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Children’s rights in appellate asylum proceedings in Belgium: a legal ethnography

The relationship between children’s rights and appellate asylum proceedings is fraught with tensions and challenges. Whether unaccompanied or seeking asylum with their families, children and young people constitute a particularly underprivileged and vulnerable group whose human rights come face to face with the sovereignty of the state. Often, decision-makers are reluctant to engage with children’s rights law, while at the same time a lack of agency is attributed to child applicants.

This project adopts an interdisciplinary, contextualised and multi-actor approach to analyse how key stakeholders involved in the adjudication of Belgian asylum cases in appeal perceive, mobilise and practice children’s rights. Research methods from law (case law analysis) and anthropology (ethnography) will be combined to study the role and perspective of children and young people, their parents or guardians, lawyers, representatives of the first instance asylum authority, and judges from the Council for Alien Law Litigation (CALL).

The questions guiding this research are (1) how do individuals experience and understand children’s rights (perceive); (2) to what extent do they define relevant problems in terms of children’s rights (mobilise); and (3) which norms and practices shape the internal legal culture by which the CALL operates (practice)? The project contributes to the field of ‘critical children’s rights studies’, paying attention in particular to how children’s rights are shaped by children themselves and through interaction of children with other groups.

Sponsored by
  • FWO - 2020-2024


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