You are here

01-03-2018 | ©️ UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis | 3 mins read

In the current ‘refugee crisis’, the legal protection of refugees represents an important challenge all over Europe. Supported by the ERC, Dr Cathryn Costello questions the current refugee regime, legal framework and current practices to open up new research and policy trajectories.

Refugees come from many countries, but today over half of the world’s refugees come from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. Thousands of refugees die in their attempts to flee to safety, in part due to the lack of safe and legal routes to protection.

The 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees (‘the Refugee Convention’) provides a vision of refugee agency – refugees are understood to have a right to flee (including illegally – states undertake not to penalize refugees for illegal entry), and enjoy self-employment and work rights in their countries of asylum.  However, in practice, refugee flight is increasingly suppressed, both in refugees’ regions of origin and further afield, with the EU a key actor in the global suppression of refugee mobility. For Dr Costello, refugees’ flight, onward movement in search of decent refuge, and possible further access to migration opportunities, are in need of scholarly attention. Refugees tend to face more mobility barriers than other travellers and migrants and, in absence of legal ways to claim asylum, they often must have recourse to smugglers. Even when they are formally recognised as refugees, their travel and migration options are often curtailed.

In the REF-MIG project, Dr Costello will re-examine three key aspects of the refugee law - access to protection, status determination and refugees’ rights - through the lens of mobility and migration. She will focus on the refugee law and practice in Europe and selected key states of asylum – Turkey, Lebanon, Kenya and South Africa. By focusing on the above three key aspects of the refugee regime and by examining the role of regional and international and private actors in that regime, Dr Costello will give a comprehensive re-examination of the legal aspects of the global refugee regime.

In particular, Dr Costello also intends to bring new insights into the involvement and duties of non-state entities, such as humanitarian organisations and other private actors providing assistance to refugees on the move. In particular, she will undertake an important legal assessment of the role of the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), an important player in the global mobility and refugee regimes.

This project is timely as political responses to the ‘refugee crisis’ include many new restrictive measures that undermine refugee protection and prospects for cooperation in the global refugee regime.  

Cathryn Costello is Associate Professor of International Human Rights and Refugee Law at the Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford.  She has published widely on many aspects of EU and human rights law, including asylum and refugee law, immigration, EU citizenship, family reunification and immigration detention. In December 2016 she has been jointly awarded the Odysseus Network Prize for her book The Human Rights of Migrants and Refugees in European Law (Oxford University Press, 2015). This prize recognises outstanding academic research in the area of European Immigration or Asylum Law.