Borders, migration governance and people on the move

Externalization; transit zones; migration trajectories; bordering; everyday borders; deportation; assisted voluntary return; detention; pushbacks;…

Advocacy for Migrants in European Transit Zones. Analysing Innovative Strategies for Political Change

Description: Many migrants get stuck in so-called 'transit zones' in Europe. Governments try to deter migrants from dwelling in these zones, by means of repressive measures. This doesn't shy away migrants but pushes them in ever more destitute living conditions. In response NGOs and grassroots initiatives have tried to push for improved living conditions and to change the policies that cause these humanitarian crises. This project inquires into the advocacy work of grassroots collectives in Brussels and Calais as well as pan-European initiatives. What strategies have been developed since 2015 and to what effect? The project will contribute to debates on the possiblities (and limitations) of grassroots collectives to bring about political change in the contemporary management of migration.
Promoter(s): Robin Vandevoordt , Ellen Desmet
Researcher(s): Marlies Casier , Robin Vandevoordt
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences , Faculty of Law and Criminology
Period of time: 2023 - 2026

Belonging in Translation: The Audiovisual Transfer of Latinidad

Description: In defiance of an increasingly hostile rhetoric and political climate towards migration, there has been a surge of online audio/visual platforms where immigrants come together to highlight their ethnic identities. In the context of transit migration in Mexico, this project explores transnational identity formation among Latinx migrants, looking at how they translate their lived experiences to a digital space through audiovisual self-representation. Combining theories and methods of Translation, Migration and (Digital) Media Studies, this research aims to analyse how a sense of identity and belonging emerges on migratory routes and in digital spaces where information circulates and transnational communities are forged. Youtube channels, Facebook, Whatsapp groups, etc. about and by Latin-American migrants are treated in this project as new forms of translation whose discourse can be defined through their contexts, actors, and practices.
Website research project:
Promoter(s): Alexandra Sanchez , July De Wilde
Researcher(s): Elisa Robbe
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy , Faculty of Political and Social Sciences
Period of time: 2023 - 2027

Brokering human rights evidence: the case of pushbacks from European borders

Description: This research project focuses on how lawyers bring (cell phone) evidence about push-backs at Europe’s borders to the European Court of Human Right and the Human Rights Committee. It is part of the Dissect project. By focusing on the transformation of knowledge into evidence, the project contributes to the dissecting of evidence regimes from the perspective of lawyers and human right defenders. What is known can vary enormously between adjudicators, states, IHR lawyers, IHR defenders and victims. Nonetheless, there has been little critical reflection so far of the epistemological basis on which justice is supposed to be exercised. Why do adjudicators know what they know? How is the scope of what they claim to know shaped by the work of brokers all the way from the occurrence of an IHR violation, to the constitution of evidence, admission and finally its assessment? How do these brokers of evidence deal with subjectivity, uncertainty and assumptions about truth regimes of adjudicators?
Website research project:
Promoter(s): Jill Alpes
Researcher(s): Jll Alpes
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Law and Criminology
Period of time: 2021 - 2024

Families on the Move. A follow-along ethnography of families’ trajectories in the asylum regime in Belgium

Description: This PhD research consists of a longitudinal ethnography of families’ experiences during their asylum trajectories in Belgium. Taking as a starting point the process of applying for asylum, it follows a number of families within and beyond the multiple stages of their asylum procedure: from their stay in the reception centres to the neighborhoods and local communities, they settle into, or until they receive a negative decision and are regimented by return/deportation measures. Using various ethnographic methods – participant observation, home visits, narrative interviewing – the researcher seeks to analyze how families experience and contest processes of in/exclusion in their daily lives, as they move through multiple geographical and institutional sites in search of protection, care and stability. Moreover, she pays particular attention to the ways in which dominant family norms become entangled with notions of protection, belonging and integration in the politics of migration.
Website research project:
Promoter(s): Karel Arnaut , Ilse Derluyn
Researcher(s): Elsemieke van Osch
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences
Period of time: 2019 - 2024

