This research examines the relationship between the immigration law and migrants. This investigation is sociological, conceptualising migrants as agents responding to the new socio-legal environment. How do migrants experience, understand and relate to immigration law in different legal contexts? What are the wider social impacts of the changes in immigration law and policy, as confronted by migrants and legal professionals in the field?

Agnieszka studied empirically the immigration law and its enforcement in the United Kingdom since 2004. She conducted research on Eastern European migrants’ experiences of the transition period – when EU law on free movement has not yet been fully implemented – immediately upon the 2004 Enlargement of the European Union. This research has been published as a monograph with Ashgate in 2012.

Later on she was part of a THEMIS project at International Migration Institute  - a large, international team that collected empirical data with migrants (from Morocco, Brazil and Ukraine) in different member states of the European Union: Norway, the UK, the Netherlands and Portugal, focusing on the different dynamics of migratory processes. Agnieszka's research centred on migrants' experiences of the legal system in the different EU countries, law enforcement, human rights, legality, selective criminalization of immigration law, and legal consciousness.

Currently Agnieszka’s project generously funded by the British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship examines the case of Russia, the second largest destination for migrants globally, aiming at developing an approach to study the global socio-legal dimensions of migrations that move beyond the European and American experiences. The project paints a complex picture of how the immigration and refugee laws ‘work in practice’ in Russia as mediated by migrants’ (primarily from Central Asia), refugees’ and legal professionals’ variety of legal experiences and positionalities.


Basmannyi Court, Moscow ahead of a refugee case hearing, by A.Kubal

The extensive fieldwork conducted over the course of 2014 in Moscow enabled to gather substantial material about (1) the black letter migration law in Russia and its enforcement, (2) the role of state institutions and NGOs in mediating the access to justice for migrants in Russia, and (3) the expectations, outcomes and consequences of a series of legal cases about migration and refugee issues at the different ‘corners’ in the Russian immigration and refugee justice system’ hierarchy – from the local Federal Migration Service offices, via the low level domestic courts and courts of appeal, all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

Comparing the outcomes of her ethnographic study in Russia, with data collected earlier from western countries, the project questions whether what happens to migrant sand refugees in Russia is as much in contrast with the experiences of immigrants in European and America as many observes would tend to assume. This topic inspires a deeper reflection about the consequences of state produced labels such as ‘legal’, ‘illegal’, ‘civil’ and ‘criminal’ in migration law and the access of migrants to justice more generally.

The project is generously supported by the British Academy and the John Fell Fund at Oxford University Press.


  • Kubal, 'Entry ban as surreptitious deportation? Situating zapret na v'ezd in Russian immigration law and practice in a comparative perspective' (2016) Law & Social Inquiry (forthcoming)
  • Kubal, 'Spiral Effect of the Law: Migrants’ experiences of the State Law in Russia - a comparative perspective ' (2016) International Journal of Law in Context (forthcoming)
  • Kubal, 'Refugees or Migrant Workers? A case study of undocumented Syrians in Russia - LM and Others v Russia (ECtHR 14 March 2016) ' (2016) 30 Journal of Immigration Asylum and Nationality Law 265

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