Policy & Law

The theme ‘policy and law’ unites research that focuses on developments in migration policy and migration law, on the local, national as well as the transnational level.

ACCESS - Equitable substance use treatment for Migrants and ethnic minorities: a policy analysis

Description: Varying migrant and ethnic minorities (MEM) should be entitled to equitable substance use treatment (SUT) compared to non-MEM populations. In the absence of an established research domain, this study first aims at building a strong theoretical basis. This basis includes reflections on MEM substance user and provider experiences, the cultural competence discourse, MEM substance use prevalence from a social epidemiological perspective, MEM SUT need, demand and offer in the EU and Belgium. The empirical case studies whether and how Flemish substance use treatment policy aims at achieving access, removing barriers, creating responsive services and considering social determinants. This analysis is informed by an ecosocial and social recovery perspective. In concert with a parallel PhD study on MEM experiences (Aline Pouille), this project aims at treatment and policy recommendations.
Promoter(s): Tom Decorte, Wouter Vanderplasschen, Torsten Kolind
Researcher(s): Charlotte De Kock
Department / Research group: Institute for Social Drug Research - Department of Criminology, criminal law and social law
Faculty: Faculty of Law and Criminology

Analyzing conflict mobilities from Uganda’s Nakivale Refugee Settlement: embedding refugee mobility into the broader migration (hi)story of Central-East Africa

Description: This research project examines to which extent conflict dynamics and refugee policy structures (including camp-like settings, refugee rights, refugee policies) have an impact on broader mobility patterns and dynamics in the war-torn Central-East African region. The aim is to understand mobility as an essential part of social life-making processes and to explore the political, regional and historical dimensions of these wartime mobilities. Given a context wherein refugee camp-settings have become extremely important in regional (mobility) dynamics, this research takes the refugee camp as the spatial and analytical starting point from which to study these dynamics. This approach provides a fresh perspective and deeper understanding of conflict mobility in a region commonly known as one of the most protracted situations of displacement in the world and to which the international community has so far failed to find appropriate answers.
Promoter(s): Koen Vlassenroot
Researcher(s): Jolien Tegenbos
Department / Research group: Conflict and Development Studies
Faculty: Faculty of Political and Social Sciences

Challenging queer migration narratives. A case study of sexual orienation and gender identity (SOGI) rights in the Belgian asylum procedure.

Description: Forced migration continues to captivate social discourses, which often represent refugees as predominantly male, heterosexual, cisgender (and homophobic/transphobic) individuals. However, many people flee their home due to the persecution they fear on the ground of their sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). To receive international protection, SOGI refugees have to construct a narrative which proofs the credibility of their queerness and the well-foundedness of their fear of persecuction - in the eye of the beholder. The asylum procedure leaves SOGI refugees and state actors to negotiate with(in) the legal framework to come to the same understanding of SOGI rights, despite different cultural contexts and the dominance of Western frameworks. Building on the critical insights of queer and post-colonial scholars, the research will analyse the narratives used by SOGI refugees and state actors in the Belgian asylum procedure.
Promoter(s): Ellen Desmet, Marlies Casier
Researcher(s): Liselot Casteleyn
Department / Research group: Migration Law Research Group
Faculty: Faculty of Law and Criminology

Children’s rights in appellate asylum proceedings in Belgium: a legal ethnography

Description: This project investigates how children's rights are perceived, mobilised and practiced by the actors involved in the Belgian asylum procedure on appeal. We combine research methods from law (case law analysis) and anthropology (ethnography) to study the role of children's rights in these procedures from the point of view of children and young people, their parents or guardians, lawyers, first instance representatives and judges of the Council for Alien Law Litigation (CALL). We answer three questions: how do individuals experience and understand children’s rights; to what extent do they define their situation in terms of children's rights; and what standards and practices shape the internal legal culture in which the Council operates? The project contributes to the field of 'critical children's rights studies', paying particular attention to how children's rights are shaped by children themselves and by children's interaction with other groups.
Promoter(s): Ellen Desmet
Researcher(s): Sara Lembrechts
Department / Research group: Migration Law Research Group
Faculty: Faculty of Law and Criminology

Considering ethnicity in forensic mental health care: experiences of migrant and ethnic minority service users and their service providers

