Workshop: ‘Undesirable and Unreturnable’: the UK’s response to excluded asylum seekers and other migrants suspected of serious criminality

Workshop: ‘Undesirable and Unreturnable’: the UK’s response to excluded asylum seekers and other migrants suspected of serious criminality

Thursday 23rd October, 16:30-18:30pm

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House

Speakers: Dr Mariagiulia Giuffré, Edge Hill University, Jerome Phelps, Detention Action and Dr Sarah Singer, Refugee Law Initiative, School of Advanced Study

Attendance is free. Register for a ticket here.


Abstract: The question of migrants suspected of serious criminality regularly generates storms of political controversy. Human rights law is pushed to its limits here, as governments grapple with the political and legal implications of unwanted (criminal) foreigners on their territory. Human rights protections and practical considerations mean that such individuals can often not be removed to their country of origin nor a third State. Faced with these unreturnable yet undesirable migrants, governments have in some cases nevertheless pursued removal on the basis of diplomatic assurances and other forms of agreement with third states. However, such assurances have been heavily criticised as ineffective in practice, and been subject to considerable judicial challenge. In the absence of impending removal from the host state, such individuals are left in an uncertain legal limbo, subject to various counter-terrorism measures, (indefinite) detention and precarious forms of leave. This workshop explores the UK’s response to unreturnable asylum seekers and other migrants suspected of serious criminality, and questions how far human rights law can survive in an area so far towards the edges of protection, where human rights are celebrated by so few and contested by many.


Speakers: Jerome Phelps has been working with people in immigration detention since 2003.  In that time he has led Detention Action’s transformation from a local service-delivering organisation, London Detainee Support Group, to taking on a national role in challenging immigration detention in the UK.  He is the lead author of Detention Action’s reports: Detained Lives: the real cost of indefinite immigration detention (2009), No Return No Release No Reason (2011) and The State of Detention (2014), and co-author of Fast Track to Despair (2012) and Point of No Return: the futile detention of unreturnable migrants (2014).  Jerome writes regularly on detention and migration issues, including for the New Internationalist, Huffington Post, Forced Migration Review and openDemocracy.  He is the Western Europe representative of the International Detention Coalition.


Dr Mariagiulia Giuffré joined the Department of Law and Criminology at Edge Hill University as a Lecturer in Law in October 2013. She received her PhD (with the Doctor Europaeus Certificate) from the School of International Studies of the University of Trento in May 2014. She holds an LLM in Human Rights Law from the Queen Mary University of London, and she has been a Visiting Fellow at the Centre of Migration Law at the Radboud University of Nijmegen. She has served as an Intern at the Italian Consulate in London, and has both worked and volunteered for human rights NGOs. She is an Affiliate to the Refugee Law Initiative (RLI), School of Advanced Study, University of London, and a Member of the Lund/Uppsala Migration Law Network (L/UMIN). Thanks to a Scholarship awarded by the Swedish Institute, Mariagiulia has been a Visiting Researcher at the Faculty of Law, Lund University, where she has taught, since October 2010, on the LLM programs in Maritime Law and International Human Rights Law. Mariagiulia’s research interests are in International and European Law, Refugee Law and Policy, Human Rights and Migration Law. Her articles on refugees’ access to protection, migration by sea, readmission agreements, extraterritorial human rights obligations and diplomatic assurances have been published on the International and Comparative Law Quarterly, the International Journal of Refugee Law, and the Refugee Survey Quarterly, among others.


Dr Sarah Singer is an academic at the Refugee Law Initiative and Lecturer in Human Rights Law at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. Sarah is also Managing Editor of the International Community Law Review, a peer reviewed academic journal published by Brill; Martinus Nijhoff. She is Programme Director of the MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies (launching October 2014), the first postgraduate distance learning programme of its kind, run by the Refugee Law Initiative and delivered through the prestigious University of London International Programmes. She also teaches the law component of the MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights at the Human Rights Consortium, School of Advanced Study, University of London.

Sarah’s research interests are in refugee law and policy, human rights and migration. She specialises in and has a number of publications on the topic of exclusion from refugee status. Her current research addresses the challenges posed to national and international public policy by asylum seekers who are suspected of serious criminality but cannot be removed from the territory of the host State. Sarah previously worked as an immigration caseworker at the House of Commons and has received a number of awards for her research including the prestigious Modern Law Review Scholarship.

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