Work to create the Lund/Uppsala Migration Law Network research environment started in 2011. In early 2013 the European Refugee Fund granted funding for a project designed to strengthen the research environment. The idea is for it to continue after the end of the project.
Migration is one of the great societal issues of our time. As a phenomenon, it is multifaceted, with legal, social, demographic, and economic aspects. It is also a highly political issue, both nationally and internationally. At a deeper level migration also raises issues involving basic values, exclusion and inclusion, and the fundamental rights and equality of human beings. In the Swedish legal system, where the migration process underwent a radical reform in mid 2000s, many issues, both processual and material in nature, have come to the fore over the years. They involve everything from concrete problems in the application of specific legal codes to more overarching systemic questions. The impact that increased internationalisation and EU membership has had and still has on Swedish law contributes to this. A common denominator for all of these aspects is the question of security of life and property for the individual.
Internationally, migration research is a well-established field both in legal science and in other disciplines. In Sweden, too, migration research is conducted in several academic disciplines and interdisciplinary initiatives, but it is limited in the field of legal science. Research on international migration law, primarily refugee law, is pursued at Swedish faculties of law, among which the Faculty of Law at Lund University can be mentioned as boasting a well-established research environment in the field.
However, what distinguishes Sweden and Swedish migration law from other comparable systems in an international comparison is that there is thus far no critical mass of research that analyses and comments on Swedish migration law and its application from an independent academic perspective. Nor are there any research environments dedicated to migration law today.
Since the autumn of 2011 preparatory work has been underway for the purpose of establishing the joint research environment, by anchoring the project idea with the respective faculties and university managements. An application to the European Refugee Fund for co-funding was approved in early 2013, enabling the establishment of the research collaborative, which is now making serious headway.
The purpose of the project is thus to set up a joint environment for academic research and development at the law faculties in Uppsala and Lund, which will lead to the generation of new knowledge in a field that currently has not been researched to any great extent. A research collaborative creates the conditions to satisfy the need for research and education in migration law over the long term. In this way, the project is helping to enhance the knowledge of legislators, legal practitioners, and other relevant parties about how migration law is to be interpreted, understood, and applied. This enhanced knowledge will ultimately benefit individuals seeking asylum. A joint environment will also help to raise the status of issues of migration law in the academic world, which will lead to greater interest among more researchers and students to devote their careers to such matters.
In this initial phase of the research environment’s existence, the focus is on security-related migration, that is, matters such as asylum seekers, refugees, and others in need of protection. This is because issues such as asylum and the need for protection are central to the field of migration law and because in this field there is a distinct need for further analysis of the legal situation and how the asylum process functions. The project’s ultimate target group is asylum seekers, as the research and seminars, workshops, etc. that will be carried out in the project will revolve around questions relevant to that particular group. Ultimately the purpose is to establish a stable and vibrant network for research and education on migration law in Sweden.
Considering the immense importance of migration, and the central role that legal regulations play in people’s opportunities to migrate from one land to another for various reasons, not least to flee from persecution and discrimination, legal regulations and how these matters are handled must be based on an academic analysis at the national and international level of a depth and breadth that will be useful to public authorities, courts, and other actors. At the national level this means that it is essential to create the conditions for research leading to new and deeper knowledge that can contribute both to systematic improvements and greater rule of law in the asylum process in individual cases.
The need for scholarly legal analysis and more in-depth knowledge has been clearly identified. This was done, on the one hand, in the research studies that thus far have been conducted in which aspects of the Aliens Act of 2005 and the current procedural rules were analysed (see e.g. Stern 2008, 2012, Lagerqvist Veloz Roca 2011) and, on the other hand, in various contexts by governmental actors such as the Migration Board and the Government Offices, but also by the courts and civil society (the Swedish Red Cross, the Swedish Refugee Advice Centre, the Church of Sweden, Amnesty International). The need for independent research was also highlighted in the Alliance Government’s agreement with the Green Party regarding migration issues (March 2011). A consistent conclusion from these actors seems to be that the time is ripe to muster our forces to address the field of migration law.
The focus of the project on asylum seekers and protection-related migration is clear in the subprojects included (descriptions of the projects can be found under Subprojects in the top menu). Issues such as the extent and scope of the migration court’s duty to investigate, how various types of grounds for protection are to be judged, what actually constitutes persecution, how one should argue in order for new types of grounds for refugee status (such as climate-related migration) to be taken seriously, the distribution of responsibility within the EU when it comes to asylum seekers, and how children with functional disabilities are dealt with during the asylum process are all of importance in various ways to different individuals and categories in the asylum process. For each of these projects there are identified needs.
There are multiple advantages to gathering these projects under the “umbrella” of a joint environment: a dynamic research collaborative makes it possible to share experience across the projects and the researchers involved; senior researchers and/or supervisors are able to collaborate closely; joint seminars and workshops with internal and external participants can be arranged to a greater extent; network building can be simplified; and the projects and their findings can be presented jointly at a conference under the aegis of the research environment, which creates added value in the form of the attention paid to and the impact created by the research presented and commented on there. Moreover, a joint research environment at this level brings considerably enhanced status to an area of research that has not previously attracted much attention, which in turn entails that more numerous and more senior researchers will devote their time to the issues – more knowledge is generated and can be disseminated – and more students can benefit from expert teaching. In this context it should be pointed out that good research does not remain in the academic sphere but leads to practical benefits in judicial practice and legislative work.
The structure of the project
In this first phase the Migration Law Environment comprises four doctoral studentships and two postdoctoral positions. The doctoral candidates and postdocs are associated with both the Lund and Uppsala law faculties, thereby enjoying privileged access to the foremost experts in legal science in the country. The Migration Law Environment is to stand on three pillars: research/research exchange, external seminars/knowledge exchange with practitioners, and dissemination of research findings. In concrete terms, this entails a number of different activities in the form of various research projects, internal and external seminars, symposia and conferences, and publications. The responsibility for and commitment to the project will be evenly shared by the two faculties, which both have representatives in the steering committee for the project. The joint environment thus creates a collaborative platform for migration law research and teaching that is unique in Sweden.
Project plan for downloading
A detailed presentation of the project is available in the project plan “En gemensam forskningsmiljö i migrationsrätt: Uppsala och Lunds universitet i samverkan” (A Joint Research Environment in Migration Law: Uppsala University and Lund University in Collaboration). Download project plan (pdf, in Swedish).