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Elizabeth Willmington

Research student, School of Law and Politics


I am a second year PhD researching, with research interests in law, art and protest with a focus on the outsourcing of border control responsibilities. My research currently focuses on how aid money is funding the outsourcing to third/transition countries - The EU - Turkey Agreement and The Malta Declaration - and how the UK is outsourcing to third parties through the hostile environment. I am exploring counter narratives of resistance to these measures.

I am a member of the Art/Law Network Advisory Group and involved the Who Are We? Project, a three year project at the Tate Exchange.


Research interests


Who owns the border? Outsourcing and possession of immigration controls and legal responsibility

My research is concerned with trajectory of colonialism into the present day legal and political responses to the largest movement of people in history. This will be demonstrated in two parts; the EU cutting off of routes across the Mediterranean Sea and securing its external border through the EU – Turkey Statement and The Malta Declaration, and the development of the UK’s the hostile environment through the Immigration Act 2016 and Housing and Planning Act 2016. The first is concerned with the protection of the physical frontier of Europe through the externalisation of border controls to third states. The second is concerned with an externalisation of immigration checks to third parties occurring within UK borders, determining access to basic social and economic services on immigration status. I will demonstrate that these legal instruments are part of a trajectory of legal posturing that refuse protection and services to certain people who are designed to fall outside the law.

Those who are the makers of such laws stand in opposition to those who are its subjects. Relational power and access to knowledge is a key cause and consequence of inequality between social actors. With this understanding as a starting point, this project will critically investigate the increasingly securitised and externalised approach to border and immigration control, both through extraterritorial expansion beyond the European border and to non-governmental social actors within the UK.

Through an understanding of who participates in generating and upholding relational power, an opportunity is created to expose the belief that social inequalities and their impacts, namely the violence of borders, policies and laws, is inevitable and has always been. Through an engagement with social actors who do not traditionally participate or benefit from systems of inequality, namely those seeking asylum and activists and NGOs working to support them, this project will highlight groups and projects who are exposing this deception and are producing their own narratives as to the impacts of border violence.

This project is supervised by Ambreena Manji and John Harrington and sits within Cardiff Law and Global Justice.

Funding source

Cardiff Law School