Fragility of Global Migration (2021)

Dr. Nicole Hoellerer has presented a paper at the International conference on The Fragility of Global Migration. This virtual Spring meeting (20-21 May 2021) of the DGS section “Migration and Ethnic Minorities”, was hosted in cooperation with the Center of Methods in Social Sciences, University of Göttingen (Germany), and brought together scholars to discuss the ‘fragility’ of migration and migration policy.

We had the opportunity to present our work under the heading “You decide! Offloading responsibility and over-burdening courts and judges with refugee status determination decisions in Europe” in the panel Fragility of immigration rights and statuses chaired by Dr. Eva Bahl (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen).


Fragility in Asylum Determination: Offloading responsibility and over-burdening courts and judges with refugee status determination decisions in Europe – Judicial perceptions in Germany

Across the EU, over 100,000 asylum seekers had their claims for asylum either recognised or improved in 2019 via court appeal processes (with similar numbers in 2017 and 2018). Given the seriousness of the potential consequences of a wrong decision on an asylum claim, such as detention and deportation, these statistics reveal the fragility of the asylum determination regimes and institutional practices in Europe, as well as the importance of asylum appeal processes themselves.

Analyses of European states’ responses to their international obligations towards refugees identified the persistence with which states divest their responsibilities. In our presentation we highlight judicial perceptions of the displacement of responsibility for refugee status determination from the German state to courts and judges. In this context, we reveal the fragility in asylum determination that is fraught with disruptions and uncertainties for both asylum seekers and state institutions.

Based on qualitative, ethnographic observations of over 280 German asylum appeal hearings, we empirically explore judges’ frustration with the perceived lack of upstream quality of decision making and the negative consequences for the quality and reliability of appeal adjudication. Conceptually, we illustrate the multi-scalar and polymorphic nature of state power, its incoherence, fragility and modes of disruptions, and the role of inaction as well as action in states’ truculence towards their obligations. Practically, we reflect on some policy options that could help to avoid over-burdening courts with asylum cases in the future, and thus reduce the fragility inherent in the asylum determination system.

Keywords: refugee status determination, state abandonment, responsibility and fragility, withdrawal, judicial perceptions, government procedures