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Outsourcing protection: a critical examination of the human rights and refugee protection impact of extra-territorial processing

  • School: Nottingham Law School
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2023
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2023

Project ID: NLS4

Whilst the number of people seeking asylum in Europe has not significantly increased since the peak of 2016 (discounting the displacement of Ukrainians following the Russian invasion), there are considerable difficulties posed for refugee management as a rising number of asylum seekers engage in secondary movement crossing borders of supposedly safe countries.

So called ‘venue-shopping’ has become a particular problem for the United Kingdom which is seeing an unprecedented number of arrivals via the dangerous Channel crossing from France. The controversial Dublin mechanism which relocates asylum seekers to the first safe European country of arrival, is no longer available following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. Whilst the number of arrivals is still far lower than in France of Germany, the UK asylum system is under pressure like never before. Decisions are taking longer than ever with applicants prohibited from working and forced to reside in sub-standard accommodation.

In 2001, the UK prime minister Tony Blair received criticism from European leaders for recommending the outsourcing of refugee processing beyond the borders of the European Union. During the refugee crisis of 2015-16, the European Commission effectively endorsed this approach through a deal with Turkey to process and protect asylum seekers who had arrived in the European Union, notwithstanding significant concerns over human rights and the rule of law in Turkey.

The UK’s government’s recent decision to outsource asylum processing and protection to Rwanda has received considerable international and domestic criticism, not least from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. It has been suggested that the international obligation of non-refoulement which sits at the cornerstone of the Refugee Convention, is deliberately being undermined.

The thesis will adopt a combination of doctrinal and socio-legal method to consider questions relating to extraterritorial human rights protection, sufficiency of protection in third countries, reliance on memoranda of understanding, and ultimately the continued relevance of the Refugee Convention.

Although the focus is on protection for arrivals in the UK, a comparative approach may be considered with clear justification.

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

To make an application, please visit our studentship application page.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2023 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Application guidance can be found on our studentship application page.

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