A modern labyrinth
: Socio-legal insights on migration paths to citizenship in the UK

  • Maria Margarita Pimentel

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisJD (Juris Doctor)


Migration is a deeply controversial and personal reality for many people around the world. Based on this research, one overarching theme that has driven this project is that human inequality is part of modern society’s legacy. Over generations, structures of inequality have been inherited and everyone must contend with this reality in order to strive for a better world. Migration has been a part of the human story for centuries. In the UK, the development of migration law has come from an ad hoc system adopted from its colonial past. Its modern form continues to reflect tensions among people during times of major disruption in the social structures of everyday life. The most significant political shift over the last five years has been the majority of UK citizens voting to leave the European Union (“EU”) with migration as one of the key factors that split the nation.

Ultimately, this project is an investigation on whether the UK’s modern migration system is failing skilled non-UK/EU migrants based on general socio-political conditions and specific legal conditions, if so how is it reflected in the legal and political development of migration policy, and what can be done to change this. This project hypothesizes that the UK migration system may be failing skilled migrants based on two conditions: [1] if the UK’s migration policy is solely related to a nationalist agenda, then UK lawmakers driven by nationalist political aims may have a higher tendency to produce unequal/exclusionary migration laws against skilled migrants, and [2] if principles of legality and human rights norms are related to a properly functioning migration system, then a government that creates a dysfunctional migration process may have a greater tendency of being non-compliant to standards of legality and human rights norms. This research project argues that a migration system cannot properly function if it is based on a nationalist political agendas; human rights values must be at the heart of policy reform in order to create an open, fair, accessible and sustainable migration process that can meet the needs of modern society.

The research project was developed through two phases: the Portfolio chapters and the Dissertation chapter. The Portfolio is composed of three parts: the Literature Review, the Case Note and the Statute Report. The Literature review will provide a summary of how UK migration has been understood from a range of texts to establish a gap in knowledge where this research project aims to contribute. The Case Note and Statute Report provide two detailed examples of how the UK’s migration system may be failing skilled migrants through recent case law and legislation. Lastly, the Dissertation will investigate how and why the UK’s modern migration system may be driven by a nationalist agenda by looking at how migration policies are developed to exclude migrant rights. Overall, the project aims to modestly contribute to a better understanding of the complex nature of migration within legal studies by using a range of socio-legal theories.

Note this thesis is a Juris Doctorate (JD) in Law
Date of AwardDec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorPeter Doran (Supervisor) & Mark Hanna (Supervisor)


  • Juris Doctorate Law
  • JD Law

Cite this