Faculty of law blogs / UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

Border Criminologies 2017-2018 in Review



Time to read

15 Minutes

As we approach the end of the academic year, it is a pleasure to look back to set out some of our activities, and to describe plans that we have started to set in motion. In this review, I will summarise our key news and accomplishments alongside selected publications and activities. I will also say goodbye to some of our core members and welcome new ones.

This year, Border Criminologies turned 5. To celebrate this important milestone, we held a two-day conference, ‘Beyond Critique’ at the Bonavero Institute for Human Rights and Mansfield College.  Together with colleagues from around the world, we discussed strategies and ideas for challenging the criminalisation of migration. Presentations were diverse, from an artistic performance by Professor Khadija Carroll using the Oxford Immigration Detention Archive, to Anthony Metzer QC’s account of challenging unlawful detention. Videos from that event are being edited and will soon be available on the website.

Border Criminologies continues to flourish, ably supported by Andriani Fili and a small core group from a range of partner institutions. This year, funding has been provided by Goldsmith Chambers, Garden Court Chambers, and research grants from the Independent Social Research Foundation, the Economic and Social Research Council, and the John Fell Fund. New partnerships with Leiden University and the research group of Professor Maartje van der Woude and enduring work with HM Prison Inspectorate have been extremely productive. We have been making a significant contribution to the knowledge of National Preventive Mechanisms and civil society organisations that support the rights of people in detention in Greece and Turkey. The two knowledge-exchange projects we have undertaken have led to enhanced and ongoing relationships between the Centre for Criminology and stakeholders in the field of immigration detention in a number of countries affected by mass migration. Members of the research network continue to lead and shape the subfield within criminology on the intersections between criminal justice and migration control.

Exercise yard, Alien Policing Detention Centre, Kiskunshalas, Hungary

Two long-standing members of the core group are stepping down. Dr. Ines Hasselberg, who has been involved from the very beginning, is leaving academia to pursue a new job at the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, while Dr. Ana Aliverti is concentrating on her research at Warwick University into policing migration. Both will be sorely missed. However, we are also very excited to welcome two new Associate Directors, Professor Juliet Stumpf and Dr. Sanja Milivojevic. We are hopeful that with their fresh ideas and enthusiasm, the new academic year will be a very productive one for the network. Welcome aboard!

Proactiva Open Arms

Each year, as I write this final paragraph in the introduction, matters seem to worsen. Currently, Italy is refusing to let ships of men and women who have been rescued at sea, dock. Trump’s America separates children from their mothers at the border. The UK has been deporting long-standing residents from the Windrush generation.  It can be difficult at times, to see a way forward. And it is certainly hard to maintain much optimism. Yet, as Maartje van der Woude exhorted us at our anniversary event, we must not lose hope. It may well be that the lack of evidence is not the problem; academic proof of the deleterious impact of the criminalization of border control cannot, on its own, challenge current practice. For that, we need legal reform, policy change and, above all, the political will.  For that reason, as the tide of intolerance continues to rise, Border Criminologies remains committed to collaborative, cross-disciplinary and international work with students, academics, policy makers and activists, both as a means of bearing witness and as the basis for thinking and acting otherwise.

Mary Bosworth, Oxford


Border Criminologies ran a number of events this year in Oxford and elsewhere. In September 2017 we co-hosted with the Monash Border Observatory, a research student Masterclass at the Monash Campus in Prato, Italy. As part of our commitment to training the next generation of scholars, this three-day event offered instruction in writing, research and publication to an international group of students.

This year, we celebrated our fifth anniversary. Over two days in April we welcomed an international group of artists, scholars, policy-makers, practitioners, activists and lawyers to Oxford to discuss strategies and hopes for change.  The aim was to work together for new ways of thinking, acting and engaging. Much important work has been done to uncover the intersections of border control and criminal justice. The question is how much more evidence do we need? How can we communicate our findings and recommendations to a broader public? In coming together, across disciplines, jurisdictions and sectors, we intended to shift the conversation towards change. Speakers shared their experiences of work on the ground in Greece, the US, Sweden and Britain and we learned from artists about different ways of representing border control and understanding its effect. Live tweeting of the presentations and dialogue garnered over 16,000 Twitter impressions.

