3rd Annual Conference, Refugee Law Initiative, University of London

Dr Beduschi presents research on the concept of vulnerability at the Refugee Law Initiative Annual Conference

Dr Ana Beduschi presented her research on the concept of vulnerability at the Refugee Law Initiative Annual Conference at the School of Advanced Study, University of London on the 18 July 2018.  She questioned whether we are now “beyond the vulnerability hype” and examined whether this concept should be seen as a tool for protection or an instrument of exclusion of migrants and refugees.

Dr Beduschi argued that the sole recognition of migrants and refugees’ vulnerability does not automatically translate into a better level of protection of their rights. Paradoxically, the concept of vulnerability may be used to the detriment of migrants and refugees: those who do not qualify as vulnerable enough may be considered as undeserving of protection. This can be the case, in particular, of male teenager asylum seekers who may have learned to project resilience and therefore may lack the perceived appearance of vulnerable migrant children. Yet, they should be entitled to adequate legal protection. Furthermore, the growing criminalisation of irregular migration may place asylum-seekers in an even more vulnerable situation.

Against the backdrop of a progressively more hostile environment for migrants and refugees, Dr Beduschi analysed the judicial understanding of vulnerability as exposed by the European and the Inter-American Human Rights Courts. She examined whether the use of the concept of vulnerability by these Courts is a vector of promotion or, conversely, an instrument of reduction of the level of protection of migrants and refugees’ human rights. On that basis, she argued that only when vulnerability is effectively understood and applied by international human rights courts, they can avoid unnecessary stigmatisation and victimisation of migrants and refugees and contribute to the better protection of their rights.

The Refugee Law Initiative (RLI) is part of the School of Advanced Study at the University of London. The RLI the only academic centre in the UK to concentrate specifically on international refugee law. As a national focal point for leading and promoting research in this field, the RLI works to integrate the shared interests of refugee law scholars and practitioners, stimulate collaboration between academics and non-academics, and achieve policy impact at the national and international level.

This year, the annual conference focused on the special theme – ‘Refugee Protection in a Hostile World?’. This international conference brings together academics, practitioners, policy-makers and students in considering pressing challenges to refugee law. It is an international forum to share and debate the latest research and cutting-edge developments in refugee protection.

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