Gender-(in)sensitivity in credibility assessments of applications based on sexual or gender-based violence in the European asylum procedure

Description: Lore’s doctoral research echoes the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR, 2013) concern that asylum authorities might base credibility assessments on stereotypical and erroneous perceptions of gender. Her research aims to analyse the gender-(in)sensitivities in credibility assessments of asylum applications based on sexual or gender-based violence (SGBV) in the European asylum procedure (going beyond only ‘rape’ as a type of SGBV). Her research will collect data from 3 complementary resources: existing literature, asylum authorities (through case law analysis and KAP (Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices) surveys) and asylum seekers themselves (through qualitative interviews). This triangulation of input will expand the understanding of the asylum procedure and its gendered legal challenges and will contribute to the further theorization of asylum-specific gender studies.
Promoter(s): Ellen Desmet , Ines Keygnaert
Researcher(s): Lore Roels
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Law and Criminology , Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Period of time: 2021 - 2025

Humanitarianism under protest. The politics of grassroots solidarity with illegalized migrants.

Description: Across Europe, numerous grassroots groups have emerged in solidarity with migrants that are illegalised by state policies. Some of these groups combine humanitarian support (e.g. material aid) with an explicit desire to effectuate broader social and political change (e.g. by mobilizing citizens into protests). Through ethnographic fieldwork in grassroots groups that are active in Brussels, Flanders, Dunkirk and across Europe, this project examines what distinguishes these groups from both professional humanitarian NGOs and radical social movements, which dilemmas they are faced with, and how they deal with these.
Promoter(s): Robin Vandevoordt
Researcher(s): Robin Vandevoordt
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Political and Social Sciences
Period of time: 2019 - 2022

Lost in transit? Deconstructing the il/legalization of migrants dwelling in European ‘transit zones’

Description: In their attempts to regulate migration, Western states have produced and enforced various forms of il/legal status upon migrants. This research project provides a case study of how migrant il/legality is produced in the particular context of North-European transit zones. On the one hand, it examines how migrants are illegalized by a wide range of actors, practices and discourses. On the other hand, the research looks into the socio-legal support migrants are offered in these zones of transit (either by state actors, civic actors, or among migrants themselves) as these forms of support potentially constitute strategies to legalize migrants’ presence instead.
Promoter(s): Robin Vandevoordt , Ellen Desmet
Researcher(s): Maud Martens
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences , Faculty of Law and Criminology
Period of time: 2022 - 2026

MOBILISE: Determinants of ‘Mobilisation’ at Home & Abroad: Analysing the Micro-Foundations of Out-Migration & Mass Protest

Description: The MOBILISE project asks: when the state fails to respond to the economic or political needs of citizens, why do some people mobilise by protesting in the streets while others ‘mobilise’ by crossing borders? And how do the choices of protest and out-migration relate to each other? Connecting theoretical expectations from the migration and protest literatures, we examine: a) whether similar factors drive the choice to migrate and/or protest at the individual level; b) how context affects this mobilisation; c) whether these choices are independent of each other or mutually reinforcing/ undermining. MOBILISE employs a multi-method (nationally representative panel surveys, online migrant surveys, focus groups, life-history interviews, social media analysis) and a multi-sited research design. It covers Ukraine, Poland, Morocco and Argentina, which have recently witnessed large-scale emigration and protests and follows migrants from these countries to Germany, the UK and Spain.
Promoter(s): Toma Sorana, Onuch Olga, Sasse Gwendolyn
Researcher(s): Toma Sorana
Faculty: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Periode of time: 2019 - 2024

On the (not so) persuasive potential of metaphorical language in news media communication. Framing the Latin-American migration debate through metaphor