Within Oxford, we co-hosted Vanessa Barker, who came to speak to the Centre for Criminology about her book Nordic Nationalism and Penal Order. We also heard from by Dr Leila Ullrich who spoke about her research on understanding the life worlds of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and in June by Dr Sanja Milivojevic who presented her research on border policing and security technologies in the Western Balkans

Further afield, Border Criminologies was part of the team who organised a workshop entitled ‘Bordering: a View from Portugal’, which took place in Lisbon in December 2017. The workshop brought together researchers working on diverse issues relating to border-making in Portugal and framed the Portuguese case against the broader backdrop of European and North American border regimes. The papers presented are currently being edited for a special issue with the International Journal of Migration and Border Studies, including contributions from Border Criminologies members Raquel de Matos, Francesca Esposito and Ines Hasselberg. 

In March 2018, Border Criminologies was part of an international seminar on ‘Transformative Borders and the Politics of Mobility in Western Liberal Democracies’ and a masterclass ‘Researching Responses to Migration’. The two events were organized as part of Border Criminologies member Maartje van der Woude’s research project ‘Getting to the Core of Crimmigration’.

Many Border Criminologies members, old and new, presented at the Border Harms conference 2-3 May at Birkbeck, University of London where Dr Alpa Parmar gave a Keynote lecture titled ‘Borders as Mirrors’.

While most recently, in June, Border Criminologies was part of an international workshop on ‘Challenging Migrant Detention’, in Montreal, funded by the Canadian Social Science Foundation. In the weeks before this event, a number of our members attended the Law and Society Association meeting in Toronto, Canada, where, for instance, Border Criminologies members Maartje van der Woude and Karine Cote-Boucher organized a panel on ‘Borders and Discretion.’

Having moved to the Migration Policy Centre at the European University Institute, Border Criminologies member Gabriella Sanchez along with Luigi Achilli have established the Smuggling Research Cluster, which encompasses the work of a loosely organized collective working on migrant smuggling and its criminalization at the global level. The cluster has been significantly active, developing strong partnerships with UNICEF, OHCHR, and most importantly, UNODC. The goal of the cluster has been to identify and foster the research of female scholars of color and people from the global south, and it roughly encompasses about 60 researchers. The cluster convened three events, this year: The Smuggling Workshop in the City of El Paso, Texas on the US Mexico border, showcasing US and European scholarship on smuggling facilitation. This was followed by a second event in October that looked at the criminalization of smuggling in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Americas, and another this past July, which gathered 46 scholars and practitioners to discuss the limitations, challenges and implications of migration criminalization worldwide. These efforts have been also supplemented by multiple presentations with UN delegations and member states in Vienna, Geneva and New York. The cluster also presented its work at the Latin American Studies Association Conference, and has secured funding for several projects on smuggling dynamics in Libya, Mexico and the US Mexico Border. Gabriella Sanchez has also obtained funding to support work on the participation of young people and children in smuggling, and on the gendered dimensions of smuggling as evidenced in European case law.

Blog & Outreach

The blog remains a central part of our outreach, showcasing original research from around the world, first-hand accounts of border control, and book reviews, with more than 12,000 unique visitors per month and an international mailing list of more than 400 subscribers. In 2018 so far, the blog has been visited more than 87,000 times. Our contributions this year came from across the globe, including the US, Mexico, Congo, and various countries in Europe. We reached readers in more than 100 countries, including the UK, the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Canada, France, Greece, Australia and India. As of July 2018, the blog has published 107 posts from more than 80 experts on a range of issues, including 17 book reviews. This year we have continued with the themed weeks, covering a wide range of topics: exploring the everyday of immigration detention, young arrivers in immigration detention in the UK, the EU hotspot approach, accessing the migration apparatus, penal policymaking and the prisoner experience, migrant digitalities and the politics of dispersal and transnational border and boundaries. This year we reflected widely on recent developments in order to think about their implications for border control and those affected by it. While the blog remains the most visible part of the website, Border Criminologies is also very active on social media. We have over 7,400 followers on Twitter and an average of 2,000 profile visits a month and 2,500 likes on Facebook

