Francesca Soliman

PhD Student

University of Edinburgh


Working Title of PhD: Migration, illegality, and social harm: an Italian case study

Year commenced PhD study: 2016 Institution/Organisation: University of Edinburgh

Funding Source (if any) ESRC Full or part-time: Full time

PhD Supervisors: Dr Andy Aydin-Aitchison, Dr Tobias Lock

Synopsis of PhD (including main research question(s) and methodological approach)

Francesca’s research examines the implications of discretionary state power in the context of migration management in the Mediterranean Sea, where the interplay between wide state discretion and limited supranational accountability may have resulted in the effective suspension of unauthorised sea-crossers’ human rights. The research explores whether EU member states’ wide discretionary power in the application of national law allows them to evade international protection obligations, putting into question fundamental principles such as equal dignity and universalism of human rights.
The state’s monopoly on legal power and its prerogative to legitimise extra-judicial action make it problematic to categorise its conduct from a legalistic point of view, so a critical criminological approach is paramount in understanding migration policy and its iatrogenesis. Francesca applies a zemiological approach to the analysis of migration policy, thus focusing on systemic causes of harm rather than lawbreaking to effectively overcome definitional limitations and focus instead on the structural cost of state action and its human rights implications.
The research focuses on unauthorised sea migration from North Africa to Italy via the Central Mediterranean route. This qualitative study takes an ethnographic approach which relies on three main data sources: a) documentary analysis of key Italian and EU migration policy documents relating to Mediterranean Sea unauthorised migration; b) secondary analysis of up to 200 interviews conducted with migrants and other actors; and c) ethnographic observations and interviews with native population and detention centre personnel on the island of Lampedusa, Italy.

Keywords: Migration, Sea-crossing, Social harm



University of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh
Old College, South Bridge,


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