Prof. David James Cantor





Professor David James Cantor is the founding Director of the Refugee Law Initiative (RLI) at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, where he is also a Professor of Refugee Protection in Forced Migration Studies. 

Trained originally as a social anthropologist, Professor Cantor worked as a practitioner in the legal field during the 2000s for organisations such as the Refugee Legal Centre, a London-based public law centre where he litigated refugee and human rights cases until 2007, and UNHCR. In a consultancy capacity, he has advised, trained and undertaken research for over fifteen governments mostly from the global south, as well as numerous INGOs and northern and southern NGOs. 

Professor Cantor’s research has a strong legal and policy focus. Current and past topics include: returns by refugees and IDPs; reparations for displacement; IDP protection during armed conflict and organised criminal violence; human mobility in disasters linked to natural hazards; refugee law and its relationship to human rights law, IHL and IDP law. He has a long-standing fascination with Latin America, where he has carried out fieldwork since 1998 in Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Mexico. Since 2010, he has published five books, two special issues and over 30 journal articles and book chapters. 

Whilst running the RLI, Professor Cantor has organised over 100 conferences, workshops and seminars, founded the International Refugee Law book series (where he remains editor) and the distance-learning MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies. He has led international collaborations and secured over £750,000 in competitive research funding for around 15 projects as PI or Co-I (including AHRC, ESRC, GCRF, Leverhulme Trust). He was selected as an ESRC Future Research Leader in 2012 and sits on the Research Council Peer Review College. 

During 2016-17, Professor Cantor worked part-time at the university due to a part-time secondment as Senior Advisor to the UNHCR Americas Bureau.

Selected recent publications: 

  • Returns of Internally Displaced Persons during Armed Conflict: International Law and its Application in Colombia. Monograph (Brill, forthcoming) 
  • ‘The End of Refugee Law?’, 9(2) Journal of Human Rights Practice (2017) 
  • 'Criminal Justice and “Undesirable” Aliens'. Symposium of four papers published in 14(5) Journal of International Criminal Justice, co-edited with J. van Wijk, S. Singer and M. Bolhuis (2017) 
  • ‘The Emperor’s New Clothing: National Responses to “Undesirable and Unreturnable” Aliens under Asylum and Immigration Law’. Special Issue of eight papers published in 36(1) Refugee Survey Quarterly, co-edited with J. van Wijk, S. Singer and M. Bolhuis (2017) 
  • The New Refugees: Organised Crime and Displacement in Latin America. Book co-edited with N. Rodriguez Serna (Brookings, 2017). English version of D.J. Cantor and N. Rodríguez (eds.), Los Nuevos Desplazados: Crimen y Desplazamiento en América Latina (Brookings, 2015). 
  • Human Rights and the Refugee Definition: Comparative Legal Practice and Theory. Book co-edited with B. Burson (Brill, 2016) 
  • ‘More Deadly than Armed Conflict? Gangs, Criminal Violence and Displacement in Central America’. 34 Agenda Internacional: Revista del Instituto de Derecho Internacional de la Pontificia Universidad del Perú 77 (2016) 
  • ‘¿Una solución simple para los refugiados que huyen de la guerra? La definición ampliada de América Latina y su relación con el Derecho Internacional Humanitario’ (2015) XV Anuario Mexicano de Derecho Internacional 165, first author with D. Trimiño (2015) 
  • ‘Reframing Relationships: Revisiting the Procedural Standards for Refugee Status Determination in light of Recent Human Rights Treaty Body Jurisprudence’ 34(1) Special Issue Refugee Survey Quarterly 79 (2015) 
  • Refuge from Inhumanity? Refugee Protection and the Laws of War. Book co-edited with J.F. Durieux (Brill, 2014) 
  • ‘The New Wave: Forced Displacement Caused by Organised Crime in Central America and Mexico’ 33(3) Refugee Survey Quarterly 34 (2014) 
  • ‘European Influences on Refugee Law in Latin America: Accelerated Procedures in Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela’, chapter in M. Fullerton, H. Lambert and J. McAdam (eds.) The Global Reach of European Refugee Law (CUP, 2014)