Austin Crane is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Geography Department at UW and the recipient of the EU Center’s esteemed Jean Monnet Chair EU Graduate Research Grant. With the help of the grant, Crane was able to travel to the UK in July 2016. Here, he dove head-first into research on Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR). AVR is “a state-sponsored practice of returning appeal rights exhausted asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants to their country of origin, often facilitated by humanitarian organizations,” Crane explained. He chose the UK as his starting point as it is a “significant destination country for migration from the south and east of Europe… and remains a key site where AVR practices have been employed by both humanitarian and state institutions.” Crane’s work is timely amidst the EU’s ongoing refugee crisis and with concerns over managing immigration factoring heavily into the UK’s “Brexit” vote this summer.
While abroad, Crane focused his research on three fundamental questions:
- How is AVR historically framed as humanitarian, and what are the resulting implications?
- How do international organizations and partnering officials negotiate the humanitarian and security-focused realities of collaborating with states in AVR?
- How is AVR embedded within geopolitical relations of migration management amongst EU countries and between the EU and Ukraine?
Crane conducted preliminary interviews in London and archival research at the University of Oxford, University of East London and British National Archives. These interviews and archival research lay the foundation for his future dissertation research.
Describing his experience, Crane says that the EU Graduate Research Grant allowed him to meet, face-to-face, important figureheads in different organizations, building the relationships necessary to facilitate future research in a mutually-beneficial manner. Furthermore, the time in various archives “allowed for [him] to scan a large number of materials that will help to analyze the history of AVR as a humanitarian practice of migration management in the UK and EU contexts, establishing a historical knowledge base to build future research upon.” In these ways, Crane spoke of the importance of the grant to his research, saying the preliminary work was “…productive and inspiring for [his] larger project…I am grateful to the UW EU Center for allotting funds to lay this foundation for my research project.”