Abu Qatada. The variety of measures adopted by different countries and their often ad hoc nature suggest that States do not know how to respond effectively to this issue. In the case of migrants suspected of having committed serious crimes overseas, the host State is faced with further uncertainty over whether it should seek to prosecute. The challenges here are of a different order, but the response of States is equally hesitant.
These challenges raise formidable empirical and theoretical questions for refugee, criminal and human rights law which, despite their pressing contemporary relevance, have thus far received minimal scholarly attention. By providing a forum for advancing thinking on these topics, the ‘Undesirable and Unreturnable?’ conference seeks to integrate a wide range of participants from the academic community and beyond, including new researchers, research students and national and international policy-makers, addressing these issues in a comparative international perspective from the standpoint of both legal and non-legal disciplines. The conference provides an important forum to share knowledge on and compare the practice of selected States around the globe, and review policy and other measures taken in addressing this issue of asylum seekers and other migrants suspected of serious criminality.
The Conference Agenda is available here.
Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)