Description: The persuasive function of metaphors has long been taken for granted. Because of their ability to structure abstract topics in terms of concrete domains of experience, while ""emphasizing"" some aspects of the topic of conversation and ""hiding"" others, metaphors in the news media are considered a powerful tool for influencing people's thinking and actions. Recently, this assumption has come under increasing fire due to shaky empirical support and conflicting experimental evidence. This project sheds light on the controversial persuasive power of metaphors in the media. Using El Diario's coverage of the Latin American migration debate, it attempts to address the shortcomings of previous approaches to metaphors. Rather than relying solely on close-text analysis, this study takes real media producers and consumers seriously in its account of metaphorical patterns.
Website research project:
Promoter(s): Renata Enghels , Geert Jacobs
Researcher(s): Laurence De Backer
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy
Period of time: 2021 - 2025

Performing kinship with illegalised migrants. Comparing hospitality practices in Brussels and Rome

Description: While the so-called European migration crisis has been echoed with increasingly hostile EU border policies and anti-migrant rhetoric, it has also prompted many citizens' solidarity initiatives towards migrants across the continent. In this context, hosting migrants at home emerged as a new puzzling and exciting phenomenon. Drawing on ethnographic research methods, this project aims to be one of the first to conduct a systematic analysis of hospitality practices - providing shelter at one's home - and the strong, affective, family-like relations (fictive kinship practices) emerging between migrants illegalised by the State and their urban resident-hosts in Brussels and Rome.
Promoter(s): Robin Vandevoordt , Lesley Hustinx
Researcher(s): Julija Kekstaite
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences , Faculty of Political and Social Sciences
Period of time: 2021 - 2025

Policing and mobility of Russian migrants in Belgian cities, 1880-1914

Description: Under the supervision of Christophe Verbruggen and Margo De Koster, this project researches how Belgian police forces, in collaboration with the French police and Russian secret services, tracked, monitored and possibly caught and deported fugitive Eastern European migrants, 1880-1914. At the same time, this study also considers and examines the strategies used by the migrants themselves to escape the police surveillance and possible persecution. Thus, this research explores how in a constant legislative context the practice of surveillance, expulsion and cooperation between foreign police bodies evolved through its interaction with the strategies used by the monitored and prosecuted Russian migrants to avoid detection and punishment.
Promoter(s): Christophe Verbruggen , Margo De Koster
Researcher(s): Maïté Van Vyve
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy
Period of time: 2018 - 2025

PROTECT the Right to International Protection. A Pendulum between Globalization and Nativization?

Description: PROTECT The Right to International Protection. A Pendulum between Globalization and Nativization? is an EU-funded research project launched on 1 February 2020. We study the impacts of the UN's Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration, which are two non-binding frameworks promoting international cooperation and responsibility-sharing as key solutions to handle global refugee flows. By studying how the Compacts are received and implemented in different countries, and how they interact with existing legal frameworks and governance architectures, we investigate the Compacts' impact on refugees' right to international protection.
Promoter(s): Frank Caestecker
Researcher(s): Eva Ecker
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Economics and Business Administration
Period of time: 2020 - 2023

Reclaiming the future? Critical perspectives on social work and policies on undocumented migrants

Description: The structural exclusion of illegalised migrants from Belgian society, their limited rights and restricted access to social services render it difficult for social workers and volunteers to provide more than just material support, situated in the present. This research project aims to gain a deeper understanding of structural social support practices and specific approaches to socio-legal and psycho-social support through ethnographic research methods. Therefore, the project focuses on local and municipal initiatives that link conditional welfare services, namely shelter, to intensive social counselling towards certain future perspectives for illegalised migrants. At the same time, the research endeavours to encompass how social workers, volunteers and illegalised migrants themselves construct informal forms of social support.
Promoter(s): Robin Vandevoordt , Ine Lietaert , Ellen Desmet
Researcher(s): Soline Ballet
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences , Faculty of Law and Criminology
Period of time: 2021 - 2025

Safe with the neighbours? Legal and actual protection of forced migrants in the Global South: perspectives on and from Morocco.