Photo: Annika Lindberg\n

As part of our commitment to outreach, Border Criminologies last year launched a Masters’ Dissertation/Thesis Prize, which is being generously supported by Routledge, and seeks to reward and encourage the next generation of scholars by focusing on Masters students who produce outstanding research dissertations. Our first two prize winners were: Zoe Roberts and Martha Eade. If you want to submit your dissertation for this year’s prize, please see more information here

Our SSRN 'Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship Research Paper Series’ showcases interdisciplinary research on the intersections between criminal justice and migration control, making all papers freely available. We now have more than 250 papers on our series by 138 authors and it is continue to grow. Each submitted paper is included in up to 12 of SSRN's 1000+ subject matter journals across multiple networks, and has publication priority over other non-research paper series submissions. Distribution of the paper, through our monthly e-journals can exceed 5,000-10,000 recipients, increasing exposure for the research significantly. Indeed, our distributed research papers series has tripled the download counts of all the papers included in them. Since May 2014, our papers have been downloaded nearly 44.000 times. Only in 2018, our page was visited 20,500 times and our papers were downloaded 4,300 times reaching out to a vast number of countries around the world, including Iran, Hong Kong, Korea, India, Iraq, Israel and Ghana. If you want to submit your papers, contact Andriani.

SSRN series subscribers\n


A number of projects in Oxford came to an end in 2017-18, including Mary Bosworth and Alpa Parmar’s John Fell Fund project on ‘Policing Migration’ and the knowledge exchange visiting fellowship of Dr Hindpal Singh Bhui (HMIP). The Policing Migration project has yielded new empirical data on the way in which policing in the UK is increasingly shaped by migration priorities and how this unevenly impact racial minorities. The findings from the project are being written up now and we are continuing to conduct research on casework and deportation hearings over the summer. Mary and Alpa hope to extend work on this project by securing further funding for an international collaborative project on policing migration.

The Knowledge Exchange fellowship, funded by the ESRC-IAA fund, investigated conditions in detention and the nature of human-rights based monitoring within detention centres in Italy, Greece, Hungary and Turkey. There has been limited and sporadic academic research on immigration detention in these countries, while nothing at all has been published on the process of monitoring these sites. In drawing together evidence about conditions and monitoring, this project aimed to contribute directly to the development of research informed monitoring that can more effectively protect the dignity and rights of detained migrants. In December 2017 we held a workshop at Oxford with NPMs and NGOs from each of the three countries, and in May 2018 we published the final report.  You can read more about the project and the report here.

Unaccompanied minors' unit, Amygdaleza Detention Centre, Athens, Greece

Among the Oxford-based members of Border Criminologies, two new funded research projects began. The first, ‘Understanding the current and future challenges of Immigration detention’ came online this year, funded by an ESRC-Impact Acceleration Award, explore how National Preventive Mechanisms and civil society organisations operate, the difficulties they face and their impact on achieving change in detention in Greece and Turkey. By fostering direct engagement and exchange among practitioners and academics, the project allows them to: 1) discuss particular obstacles and opportunities for monitoring human rights in immigration detention with their counterparts and the UK academics and practitioners; 2) evaluate whether practice of other organisations can be applied to their local contexts, to strengthening monitoring operations and better protect detainees; and 3) create a network that can share ideas to construct targeted strategies and public policies to enhance prospects for more effective monitoring in each country.

The second, the ISRF project on ‘Moving Beyond Critique’. The video project entails filming and editing a series of conversations with international experts on border criminology to develop news ways to think and act on mass mobility in the 21st century.

