In Courts We Trust Administrative Justice in Swedish Migration Courts
Sammanfattning: The research problem this dissertation addresses is how judicial practices generate administrative justice in asylum determination procedures. Previous research on immigration policies argues that when asylum determinations are processed in courts, principles of administrative justice are ensured and immigrants’ rights protected. In this dissertation, I challenge that argument by approaching administrative justice as an empirical phenomenon open for different types of interpretations. Instead of assuming that administrative justice characterizes courts, I assume that this concept acquires particular meanings through the practices of the courts. Empirically, this dissertation studies practices of assessing asylum claims at the Swedish migration courts. The migration courts are the result of a major reform of the Swedish asylum procedure that took place in 2006, with the motive to end inhumane rejections of asylum seekers by enhancing administrative justice in the asylum process. By interviewing and observing judges at the migration courts, litigators from the Migration Board and public counsels from different law firms, this interpretive and ethnographic study analyzes how administrative justice acquires meanings in the daily practices of assessing asylum claims at the migration courts.The main result is that a ceremonial version of administrative justice is generated at the migration courts. This version of administrative justice forefronts symbolic dimensions of justice. The asylum appeal procedure succeeds in communicating justice through rituals, building design and metaphors, which emphasize objectivity, impartiality and certainty on behalf of the judicial practices. However, these symbols of justice disguise several unfair aspects of the asylum appeal procedure, such as inequality in resources and trustworthiness between the state’s representative and the asylum applicants as well as the uncertainty inherent in both the factual and the credibility assessment of asylum claims. The implications of these findings are that immigration policy research needs to reconsider the relationship between the courts and immigrants’ rights by paying more attention to the everyday practices of ensuing administrative justice in courts than on the instances when courts oppose political attempts to restrict immigrants’ rights.
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