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Study information

Migrants, Refugees and Citizens in the UK

Module titleMigrants, Refugees and Citizens in the UK
Module codeLAW3204
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Helena Wray (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Legal distinctions between citizens and immigrants, and controls over the entry and stay of migrants are seen as critical to modern societies but, in practice, they are complex, contested and difficult to apply. In the UK, law and policy remain entwined with the UK’s history as a colonial poweralthough the recent past, particularly Brexit, has created new dynamics. Reflecting concerns about the entry of refugees, , irregular migration, and criminal acts by non-citizens, the state has accumulated an extraordinary range of powers over non-citizens, including of arrest, detention and deportation, while internal border controls (the immigration ‘hostile environment’) have made questions of citizenship or immigration status part of everyday life in the UK with potentially catastrophic consequences for some, as demonstrated by the Windrush scandal. Many people have lived precariously in the UK for years, while Brexit has created a new group of residents living with uncertainty.


This module will introduce you to the UK’s citizenship and immigration laws in their social, political and historical context. It is suitable for all law students and no pre-requisite modules are required. Knowledge of this area of law will be useful for students wishing to pursue a career in social-welfare law, NGOs (e.g. human rights organisations), government and the public sector, as well as for those interested in British history, politics and society or seeking to improve their understanding of a critical area of law and policy.


This module will also be useful for students who wish to or who have already worked in the Law School Immigration Law Clinic.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module will provide you with an understanding of key elements of the UK law on citizenship, refugees and immigration, placing them in their historical, political and social context, and explaining how they have been shaped by the UK’s international obligations, particularly human rights and refugee law. You will have the opportunity to think critically and analytically about how the law has evolved and whether change is needed to ensure that the issues arising in this area are resolved fairly and in accordance with values of human rights and non-discrimination.


You will gain insight into key policy areas including how the UK determines who is or is not a citizen, the rights that attach to citizenship, and how nationality law reflects the UK’s history as an imperial power. You will learn about the legal structure of immigration control, the extent and limits of government power and how its exercise may be challenged.  We will also consider the role of human rights and refugee law and the position of some specific groups such as asylum seekers and refugees, families and children, and vulnerable workers.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate knowledge of the main sources, history and current framework of immigration, nationality and asylum law in the UK and of some concepts, values and principles relevant to its application;
  • 2. Demonstrate critical awareness of some of the social, political and historical implications of immigration, nationality and asylum law in the UK;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Research, assess and integrate relevant information and ideas from primary and secondary legal and academic sources using appropriate interpretative techniques;
  • 4. Demonstrate detailed knowledge of legal concepts and their contextual/social/political implications;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Present, coherently and reflectively, accurate and relevant legal, theoretical and other arguments;
  • 6. Work independently and manage time efficiently in preparing for scheduled learning activities, exercises and assessments.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:  

  • Immigration as a political, social and regulatory issue
  • Historical perspectives on UK immigration and nationality law
  • The legal structure of control
  • UK nationality law
  • Human rights and immigration
  • Asylum seekers and refugees
  • Families and children under immigration law
  • Criminality, deportation and detention
  • Vulnerable migrant workers

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities16.511 x 1.5 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities1010 x 1 hour seminars
Guided independent study88.5Lectures and workshops preparation (to include advance reading and preparation of questions and activities)
Guided independent study35Revision and assessment preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1,250 words1-6Written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1002,500 words1-6Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (2,500 words) 1-6August/September re-assessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:


Background reading:


  • Nadine El-Enany ‘(B)ordering Britain: Law, Race and Empire’


  • Amelia Gentleman (2019) ‘The Windrush Betrayal: Exposing the Hostile Environment’ (Guardian Faber Publishing)


  • Maya Goodfellow (2019) ‘Hostile Environment: How immigrants became scapegoats’ (Verso Books)


  • Colin Yeo (2020) ‘Welcome to Britain: Fixing our Broken Immigration System’ (Biteback Publishing)




A range of reading will be set including extracts from the following books:


  • Gina Clayton and Georgina Firth ‘Textbook on Immigration Asylum Law’ OUP 9th edition 2021


  • Ann Dummett, and Andrew Nichol ‘Subjects, Citizens, Aliens and Others: Nationality and Immigration Law’ (Butterworth’s 1990)


  • Helena Wray ‘Regulating Marriage Migration into the UK: A Stranger in the Home’ (Ashgate 2011)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Articles from journals, for example:

Journal of Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Law

European Journal of Migration and Law

Public Law


Online resources such as:

Free Movement

UK Human Rights Blog:

Key words search

Migration; Citizenship; Refugees; Human Rights; Public Law

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date