Elsewhere a number of our members have begun new projects or are continuing with existing research. Ana Aliverti, has been working on her Philip Leverhulme Prize project on policing migration, while Vanessa Barker continues her research collaboration with Katja Franko and the NORDHOST project on Nordic hospitality/inhospitality in the context of migration.

Andriani Fili has been working on her PhD at Lancaster University, which seeks to critically examine the social and cultural world of immigration detention centres in Greece. She recently secured a book contract with Routledge to come out in September 2020. Her book, ‘Mapping Resistance in Immigration Detention’, will produce a rich and nuanced account of Greek detention facilities and activism around them, exploring the history and function of these migrant prisons, and through a focus on mapping resistance on the inside and out, will consider their possible futures.

Rimple Mehta has been involved with a Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Harvard University research project titled "The 1947 Partition of India: Demographic and Humanitarian Consequences" since 2016. At present, she is working on a National Research Study on Human Trafficking in India being carried out by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences under the aegis of the National Human Rights Commission. She is co-editing a book on women prisoners in India and working towards getting together an Indian Prisons Network. 

In addition to finishing the John Fell funded project on policing migration, Alpa Parmar is writing up the findings of the project and has continued to collaborate with Maartje van der Woude in her ‘Getting to the Core of Crimmigration’ Project. This collaboration involves organizing joint panel sessions at international conferences, co-supervising PhD students and has brought new opportunities including being partners in a EU funded COST network titled ‘Police Stops’ led by colleagues at VU Brussels.

This year Gabriella Sanchez moved from the US Mexico border to Italy, where at the Migration Policy Centre she is coordinating the research agenda on migrant smuggling. The move was an attempt to increase the visibility and impact of the work carried out by the smuggling research collective she conveyed along with Luigi Achilli a few years back. The collective has also had an increasing presence at the UN level, bringing critical perspectives to the discussion on the criminalisation of increasing numbers of mobility practices and its impact on women, children and indigenous peoples.   

Maartje van der Woude started the second year of her 5-year research project ‘Getting to the Core of Crimmigration’. By means of a multi-sited, multi-level and interdisciplinary research design, a combination of ethnographic fieldwork and a multi-sided survey to be carried out in various Schengen countries, the project aims to contribute to current debates on intra-Schengen cross border mobilities. It does so by shedding light on both the perspectives and practices of law enforcement officials in charge of cross-border management, and on the perspectives and actions taken by those who live in local border communities. In April 2017 two PhD students started on this project, one of which – Neske Baerwaldt – is  co-supervised by Alpa Parmar. Maartje also obtained additional funding through the Dutch National Police, to extend the scope of her project to also specifically look into the different ways in which Schengen member states combat human smuggling.

Publications (see appendix in report for more detail)

Our members have been active in publishing and dissemination both on the Border Criminologies’ blog and elsewhere:

Vanessa Barker’s new book Nordic Nationalism and Penal Order: Walling the Welfare State was released in November 2017 as part of the Routledge Studies in Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship. It argues that Sweden’s border closure during the height of the refugee crisis was a result of penal nationalism—that is, the growing use of criminal justice tools, staff and resources to respond to mass mobility. In the Nordic context, the material and symbolic violence of the state is used to keep the welfare state solvent for members. It has been featured in a Border Criminologies Book Discussion week, reviewed in Theoretical Criminology, the Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, and Acta Sociologica, and was the subject of an Author Meets Reader panel at the Law & Society Association annual meeting in Toronto with Juliet Stumpf, Marie Provine, Maartje van der Woude, Magnus Hornqvist, and Alessandro de Giorgi. Vanessa Barker has also given a series of talks and seminars related to the book, including at the British Academy of Sciences, All Souls Criminology Series at the University of Oxford, Leiden Law School, the University of Oslo, Stockholm University, Sociology conference at Lund University, Stockholm University, Malmö University and the upcoming Nordic Conference on Migration. In addition, she guest co-edited with Lisa L Miller a Special Issue for Theoretical Criminology on the ‘State of the State’ which includes her article ‘Penal Power at the Border: Realigning State and Nation.’

