The Power to Decide: the Study of the Role of the Law in Migrant and Refugee Decision-Making in Portugal

Principal researcher: Elizabeth Challinor

Research group: Circulation and Place-Making


Legal consciousness | Citizenship | Policies | Mobility

Funding Institution

Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT)



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Third Country Nationals (TCNs) have a complex relationship with the law. On the one hand, law enables them to pursue their life choices and plans; on the other hand, it constitutes a hindrance to the pursuit of their goals. How do TCNs adapt to or resist the law? How does their own evaluation of the legal room for manoeuvre affect their mobililty and shape their life plans? The project addresses these research questions through fine grained anthropological analysis of how migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees engage with immigration and asylum laws and policies in Portugal.
The world of policy is made up of a range of institutions and social actors that interact directly and indirectly with each other across different contexts to meet what are often multi-layered and conflicting interests. The research will shed light on how TCNs articulate and negotiate alternative visions, policy agendas and forms of citizen making in their engagements with the law. The research will also elucidate the complex relationship between law in-books and law-in-practice. By focusing on TCN legal consciousness, the project also aims to contribute towards public policies, providing data to identify knowledge gaps and opportunity structures for TCN social inclusion.