Description: Persons from migrant and ethnic minority groups are relatively overrepresented in forensic mental health care, however, it remains unclear how they recover and desist from crime. The Good Lives Model, as a leading strengths-based rehabilitation framework, is regarded as a promising avenue. One could wonder though how forensic service users who identify themselves as MEM prioritize and conceptualize the Good Lives conceptions. In this study, we place MEM forensic service users’ perspectives on their rehabilitation needs and how these needs can be fulfilled (i.e. Good Lives conceptions) center stage. Additionally, we study forensic service providers’ needs towards MEM rehabilitation in forensic mental health services while identifying currently implemented promising practices. Next, these results will be validated by international experts in culturally sensitive mental health care and/or forensic mental health care, in order to formulate policy recommendations.
Promoter(s): Freya Vander Laenen, Stijn Van de Velde
Researcher(s): Marjolein De Pau
Department / Research group: Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy (IRCP) - Department Criminology, Criminal Law and Social Law
Faculty: Faculty of Law and Criminology

Cosmopolitan citizenship under construction. A structural-cultural approach to the implementation process of human rights of Roma and Gypsy travellers.

Description: This research starts from the observation that the human rights ideal has not yet been realized, illustrated by the many violations of the rights of one of the most vulnerable groups in our current society, the Roma migrants. In order to understand this discrepancy between the human rights ideal and the reality, we look at how this ideal is being interpreted by different actors (political, judicial, civil society, media) on different levels (transnational, national, local). The human rights instrument can be seen as a social construct, which is given different meanings according to the actor who uses it. The main aim in this research is to unravel the construction process of human rights of Roma migrants, analyzing how the structural positions and discursive strategies of the involved actors influence the contestation in the newspapers concerning human rights after a violation is being proclaimed. This study is carried out through multiple case studies of such violations.
Promoter(s): Lesley Hustinx
Researcher(s): Chloë Delcour
Department / Research group: Department of Sociology/ CST (Centre for Social Theory)
Faculty: Faculty of Political and Social Sciences

Ethnic minority higher education in China

Description: Xiaoling Liu's doctoral research topic is about inequalities in Chinese higher education. Her research focuses on ethnic minority participation and academic experiences, under affirmative action policies, in China’s elite higher education institutions. The study examines the relationship between various forms of social, cultural and economic capital and the associated opportunities and experiences of ethnic minorities. Furthermore, the study intends to elucidate upon the barriers to access experienced by these students and the strategies that they employ to attain high education qualifications.
Promoter(s): Peter Stevens, Jeroen Huisman
Researcher(s): Liu xiaoling
Department / Research group: Department of Sociology/Cultural Diversity: Opportunities & Socialisation
Faculty: Faculty of Political and Social Sciences

Family reunification of Turkish migrants in Belgium and the Netherlands: a comparative study of legal consciousness of Turkish migrants in light of evolving policies

Description: The research focuses on family reunification of Turkish migrants in Belgium and the Netherlands. From a socio-legal perspective the legal consciousness and the strategies of the migrants will be examined in light of evolving laws and policies in both countries. Fieldwork is an important component of the project. The researcher will conduct in-depth semi-structured interviews with Turkish migrants in Belgium and the Netherlands and will investigate migrants' legal consciousness regarding evolving laws and policies on family reunification in both countries. On the basis of these results, the researcher will make a thorough comparative analysis of the legal consciousness and used strategies concerning family reunification of Turkish migrants in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Promoter(s): Ellen Desmet
Researcher(s): Ayse Güdük
Department / Research group: European, Public and International Law / Migration Law
Faculty: Faculty of Law and Criminology

I cross the border and carry with me… Cross-border civil status: a private international law issue from a human rights perspective

Description: The increasing mobility of people leads to the worldwide circulation of documents that record the civil status of people (e.g. birth, marriage, death). The recognition of these documents traditionally belongs to the field of private international law which aspires cross-border harmony and continuity in the life of people. A noble objective, yet hard to put in practice. As a result, some people carry a different civil status (e.g. unmarried) in their host country in comparison with the status in their country of origin (e.g. married). Such discrepancies - also called limping legal relations - generate legal uncertainty and unpredictability. This research aims to study a new approach to cross-border civil status. Departing from the right to respect for private and family life, the research will examine whether and to what extend the human rights approach is able to reduce the negative effects of limping legal relations (increasing the cross-border portability of a certain civil status).
Promoter(s): Jinske Verhellen
Researcher(s): Sarah Den Haese
Department / Research group: Internationaal Privaatrecht
Faculty: Faculty of Law

