Prospective PhD idea

PhD researcher or student information

Paola PACE

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Discipline: Law

Degrees BA: Law degree


PhD idea information

The right to stay: a call for an Individualized approach
unreturnable, individualized assessments, right to stay

Brief description:

Project Summary:
Migration will never stop, and a rights-based – rather than fear-based – approach to migration governance is essential to promote the safety, order and growth that all countries seek, as well as to safeguard the dignity and rights of individuals.
In current polarised global discourse, the existence of migrants’ rights is questioned like never before.
“In the networked 21st century, we will encounter the Other in ways and with a frequency that could
never have previously been imagined. Will this result in a coming together in mutual respect or an
unleashing of base prejudice?” This observation from Ryszard Kapuściński, made more than 10
years ago, is pressing.
As Jørgen Carling argued, “we need to embrace the inclusive meaning of ‘migrants’ as persons who
migrate but may have little else in common. In that way, we respect both the uniqueness of each
individual and the human worth of all.” When confronted with irregular migrants, including those
who do not qualify for refugee status, implementing a personalized, comprehensive assessment of
each individual’s situation is the best way to ensure that a solution respectful of that specific migrant’s
rights is identified. It is also prescribed by international law. In the context of return, international
migration law prohibits collective expulsion, requiring that each migrant’s situation be assessed on
an individual basis.
In some cases, the solution for a specific individual might be return. In other cases, however, a
migrant will be entitled to status of some kind in the reception country or a third country. While the
latter group may be relatively small in number, their rights are no less important. Left in limbo, they
presently risk arbitrary detention or falling prey to abuse and exploitation.
The assessment process is particularly critical for migrants who, for legal reasons, such as health
grounds, or practical reasons, including a lack of identification, cannot be returned to their countries
of origin or previous residence.
The reality is that the number of organizations providing direct services to migrants remains low, and
overall capacities to identify, refer, assist and protect migrants are weak. This research will finally
explore how empowered migrants and communities affected by migration can be drivers of change. It
will explore how they could influence the individual assessment process and the resulting
regularization of the unreturnable. Given the potential positive implications of the adoption of an
individualized approach to migration flows for both migrants and governments, this research would
be a significant original contribution to the current fervent migration debate. This cutting-edge piece
of research will moreover contribute to countering migration myths.


Methodology: 1. The Legal Research Process The project will be completed in the following stages that will take one year: I. Preliminary Research: This stage has involved and will continue to involve the identification of a research topic, completion of preliminary reading and the preparation and submission of a first draft. II. Literature Review: This stage will involve a comprehensive analysis of the literature on safeguards regarding expulsion, human rights at borders, regularizations on various legal grounds, etc. Sources will include scientific and legal journal articles and grey literature. III. Evaluation of Legislation: This stage will entail the analysis of case law and legislation from European, African and North American countries on the research topic. IV. Expert Interviews: This stage will be detailed at a later juncture. In sum, it will involve gathering empirical data through approximately 10 expert interviews mostly conducted by skype or telephone. Interviewing is a common qualitative method, which is particularly useful when seeking to gain in-depth insight from a specific individual about a topic.7 To gain an insight into migrants’ protection de jure and de facto, over the course of the project, I intend to speak with government officials, civil society representatives and migrant paralegals and relevant academicians and practitioners (such as Vincent Chetail, Ryszard Cholewinski,Crépeau, Driss El Yazami, Maurice Kamto, Stephen Legomsky, Simona Moscarelli, Marius Olivier, Giulia Perin, Guido Raimondi and Daniel Wilsher). 2. Comparative Law A robust methodology in legal research is crucial.8 Given that a key part of the project will be the comparison of sources of law such as jurisprudence and legislation from a range of different jurisdictions, the principles of comparative law9 will be used to help frame the analysis. Originality and Significance: To date, there has not yet been a comprehensive analysis of the protection gap deriving from the lack of standardized individual assessments described above. While a small body of literature does exist, it is concerned primarily with victims of trafficking who are at risk to be re-trafficked if returned to their place of origin. The 'Undesirable but unreturnable' research project led by the London's Refugee Law Initiative focused merely on 'excludable' cases - mainly serious criminals. Consequently, other grounds of regularization remain neglected. Accordingly, this research will contribute to the realization of the human rights of all vulnerable migrants, not only particular populations such as refugees or victims of human trafficking.

Keywords: Unreturnable, indivdual assessments, right to stay

Potential language(s) of writing: English

Added to catalogue on: 09-09-2019

Additional information:

I share with the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) a strong commitment to migrants’ rights, and aim to make a difference raising the voice with the voiceless, those who do not vote, do not stand for elections and are therefore not interesting for politicians. My ultimate goal is to use a rights-based approach in policy and programmatic work around the world. In addition to my dedication to justice and human rights, I will bring my truly global experience, leadership, energy and knowledge to the community. Having earned degrees in Law from the prestigious University of Padua, which was established in 1222, and in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and having 13 years of experience in the areas of migration law, I am well-equipped and ready to undertake the Doctoral Programme in Law with ULB. Being associated with the ULB and the Odysseus Academic Network is of great interest to me and I would value the opportunity to conduct research under the supervision of Professor Philippe De Bruycker and Evangelia (Lilian) Tsourdi with whom I share the interest in migration law. My extensive knowledge and experience in the disciplines of public health, bioethics and law, as well as with migration issues, make me an excellent candidate for the programme. My expertise in migration is not only of an academic nature as I have been a practitioner in this field since 2005. Based in Africa and Europe, I have provided technical assistance to governments and organizations including civil society on four continents. I have also supported lawyers in different parts of the world to litigate immigration cases on the right to health of migrants. I am a recognized specialist on this topic and have published widely on it. Delivering courses and training on migration law in English and French is my passion. I have been praised as an outstanding trainer by students, academicians and practitioners. Thus, a doctorate would allow me to teach at the university level in the future while pursuing my career as a migration specialist. Migration is also an important part of my family history. Originally from Italy, 50 members of my family are in Canada; others have established themselves in the United States of America, Argentina and Germany. I am embarking on this new adventure conscious that I have the skills and commitment to make an original contribution in the field of migration law. My aim is to write a reference book for finding long-term solutions for irregular migrants who cannot return to their country of origin for legal or practical reasons.