Access to Asylum in the European Union and the Persistent Rightlessness of Asylum-seekers

Access to Asylum in the European Union and the Persistent Rightlessness of Asylum-seekers

Within this research project, we aim at exploring questions related to the access to asylum in the European Union (EU) in the context of the dilemma in the relationship between asylum-seekers and states.

Today, the increasing global misery of forced displacement of individuals, groups, and populations continues to bear severe challenges. However, encompassing solutions are not within sight. Rather, a politics of cooperative deterrence insists on obstructing adequate access to asylum. After the considerable increase in the number of asylum applications within the EU in 2015 and 2016, the EU even reinforced this strategy through efforts to externalize migration control to relevant third countries. Our research will thus analyze EU policies towards selected third countries, such as Turkey and Libya, and assess their effects on the status and rights of asylum-seekers.

To gain sufficient depth in analysis, we intend to connect our investigations to more fundamental theoretical and structural issues. In recent years, particularly the work of Hannah Arendt has been a central theoretical basis of relevant contemporary academic discourse. Arendt famously analyzed the situation of refugees and stateless persons during and after the World Wars and demanded a “right to have rights” to address the predicament of rightlessness. We aim to build on this body of knowledge.

When Arendt looked at the reality of refugees in the first half of the 20th Century, modern refugee law and international human rights law were still in the early stages. Today, through the European Court of Human Rights, asylum-seekers find access to an international institution that is designed to protect individual rights. A sophisticated legal and institutional framework governs the relationship between asylum-seekers and EU Member States. And, most notably, the EU has incorporated a right to asylum in its Charter of Fundamental Rights. As feared, however, first insights strengthen the assumption that a situation of fundamental rightlessness persists at the EU’s doorstep. Our research project aims at analyzing how this phenomenon can continue despite far-reaching legal and institutional developments. Can the right to asylum contribute to overcoming systemic rightlessness? What is the relationship between the “right to have rights” and the right to asylum? Is Arendt’s analysis still valid today and how can it inform EU asylum policy?

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Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft
Anti-Discrimination, Diversity and Asylum