EASA 2020

EASA 2020

Dr. Nicole Hoellerer has presented a paper at the 16th EASA Biennial Conference (EASA 2020). This virtual conference (20-24 July 2020) had the theme “New anthropological horizons in and beyond Europe”, and was hosted by the ISCTE-University Institute of Lisbon and ICS-Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon, bringing together anthropologists from across the world.

We had the opportunity to present our work under the heading “Legal Pluralism in Asylum Adjudication in Europe: An exploration of legal procedures from an anthropological perspective” in the panel Law and Culture in Court, convened by Manuela Cunha (Universidade do Minho, CRIA-UMinho); Patrícia Jerónimo (Research Centre for Justice and Governance, University of Minho) and Alison Renteln (USC).


Legal Pluralism in Asylum Adjudication in Europe: An exploration of legal procedures from an anthropological perspective

ASYFAIR is a multi-disciplinary and multi-methodology study that has conducted more than 500 legal ethnographies and interviews at asylum courts in EU countries, including the UK, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Italy and Greece, to explore the varying processes of asylum adjudication across Europe. Rather than focusing on substantive consistency –e.g. outcomes of asylum appeals – ASYFAIR’s paper unpacks the concept of legal procedure from an anthropological perspective. In so doing it goes beyond legal doctrine to explore the legal pluralism and local court cultures in asylum court proceedings, which can be problematic for asylum appellants (Gill and Good, 2018).

Drawing on our legal ethnographies, the paper explores both tangible and obvious differences, as well as intangible and uncodified differences (e.g. ‘atmosphere’) of asylum court appeals, juxtaposing the local (individual EU member states) with the regional (the EU), and asks to what extent it is possible to talk about consistent asylum appeal procedures in the context of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). In 2013 CEAS was launched to standardise the procedures of asylum determination, including the right to appeal an asylum decision at court. The procedures directive aims for standardisation in the way asylum claims are dealt with in Europe. Although consistency and fairness are routinely utilised by legal scholars to evaluate legal systems, our paper questions the feasibility (and desirability) of this objective by exposing the depth and variety of inconsistencies in everyday adjudication in practice.

Keywords: asylum courts; asylum adjudication; consistency; legal pluralism; local court culture