Research project

Undoing Discriminatory Borders (2020-2023)

About the project

Immigration laws and migration controls distribute migration opportunities unequally, to the exclusion and disadvantage of many. While migration controls intrinsically distinguish between nationals and non-nationals, they also distribute the opportunity to move legally, often in ways that are directly or indirectly discriminatory against women, racial and religious groups and those whose sexual orientation, gender-identity or family status departs from the nuclear hetero-norm. Such discrimination may be identified within apparently neutral legal rules or migration statuses, or within algorithmic or other decision-making processes. Discrimination on what are, or may be, protected grounds, has a long history within immigration and nationality law, a brief consideration of which reveals its origins in colonial projects of racialised and gendered, dispossession, exclusion and subordination.

There is, however, surprisingly little analysis of whether such immigration and nationality rules and practices are unlawfully discriminatory. This is the case notwithstanding a multiplicity of legal prohibitions on discrimination and the ground-breaking rulings of national and international courts, which have found various laws and migration control practices to be discriminatory. This project aimed to fill that gap, by bringing together a network of legal scholars with expertise in both migration and non-discrimination. The aim of the first phase of thw research was to map the application of non-discrimination norms to immigration/nationality laws and migration controls, considering in so doing, relevant national, regional (including EU) and international laws.

The project was launched with two international workshops, bringing together leading experts on migration, discrimination and algorithmic decision-making. The first workshop on "Legal Standards" took place on 20 October 2020, the second on "Spotlight on Algorithmic Decision-Making" took place on 27 October 2020.

Undoing Discriminatory Borders was a collaborative project of the Centre for Fundamental Rights at the Hertie School in Berlin and the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC), Oxford Department for International Development, University of Oxford. Principal Investigator at RSC was Dr. Catherine Briddick.

Project lead at the Centre for Fundamental Rights

  • Cathryn Costello, Professor of Fundamental Rights at the Hertie School and Co-Director of the Centre for Fundamental Rights (2020-2023)