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A landmark case to protect refugee rights

A UCL socio-legal and migration expert has spearheaded a landmark legal case to protect the rights of refugees. The case went to the European Court of Human Rights and has set a global precedent.

judge's hammer

A UCL researcher spearheaded the development of a legal tool to help lawyers protect the rights of Syrian refugees in Russia. 

Dr Agnieszka Kubal (UCL Institute of Education), an interdisciplinary socio-legal and migration expert, worked with lawyers to develop the first application to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Syrian refugees from Russia. 

The case involved three men (two Syrians and one Palestinian) who were charged for working in Russia without a permit. A lower court processed the immigration offences according to domestic legislation and sentenced the men to a fine and deportation.

Syrian refugees - Russian court
Russian human rights lawyers appealed against the decision, demonstrating that it has been a rigid interpretation of Russian Law, positioning the men as ‘migrant workers’ rather than ‘refugees’.

The higher court rejected the claim, however, Agnieszka, together with a team of lawyers, escalated the case to the European Court of Human Rights. The judgement declared that deportation of the three men would be a violation of their human rights.  The court also ruled that the men’s detention in Russia was unlawful and ordered their immediate release, and compensation. The men were given temporary asylum in Russia.

The case, known as LM and Others v Russia, became a judgment binding other European countries and barring them from removing Syrian refugees; it has since been translated to four languages (German, Croatian, Czech, Turkish and Russian). The case has given other human rights lawyers in Europe a tool to fight for the rights of others.

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