The connection between refugees, asylum seekers and alleged criminality has been heightened in public and political consciousness in recent decades. Attention has focused on the figure of the asylum seeker in the context of the global ‘War on Terror’, as language connecting asylum seekers and refugees with the threat posed by international terrorism has become increasingly entrenched in international and political rhetoric. Attention too has focused on the potential impunity of genocidaires and war criminals under the guise of asylum. More broadly, the arrival of large numbers of asylum seekers has often been presented as a security concern, linked with criminal activities such as human smuggling and trafficking.

This research project examines the intersection of asylum, criminality and the national security concerns of States. This manifests most starkly in exclusion from refugee protection on grounds of suspected serious criminality, and the expansive interpretations of such provisions with reference to concepts such as ‘terrorism’ and national security. Also explored are the ways in which State responses to asylum have increasingly taken a criminal enforcement approach, as we see increasing militarisation of borders, criminal sanctions imposed on those seeking asylum and the use of measures akin to those employed in the criminal context, such as detention and security tagging, to limit the freedoms of those seeking international protection.

Key publications and other outputs

Key institutional activities

  • RLI, 1-day Workshop on ‘Terrorism and Asylum’ (2017) convened with visiting fellow James Simeon
  • Contributed to European Asylum Support Office (EASO) Judicial Guidelines ‘Exclusion: Articles 12 and 17 Qualification Directive (2011/95/EU): A Judicial Analysis’ (2016)
  • Practitioner engagement: research presentation to senior immigration judges of the First-tier and Upper Tribunal, Immigration and Asylum Chamber, (London, 2014).
  • RLI/CRS, video-linked seminar series on ‘The Challenge of Change: Confronting Asylum Law and Practice in the UK and Canada’ (2012) convened jointly with Centre for Refugee Studies, York University, Canada