A Fieldwork Trip to Geneva

Cecilia Manzotti |

A UACES Microgrant report by Cecilia Manzotti

Statistics on asylum in the European Union (EU) and in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states show that a small but noteworthy portion of asylum-seekers are recorded as being of ‘unknown nationality’, and their nationality often remains undetermined throughout the entire protection status determination process. Who are these people and why is their nationality recorded as ‘unknown’? A few reports produced by NGOs have recently examined the risk of statelessness among refugees arriving in Europe. Several of these reports claim that the statelessness of refugees is not adequately identified and suggest that some of those refugees whose nationality has been recorded as ‘unknown’ may actually be stateless.

My PhD research intends to provide an in-depth theoretically and empirically grounded investigation of the issue of nationality determination and statelessness identification among asylum-seekers in a small but significant sample of European states, including Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. The identification of stateless asylum-seekers is critical to their protection and the prevention of new cases of statelessness among newborns. In my research, I adopt a socio-legal perspective and rely on both a doctrinal analysis of laws and jurisprudence and primary data collection through questionnaires and interviews with different actors involved or knowledgeable in asylum and/or statelessness determination procedures in three countries. So far, I have conducted most interviews virtually, using online video-call platforms. This has allowed me to conduct interviews with participants based in different regions of Italy and Germany, where, as a self-funded PhD student, I would have never been able to travel to conduct in-person interviews.

While acknowledging the incredible advantages of virtual interviews (and learning to minimise their disadvantages), I really appreciated the opportunity to conduct an in-person interview. Thanks to a UACES microgrant, I was able to travel to Geneva, where I interviewed the Head of the Legal Services for asylum-seekers at Caritas. I believe that meeting in person helped me to establish rapport with the participant and made the conversation fluid and fruitful. During my short stay in Geneva, I also had the opportunity to visit the library of the Faculty of Law of the Graduate Institute, where I found a few publications on nationality in international law in French which are not available at the library of my university in the UK. I am therefore grateful to UACES for offering me the microgrant, which has allowed me to collect precious information and resources for my research.



Find out more about the UACES Microgrants scheme here.