Institutional multilingualism in settings of asylum and migration: a linguistic-ethnographic study of global English use in lingua franca and interpreter-mediated interaction at the Belgian asylum authorities

Description: The project aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of global English use in dialogic and triadic asylum interaction at the Belgian asylum agencies. It provides a linguistic-ethnographic analysis based on interview data (both authentic asylum interview data and semi-structured interviews with asylum applicants, officers and interpreters) gathered at different asylum agencies. Adopting an integrated approach to the participation structure of the asylum encounter (incorporating both dialogic and triadic interaction strategies and research perspectives), this study aims to contribute to both fundamental and applied research insights into global English use in migration encounters where English has no official status. The project will explore how such different practices of multilingualism pragmatically and indexically impact on the interaction between the participants and by extension how they affect the discursive construction of socio-legal identities in the asylum process.
Promoter(s): Katrijn Maryns
Researcher(s): Katrijn Maryns
Department / Research group:
Department of Linguistics
Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy

Legal and administrative assistance to asylum-seekers in Belgium

Description: The project’s main objective is to strengthen protection standards for asylum seekers through safeguarding procedural rights and improving access to qualitative legal advice. The project aims to achieve the following outcomes: - Improved quality of legal assistance and information for asylum seekers, including for those in border detention facing risks of refoulement. - Improved access to a qualitative asylum procedure in Belgium. - Deepened scientific knowledge on legal, linguistic and other aspects of the asylum procedure, with a particular focus on detention. To achieve these outcomes, we will develop a new dynamic of legal and administrative aid to individual asylum cases, bringing together the expertise of experienced lawyers, legal practitioners and academics from different disciplines and putting this shared knowledge at the disposal of lawyers and other practitioners to improve the quality of the legal aid they deliver to asylum seekers.
Promoter(s): Ellen Desmet, Katrijn Maryns
Researcher(s): Marjan Claes
Department / Research group: Department of Translation, Interpreting and Communication - MULTIPLES
Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy

MATREMI – Mapping and enhancing substance use treatment for migrants & ethnic minorities

Description: The MATREMI project (2019) focused on two shortcomings in the current literature and policy regarding migrants and ethnic minorities (MEM) in substance use treatment (SUT). Firs, the MATREMI project contributed to the more adequate registration of the presence of MEM clients in drug treatment to inform policy making (objective 1) and secondly, gathered the existing Belgian literature (2009-2019) and promising practices (aimed at the reach and retention of and the accessibility for [potential] MEM clients in SUT) in a comprehensive guide for proffesionals (objective 2). The MATREMI project was subsidized by the Federal Science Policy (BELSPO) and builds on the findings from the ZEMIV (2008) and PADUMI (2017) research projects. This project resulted in policy recommendations.
Promoter(s): Tom Decorte, Wouter Vanderplasschen, Torsten Kolind
Researcher(s): Charlotte De Kock, Carla Marscia
Department / Research group: Institute for Social Drug Research - Department of Criminology, criminal law and social law
Faculty: Faculty of Law and Criminology

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
Department / Research group: Department of Public Health and Primary Care
Faculty: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

Refugee Identities: A Literary Study of Autobiographies on Forced Migration

Description: This project examines the current value of the legal definition of a "refugee" as established in the 1951 Geneva Convention through an analysis of autobiographical texts by contemporary refugee-authors. I study how global literature by "complicated refugees" challenges the categorizations included in the formal requirement of a "well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion". I conduct this research project as a visiting scholar at Columbia University, New York, a fellow of the Belgian American Educational Foundation (BAEF), and a voluntary postdoctoral researcher at Ghent University in the academic year 2017-2018.
Promoter(s): Stef Craps
Researcher(s): Jessy Carton
Department / Research group: Literary studies
Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy

Return, Responsibility and Reintegration in Central Africa: A multi-disciplinary exploration into endemic violence and social repair

Description: Drawing from history, anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, political science and heritage studies, and focussing on the lived experience of those attempting to build or rebuild communities in conflict affected places of central Africa, this research contributes to a better understanding of how conflict-affected societies constitute or re-constitute themselves. It examines three overlapping categories of returnees: refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and ex-combatants in the borderland regions of Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Uganda. The research explores returnees relationships with each other, with the ‘stayee’ populations and their engagement with national governments, external organisations and actors. It wants to understand how standardised liberal peacebuilding approaches to return are relevant to people on the ground who negotiate conflict realities and their legacies on a daily basis.
Promoter(s): Koen Vlassenroot
Researcher(s): Koen Vlassenroot
Department / Research group: Conflict and Development Studies
Faculty: Faculty of Political and Social Sciences

