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Our research themes

Europe has an impact beyond its borders, not only through its ‘normative power’ and formative conditionality but also through its policies and economic weight. 



Migration is changing European societies and it has been a highly politicised issue both in European countries and EU Member States as well as at the EU level. At the same time, the European Union’s (EU) and Europe’s relations with third countries are shaped through migration and European countries cooperate with third countries in the area of migration control. 

Intra-EU migration has been the central issue in the Brexit negotiations. However, the debate about free movement in the EU has at times obfuscated certain key issues such as: why immigrants are coming to the UK; what impact EU migrants are having on the UK; and what can be done to effectively regulate such inflows. It is, however, not just the Eurosceptics and the British government but also ‘in campaigners’ and other EU member states who risk perpetuating a number of widely-held misconceptions about free movement and immigration for political reasons. 

Differences in states’ refugee protection contributions have led to considerable tensions between the EU and third countries as well as between European states. Free-riding and burden-shifting dynamics can undermine the effective and equitable refugee responsibility-sharing and lead to disproportionate responsibilities for forced migrants and the undermining of legal safeguards for asylum seekers and refugees. There is widespread agreement that the effectiveness of EU refugee burden-sharing instruments should be strengthened. 

EU asylum and immigration politics and policies have witnessed a major change since their communitarisation in the early 2000s. Studies on EU migration, however, do not agree on the impact that EU institutions now have on policy outputs and outcomes. While some argue that supranational institutions are able to impose ‘liberal constraints’ on member states, other studies consider them unable to shift the ‘policy core’ of EU migration policies 

Migration policies have been under increased populist pressure in recent years. When making policies, however, policy-makers base their decisions not only on political demands but have to take into consideration international and European law as well as national constitutions. 

Migrants who have come to Europe are faced with challenges to acculturate, especially given increasingly securitised public discourse towards large migrant groups in Europe who are Muslim. This importantly plays out at complex and interrelated levels of governance where European norms, national policy goals and the contingencies of local politics all play a part in how policy narratives are formed, become plausible in a particular context and are applied. 

Scholars at the EI approach this topic from different disciplinary angles, including Anthropology, Sociology, Public Policy and International Relations. Current research of the Department looks at questions as to why migration policies are restrictive or liberal, why international attempts of sharing the burden and responsibility of refugee protection have been elusive, how migration transforms the cultural, religious, and memory landscape of the host and guest communities, and how older and newer forms of racism as well sexism play out in Europe as a continent of migration. 

In addition, the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and the wave of Jihadist inspired terror attacks to hit European cities has exposed the fragility of European domestic security and demonstrated that the fate of Europe is intimately linked to events in West Asia and the Southern and Eastern Shores of the Mediterranean. Additionally, these developments are not simply reflected in the ‘hard’ facts of insecurity and mass causalities’, but are also important means by which new forms of social media play important roles in defining, constructing and reproduicing notions of what it is to be Muslim in the contemporary European context.




The Criminalisation of Irregular Migration in Europe: Globalisation, Deterrence, and Vicious Cycles

This book by Dr Matilde Rosina (2022) explores the criminalisation of irregular migration in Europe. In particular, it investigates the meaning, purpose, and consequences of criminalising unauthorised entry and stay. From a theoretical perspective, the book adds to the debate on the persistence of irregular migration, despite governments’ attempts at deterring it, by taking an interdisciplinary approach that draws from international political economy and criminology. Using Italy and France as case studies, and relying on previously unreleased data and interviews, it argues that criminalisation has no effect on migratory flows, and that this is due to factors including the latter’s structural determinants and the likely creation of substitution effects. Furthermore, criminalisation is found to lead to adverse consequences, including by contributing to vicious cycles of irregularity and insecurity. 

Book Information


JCMS special issue:  EU refugee policies and politics in times of crisis

In 2015/16, Europe faced the largest inflow of refugees since World War II. This inflow highlighted systemic deficiencies in EU asylum co‐operation which provoked a state of crisis. Together with the Eurozone crisis, this crisis has the potential to seriously damage the overall project of EU integration. The goal of this Special Issue is to provide a first systematic assessment of the crisis, applying and further developing key theoretical approaches to the sequence of events. In empirical terms, we advance original empirical evidence in order to deepen our understanding of the crisis and how it has been managed. In theoretical terms, we seek to (re)assess the usefulness and limitations of some important theoretical perspectives to European integration at a critical juncture of the EU's history. After presenting the sequence of events and assessing the EU's crisis response, the introduction will summarize our main findings and present avenues for further research.