Mary Bosworth, Alpa Parmar and Yolanda Vazquez published an edited collection, Race, Migration and Criminal Justice: Boundaries of Belonging, with Oxford University Press. Based on a two-day symposium in Oxford held in September 2017 it included many papers from members of the network. In addition, Mary contributed a review of alternatives to detention to the second review of vulnerable people in detention in the UK, headed by Stephen Shaw. Together with Katja Franko and Sharon Pickering she has published a number of articles about punishment and border control this year as well.

Andriani Fili’s co-edited book collection ‘Criminal Justice Research in an Era of Mass mobility’ has been published in the Routledge Studies in Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship (co-edited with Rebecca Powel and Synnove Jahnsen). This book has its roots in an International Leverhulme Network Grant on External Border Control (IN-2013-041) that pulled together three research groups from Oxford, Oslo and Monash Universities. It offers honest accounts of struggles and difficulties as well as ethical dilemmas encountered when doing border criminology.

In March 2018, the special issue on migrant smuggling Gabriella Sanchez and Luigi Achilli co-edited along with Sheldon Zhang came out. It documents the ways in which the criminalisation of mobility has been operationalised around the world.

Funding and Building for the Future

It is not easy to keep websites going. While grants increasingly want them as part of dissemination, when the money ends it’s unclear what is meant to happen. The internet is littered with webpages that gradually stop being active. So far, we have been able to avoid this fate, in part, because Border Criminologies is more than just a website. It is a collective, and it is filled with people who are both research active, but also who work in policy and practice and who see benefit in working together.  For the most part, we remain supported through research grants for specific projects, although we have also been supported by donations from Goldsmith Chambers (for more info on our collaboration see our annual report), and Garden Court Chambers.

From July 2018, The Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship SSRN series which makes academic research free to access and was previously covered by the Leverhulme Trust, will be funded through Prof. van der Woude's VIDI grant for one final year. After that, its future is uncertain. 

Finally, as part of the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford, Border Criminologies benefits from institutional support, for the website and for the costs of local events. As part of the Centre’s Global Criminal Justice Hub, it also benefits from student and staff exchanges.

However, we continue to seek funding for a variety of other projects. These include a more secure footing for our Core costs associated with the part-time website manager and blog editor, currently £24,000 per annum; Dissemination activities: annual conference: £3000 – £10000 per annum; Studentships to encourage the next generation of scholars in this field, at £5000 - £24,000 per annum, these could bear the name of the donor and/or target certain under-represented populations in Oxford; Post-doctoral research fellowships to support early career scholars, from £40,000 per annum; Visiting research fellows to enable international scholars to spend time in Oxford, working on a particular project, £1000 - £5000 per annum; Knowledge Exchange fellows, to enable practitioners to spend time in Oxford working on a particular project.

Finally, we have a series of research projects that need funding renewal. These include: Ongoing work inside immigration detention centres in the UK and elsewhere; Research on the changing nature of policing in Britain and its impact on ethnic minority communities; A new study of the process of deportation for which research access has been granted by the Home Office; a new study of the detention of unaccompanied children in Europe; Ongoing work on art and immigration detention.

We continue to look for new ways of disseminating our research and making it easy to access and use.  As part of this, we will be adding more visual material to the website in the form of short videos about members’ projects, while also applying for funds to allow visiting fellows to spend time in Oxford.


From a small, core group based in Oxford, we have grown over the past 5 years to become a global network of scholars, activists and policy makers. Through its web presence, it offers a site for critical discussions about border control. In our collaborative approach, we seek to foster open discussion and learn together.  In that we do, we remain committed to complexity and critique. These are difficult times, in which pooling our resources will help them further, and supporting one another will help us to continue. We are always interested in new ideas for work and advocacy, so please do get in touch. Meanwhile, we hope everyone has some time off, to rest and recharge.

To read the full annual report of Border Criminologies for 2017-2018 go

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style) 

Annual Review 2017-2018 (2018) Available at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2018/07/border (Accessed [date]).

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