Description: The EU increasingly seeks to outsource or 'externalise' its international responsibility for the protection of refugees and other migrants to third countries, such as Morocco. This PhD research examines, from a multidisciplinary perspective, what legal and actual protection exists for forced migrants in Morocco. The research evaluates the extraterritorial responsibility of states under international refugee and human rights law (doctrinal law perspective), examines what migrants themselves seek and understand to be protection, or 'protection consciousness' (socio-legal perspective), and looks at Morocco’s Africa diplomacy regarding asylum and migrants’ rights (critical policy perspective).
Promoter(s): Ellen Desmet
Researcher(s): Ruben Wissing
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Law and Criminology
Period of time: 2018 - 2022

The denizen rebel. Pathways of hidden homelessness in the shadow of the welfare state.

Description: The research wants to capture trajectories of homelessness among migrants in Ghent through ethnographic methods, i.e. observations and informal interviews. We will look for how they experience their homelessness and how they relate to different services and voluntary work in the city. Some of these homeless people have a particularly difficult time because access to basic social rights is dependent on their residency status. However, the right to housing is a human right that should be realized for all people. The goal of the doctoral project is: - To document trajectories of homelessness migrants with precarious residency status in Ghent - Gain insight into the efforts and responses of (local) social policy and social work in dealing with homelessness in people's lives - Co-creating knowledge with the homeless as allies in social work's pursuit of social justice. Translated with (free version)
Promoter(s): Griet Roets , Koen Hermans
Researcher(s): Sophie Samyn
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences
Period of time: 2020 - 2024

The impact of flight experiences on the psychological wellbeing of unaccompanied refugee minors - CHILDMOVE

Description: This ERC project is a research project on the impact of transit and travel experiences on the psychological well-being of unaccompanied refugee minors. With this research project, we want to document the impact of the experiences these young people have during the time they are still travelling from home country to host country. We will conduct a longitudinal follow-up study of a large group of unaccompanied refugee minors, whereby our study starts from different countries (Libya, Belgium, Italy and Greece), crosses several European countries, and uses innovative methodological and mixed-methods approaches. This will increase our knowledge about the long-term impact of these experiences on these adolescents’ health, but also about the way in which care and reception structures for unaccompanied minors in transit and settlement countries can reduce this impact.
Promoter(s): Ilse Derluyn
Researcher(s): Malte Behrendt, Ine Lietaert, Marina Rota, Océane Uzureau, Sarah Adeyinka
Faculty: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences
Period of time: 2017 - 2022

The migration-development nexus in EU foreign policy

Description: This PhD research project examines the European Union's migration cooperation with third countries of origin and transit and the nexus between the EU's migration governance and development cooperation. It focuses on the emergence of the so-called migration-development nexus in EU foreign policy, the narrative and policy connections between development policy and migration governance, and the various approaches of EU institutions towards this nexus. Theoretically, the project applies the advocacy coalition framework to examine the migration-development policy field in the European Union.
Promoter(s): Christof Roos
Researcher(s): Jan Orbie
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Political and Social Sciences
Period of time: 2018 - 2023

Translating the return migration regime in Europe and The Gambia

Description: This research project deals with the translation of the return migration regime in Europe in The Gambia. It first assesses the discursive underpinnings of such regime, by addressing particularly the legitimisation of the policy objective of sustainable reintegration. It then explores the various configurations of assisted return and reintegration in selected European states. Furthermore, it studies the incorporation of different non-state actors and particularly locally owned CSOs in the externalisation of EUrope's border to The Gambia. It also looks at the ambivalent involvement of returnees in the communication practices of international organisations as well as the practices and discourses of self-organised returnee groups.
Promoter(s): Ine Lietaert , Joris Schapendonk
Researcher(s): Rossella Marino
Faculty / Faculties: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences
Period of time: 2019 - 2023