Safe with the neighbours? Refugee protection and EU external migration policy in Turkey and Morocco

Description: The European Union increasingly looks to outsource its international responsibility to protect refugees to third countries. Its policy space is limited, however, by international refugee and human rights law. This project assesses legal and actual refugee protection in Turkey and Morocco. The research focusses on refugees' 'user's perspective' on fundamental human rights, through field work, as well as a critical evaluation of national protection frameworks against international law minimum standards, including the non-refoulement principle. Also it will be assessed if there exists an internationally shared responsibility to protect towards refugees, and what this could entail. Conclusions will include findings and recommendations for national asylum systems, the EU's external migration policy, and the international law framework.
Promoter(s): Ellen Desmet
Researcher(s): Ruben Wissing
Department / Research group: Department of European, Public and International Law / Migration Law Research Group
Faculty: Faculty of Law and Criminology

Secure bilingual capital. Language, ethnicity and the making of security officers in Brussels

Description: Since the suicide attacks in Brussels in 2016, the government of the Dutch-French bilingual Brussels Capital Region decided to hire 107 additional security officers for the public transport system. While French is Brussels’ lingua franca, Dutch-French bilingualism is still formally required for security officers employed by public services. However, only 7.5% of Brussels job seekers have a good knowledge of Dutch combined with French. Therefore, a training program was set up offering job seekers the chance to learn the Dutch required. Based on participant observations, semi-structured interviews and informal conversations with teachers, organizers and candidate security officers at a Brussels training center, this project explores whether and how the investment in and the significance of language(s) in Brussels is intertwined with forms of gatekeeping, social stratification, and racialization.
Promoter(s): Sarah Van Hoof, Alfonso del Percio
Researcher(s): Sibo Kanobana
Department / Research group: Translation, Interpreting and Communication
Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy

State Punishment in Cosmopolitan Europe

Description: During the last decades we witnessed the transfer of certain policy areas from the national to the transnational European level. This shift also occurred in the area of criminal law, penal policy and asylum. As a result, the European level became an active player by developing and establishing an increasing amount of instruments tackling the issue of detention conditions. This project aims to shed light on the multiple ways in which ‘Europe’ has come to shape punishment in this part of the globe. By adopting both a descriptive and an interpretive analysis, the project will operationalize the cosmopolitan framework by using a policy network approach. This project will focus on the European level with the EU and the CoE as the main transnational organizations creating penal norms and standards in Europe for both prisoners and asylum seekers.
Promoter(s): Gert Vermeulen, Tom Daems
Researcher(s): Rebecca Deruiter
Department / Research group: Criminology, criminal law and social law/IRCP
Faculty: Faculty of Law and Criminology

Study on registration and residence formalities for EU workers in Belgium

Description: This research provides an insight into the administrative procedures regarding the implementation of the Directive 2014/54/EU into Belgian law, a European directive that intends to better facilitate the right to free movement of workers. The research contains a critical analysis and description of the municipal practices in the three regions of Belgium, focussing on the registration and residence formalities for EU citizens who exercise their right to free movement. The research also includes an exploratory analysis of residence formalities in the following countries: Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy. Lastly, the research will give possible recommendations regarding the law and implementation thereof as well as suggestions for more efficient and uniform municipal practices. The research is carried out in collaboration with the EU Rights Clinic of the University of Kent and Fragomen; it is funded by Myria – the Federal Migration Centre.
Promoter(s): Ellen Desmet
Researcher(s): Roos-Marie van den Bogaard
Department / Research group: European, Public and International Law
Faculty: Faculty of Law

The precarious citizenship of refugees: an empirical study on how refugees become political

Description: In this research we focus on the precarious citizenship of refugees. We aim to not only take into account the citizenship practices, statuses and identities of migrants themselves but also how this interacts with citizenship discourses that are used within the migration and integration policies of Belgian governments. In this way, we want to contribute to the debate on how global migration is challenging and transforming citizenship. To do this, we will undertake a multi-method approach combining an ethnographic study including participant observation and in-depth interviews with young refugees in Belgium and a discourse analysis of the Flemish and Belgian integration and migration policies.
Promoter(s): Lesley Hustinx
Researcher(s): Rachel Waerniers
Department / Research group: Department of Sociology/ Centre for Social Theory
Faculty: Faculty of Political and Social Sciences