Key Research Themes

  • Comparative immigration policies
  • Refugee burden- and responsibility-sharing
  • EU policy-making in the Common European Asylum System
  • Migration and labour markets
  • Muslims in Europe
  • Religious diversity and conflict
  • Racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia
  • Multiple memory cultures 
  • Academic exiles and refugees
  • (Re-)Imagining young Muslim women 
  • Migrants in France
  • Migration and nationalism
  • Jihadism and Islamist Terrorism 
  • Critical Terorrism Studies 
  • Cultural narratives and security 
  • Urban Policy in French cities


European Management of Migration and Refugees- Consequences for mobility and political stability in transit countries (MARE)

The project runs from 2019-2021 and is jointly conducted by the Fafo Research Foundation, NUPI (both Oslo), the University of Oxford, the Institut Français du Proche Orient (Amman) and LSE. At LSE it is led by Natascha Zaun. It analyses the challenges resulting from the disparities in sharing the burden and responsibility for forced migrants worldwide and how states have responded to these challenges. A special focus will be given to the investigation of how international actors, especially European governments and the EU can help host communities secure access to rights for refugees and migrants and economic improvements for both the migrants and the local population. The project will also examine the risk of host communities being destabilised when international actors engage in migration and refugee management. It has a focus on several key regions hosting especially large refugee and migrant populations, including Jordan, Lebanon, Niger, and Uganda.  



Alliance of Leading Universities on Migration (ALUM) is a unique collaboration among leading universities in Europe, USA and frontier refugee recipient countries in North Africa and the Middle East which aims to help bridge the gap between research and policy in the management of the ongoing migrant and refugee crisis.

ALUM’s network identifies the key units and researchers ready and willing to contribute their expertise to work across national and disciplinary boundaries towards evidence-based policy solutions. ALUM is willing to reason publicly, interact directly with private stakeholders and governmental institutions and, if necessary, engage in closed door negotiations for maximum impact. The alliance now comprises twenty one members. Through executing targeted events, ALUM engages with policymakers from both frontier and destination countries, including Germany, Italy, Spain, Lebanon and Sweden, as well as UN agencies and European institutions. ALUM has directly engaged with global policy makers in the context of the G7, G20 and the Global Forum for Migration and Development (GFMD).


Selected recent publications

Rosina, M. (2022), 'The Criminalisation of Irregular Migration in Europe: Globalisation, Deterrence, and Vicious Cycles', Palgrave Macmillan Cham

Rosina, M. (2021), ‘Easy information, easy migration? Irregular journeys and information gaps’, Scienza e Pace/Science and Peace.

Zaun, Natascha (2021) “The use of pseudo-causal narratives in EU policies: The case of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa”, Journal of European Public Policy (with Olivia Nantermoz)*

Zaun, Natascha (2021) “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Ambiguous Role of Germany in EU Asylum Policies”, in: Journal of European Integration, 43:2, pp. 157-174. (with Ariadna Ripoll Servant) 

Rosina, M. (2020), ‘Criminal law and migration: The sources and implications of uncertain sanctioning regimes’, DPCE Online, 45(4), 5226-5239.

Zaun, Natascha (2020) 'Fence-sitters no more: Southern and Central Eastern European Member States’ role in the deadlock of the CEAS reform', Journal of European Public Policy.

Zaun, Natascha (2020) 'What is intergovernmental about the EU’s ‘(new) intergovernmentalist’ turn? Evidence from the Eurozone and asylum crises', West European Politics, Volume 44, 2021 - Issue 4 (with Sandrino Smeets).

Zaun, Natascha (2020) 'Asylum Policy and European Union Politics', Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics (with Ariadna Ripoll Servent).

Thielemann, E. and Zaun, N. (2018). 'Escaping populism- safeguarding minority rights: Non-majoritarian dynamics in European policy-making', Journal of Common Market Studies, 56(4), pp. 906-922. 

Academic staff working in this area


Academics in the "Migration" stream provide expertise on numerous issues, including comparative asylum and immigration policies, refugee protection in Europe, Brexit and migration and global and regional burden-sharing. Our research into asylum policy in the EU has shown the inadequacies of the current attempts of EU asylum system to fairly share responsibility for the over seven million asylum seekers that have entered Europe over the past two decades. This research has also featured prominently in a number of reports for the European Parliament and the European Commission.  The involvement of EI academics in the EU policymaking process have helped shift the debate away from the allocation of refugee responsibility that is based on the flawed Dublin Regulation towards a quota-based relocation mechanism. By providing robust analysis in an emotive policy area, our research has contributed to the development of more equitable and effective policies that have helped some of the world’s most vulnerable individuals to find protection from persecution.

Our academic staff are interviewed in media outlets including BBC, Skynews, CNN, Frence24, Al-Jazzera, and the New York TimesThey are invited as guest speakers and experts in numerous national and international universities, organisations and governments, from the University of Oxford and the House of Lords to the European Parliament or the European Commission. They disseminate their research in conferences in the UK, Europe and the United States.

Policy briefs:

The Effect of the Italian Support System for Refugees and Asylum Seekers on the Local Economy [McGill University]

Blog posts:

Se i rifugiati danno posti di lavoro agli italiani [Lavoce Info]