Timely article by School of Law academic Dr Cristina Saenz Perez reveals how Government portrays asylum seekers as ‘security risk’

Dr Saenz Perez’s article considers how governmental discourse around refugees serves to justify punitive sanctions against them.

Dr Cristina Saenz Perez’s article ‘The Securitization of Asylum: A Review of UK Asylum Laws Post-Brexit’ has been published in Oxford University Press' International Journal of Refugee Law.

The article considers the 'securitization' of asylum in the UK. In this context, securitization associates migration with security threats, and has a tendency to criminalise undocumented migrants and asylum seekers. Securitization has been on the rise in immigration and asylum policies since the turn of the century, in particular in Europe and other Western States.

In the UK, the Home Office employs a ‘hostile environment’ policy, which seeks to dissuade undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers from either coming to or settling in the UK by creating barriers to employment, housing and healthcare, among other basic rights and services. The policy has been widely criticized as being inhumane and unlawful.

The article has particular salience since Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent rhetoric about migrants being forces to ‘destabilise’ and ‘overwhelm’ European countries (Rome, December 2023).

Dr Saenz Perez’s article focuses on the externalization of asylum, and how it connects with the ‘hostile environment’ policy. She considers the Rwanda agreement an example of a Global North trend for ‘burden shifting’ rather than co-operation; transferring the responsibility for asylum-processing to Global South countries which may have limited capacity for resettling asylum seekers. She considers the potential violations of international refugee law, writing:

these externalization strategies are inconsistent with the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention and the ECHR, as they expose asylum seekers to the risk of human rights violations, whilst systematically denying them access to international protection.

She reveals that the aim of these policies is, simply put, to reduce the numbers of migrants to the UK, saying:

I believe that it is important to understand how these policies are implemented to deter and prevent seeking asylum in the UK and the human rights implications of such initiatives.

Cristina is a member of the School of Law’s Centre for Criminal Justice Studies (CCJS), and her research contributes valuable insights into the criminal justice aspects of asylum.  A link to the full open-access article is here.