The complex issues of criminal migrants in need of protection

The complex issues of criminal migrants in need of protection

What to do with migrants that committed a crime, but are threatened in their country of origin? This question is difficult to answer, Julia Zomignani Barboza, a researcher at the Fundamental Rights Research Center at Vrije Universiteit Brussel found. Her extensive research delves into the complexities of regulating the situation of migrants who are at risk of human rights violations in their home countries but who have also committed crimes or are suspected of being dangerous to their host communities.

Dr. Zomignani Barboza has been actively involved in various EU-funded projects, focusing on human rights and the migration. “My PhD research specifically addresses the intricate situations where migrants cannot be sent back to their home countries due to the risk of serious harm, despite having committed crimes in their host countries.” Zomignani Barboza said. “In essence, migrants who have committed crimes often lose their permits and face potential deportation. However, when these migrants cannot be sent back due to risks in their home countries, they present a legal and ethical challenge.” Different countries adopt varied approaches. “For instance, Australia has historically placed such migrants in indefinite detention, while Belgium allows them to remain as irregular migrants without the right to work. Canada imposes strict conditions but permits them to stay under closely monitored circumstances.” Zomignani Barboza argued. “My comparative study reveals the need for clear legal thresholds and humane treatment that aligns with international human rights law:

1. Countries should implement distinct strategies for migrants based on their integration and behaviour in the host country. For instance, those who commit crimes after being granted refugee (or another protection) status should not automatically lose their permit but be subjected to a fair assessment.

2. Explicit and reasonable criteria for revoking permits must be established, considering the length of stay and severity of the crime.

3. All migrants must be ensured to have the right to a fair hearing where they can present their case and explain their circumstances.

4. For migrants deemed dangerous upon arrival, impose conditions that have a set duration, reassessing them after the period ends to decide on their permanent status.

5. Avoid imposing additional restrictions on migrants solely based on their status, ensuring they face similar legal consequences as nationals for comparable offenses.

Dr. Zomignani Barboza’s work not only sheds light on the urgent need for policy reform but also provides practical solutions to uphold human rights while addressing national security concerns. Her findings are particularly relevant as global migration continues to pose significant legal and ethical challenges.



Júlia Zomignani Barboza, “International protection for criminals: to grant or not to grant? Lessons from Australia, Belgium and Canada,” International Journal of Refugee Law (in press, issue 36(3), 2024)


Julia Zomignani Barboza: +32 484 94 1112 (ENG, FR)

Koen Stein
Koen Stein Perscontact wetenschap & innovatie



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