Ongoing and concluded PhDs

PhD researcher or student information

Sara Palacios Arapiles

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Discipline: Law

Degrees BA: Law


Social Science Research (Socio-Legal Studies)

International and European Law

PhD Research Information

Asylum Decision-Making in the Context of the Eritrean Military/National Service: Persecution in its own right?

Brief description:

In order to be entitled to protection under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol (hereinafter Refugee Convention), claimants must fall within the definition of ‘refugee’, that is, they must demonstrate a 'well-founded fear of being persecuted'. The Refugee Convention, however, does not elaborate on the notion of ‘persecution’, and since its adoption, no universally accepted definition of this element has been adopted. Moreover, there exists no specialised treaty body created by the Refugee Convention that is able to provide a binding interpretation of its provisions (only the International Court of Justice in the case of an inter-state dispute). This, coupled with other factors, has resulted in an unsatisfactory scenario whereby the conceptualisation of 'persecution' within the specific context of the Eritrean Military/National Service by asylum decision-makers in one EU member state is substantively different from the conceptualisation by their counterparts in another state.

Against this background, my PhD project focuses on critically analysing whether the Eritrean Military/National service could be conceptualised as 'persecution' (within the meaning of Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Refugee Convention) thus leading to the granting of refugee status in EU asylum determination proceedings. In doing so, my research assesses the interface between international refugee law and other branches of international law such as international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law and how these distinct areas of law are applied, if at all, by national asylum decision-makers in the EU in giving content to the legal concept of 'persecution'.


The research combines the study of primary and secondary legal sources, policy and practice. As such, it also comprises semi-structured interviews with refugee sector stakeholders, notably asylum decision-makers and asylum lawyers, in some of the major recipients of Eritrean asylum claims in Europe with a view to identifying (divergent) interpretive approaches within Europe. The research also includes interviews and Focus Group Discussions with members of Eritrean diaspora groups.

Keywords: Slavery, persecution, Eritrea, Comon European Asylum System, 1951 convention

Language(s) of writing: English

Country: United Kingdom

Home University:

University of Nottingham


School of Law

Supervisor: Daria Davitti
Start date: 01-10-2018
PhD current status: PhD Ongoing
PhD research funded by: ESRC
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Added to catalogue on: 10-12-2019

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