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Fair and Consistent Border Controls? A Critical, Multi-methodological and Interdisciplinary Study of Asylum Adjudication in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - ASYFAIR (Fair and Consistent Border Controls? A Critical, Multi-methodological and Interdisciplinary Study of Asylum Adjudication in Europe)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-02-28

ASYFAIR examines legal procedures used to examine asylum cases. We are a team of researchers conducting observations of asylum appeal hearings as well as interviews with asylum appellants, legal representatives and judges. For asylum seekers in Europe, court proceedings can be intimidating. We are interested in the measures taken that can allow asylum seekers to take a full and active part in the proceedings.

The European Union launched the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) to harmonise the procedures of asylum determination in Europe. In line with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (Article 47), CEAS aims to guarantee the right to a fair asylum hearing and trial, which should ideally be consistent throughout the EU. But as yet no sustained multi-methodological assessment of the progress towards consistency has been carried out. An inter-disciplinary team at the University of Exeter have launched ASYFAIR – a project that offers the opportunity to assess progress towards harmonisation of asylum determination processes in Europe, and provide new insights into the dilemmas and risks of legal practices concerning asylum adjudication.

ASYFAIR aims to generate insights and ideas about how to make sure asylum processes are as fair and effective as they can be during a crucial period of consolidation of the asylum system and border controls in Europe. It is important for society because the legal processes being studies safeguard refugees against the risk of refoulement (i.e. being returned to a dangerous situation). Furthermore, refugees are often prominent in social discourse and because judges and courts are under pressure and going through significant changes including digitisation.

The overall objectives are both conceptual and practical. Conceptually we seek to advance understanding of legal materiality and practically we seek to identify feasible improvements to asylum appeals processes in Europe.
At the mid-point of the project, ASYFAIR has successfully recruited a vibrant and talented group of postdoctoral researchers with disciplinary backgrounds in geography, politics, anthropology and law.

Ethnographic observations have been conducted in Germany, France, the UK, Austria and Belgium, survey data has been collected and interviews have begun. A major edited book has been published entitled Asylum Determination in Europe: Ethnographic Perspectives edited by Nick Gill and Anthony Good (published by Palgrave and available as gold open access, available here: https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-3-319-94749-5). Various academic articles are either in press, submitted or in preparation and a range of presentations have been made at international conferences, which has helped to build the international profile of the project.

The mid project workshop is scheduled for July 2019 in Exeter (UK), with two keynote speakers, Professors Tony Good (University of Edinburgh, Scotland) and Barbara Sorgoni (University of Bologna, Italy).
This inter-disciplinary project, at the inter-face between critical human geography, anthropology, border studies and law, examines asylum appeal processes in order to identify how to make them more effective and guarantee that all parties can play a full and effective part in the proceedings.

Some of the conceptual themes emerging from the project work point to the importance of the presence of parties, the time available, the influence that previous legal events can have over current ones, the atmosphere of the court, distractions, building trust, the impact of digitisation, the international governance of refugees and the publicness of proceedings. These themes will be developed in greater detail through the comprehensive analysis of the data that reaches peak intensity at the end of 2019.