I have survived detention, torture, and human trafficking since I left Eritrea for Sudan in 2011. For nearly a decade, I found myself caught in an extra-legal continuum that I aspire to understand. Official documents initially referred to me as an “asylum seeker”, but later as a “refugee”. Despite these challenges, I have never surrendered to the difficulties I have been through nor did I rely on my precarious status. In fact, I have used these challenges to improve my status, strengthen my skills, and secure access to opportunities. I am now a “naturalised” UK citizen, becoming a rights-bearing subject for the first time since I was born.

My background gave me a unique opportunity to set a vision for my personal, professional, and career development. Through my involvement with academic institutions and professional organisations, I have identified opportunities for personal, professional, research, and leadership development to underpin my career ambitions and learning journey. I have embarked on the journey of effecting change through my work at the academic and professional levels.


I am a researcher with a Ph.D. in the Realities of Eritrean Refugees in a Carceral Age from the University of Glasgow, where I currently work as a research associate. I have extensive research experience in undertaking fieldwork, interviews, critical evaluation and interpretation, and computer-based data analysis and evaluation. Moreover, I possess strong decolonial and critical thinking skills and bring unique experience and perspective to migration-related policy development and implementation. I am interested in theorising the challenges forced migrants face and the biopolitical b/ordering that led to their challenges and contributing towards a positive change.

In my current role as a research associate, I am involved in:

  • Undertaking research and the synthesis of findings, and divergence of approaches to provide innovative insights in relation to theoretical, methodological, and policy-oriented questions.
  • Drawing together expertise from a range of disciplines including theatre studies, arts practice, languages, literature and cultural studies, gender studies, anthropology, sociology, and decolonial studies.
  • Developing and building upon established academic and non-academic collaborations with a range of partners.
Research interest

My Ph.D. project examines the realities of Eritrean refugees in their process of becoming, and the conditions of being, refugees. Underpinned by ontological, epistemological, and methodological assumptions of critical realism, the Ph.D. research considers the what, how, and why questions that underpin Eritrean refugees’ realities of becoming, and the conditions of being, refugees. Its key findings fall into three broad categories:

  • The thesis finds that Eritreans are born into, and live in, conditions of lawlessness and rightlessness that began with the colonial occupation of what is now known as Eritrea, and these conditions have been maintained by the only government that has ruled the country since its independence. This precarious condition of “no-laws nor rights”, and the modalities of punishment and control the government has imposed on the Eritrean people, explains why the country has been haemorrhaging its youthful population.
  • Due to their unprotected status, Eritrean refugees have been left stranded indefinitely in exclusive biopolitical entanglements and necropolitical experimentations, in which they have been treated as disposable corporealities that are always available for exploitation, violence, and removal without accountability.
  • The disenfranchisement of the refugees, and the collapse of all their human experiences and relations into indefinite modalities of precarity, carcerality, and (im)mobility, has led to the total negation of their humanity. In these conditions, occurrences of dehumanisation and depoliticisation of Eritrean refugees are endless; murder is not unusual, nor is it a crime.

In presenting these findings, I do not only investigate the realities of being an Eritrean refugee but also how processes and intertwined power relations interplay with causal powers and contextual circumstances that are responsible for the relegation of Eritrean lives to the precarious condition of being unliveable and ungrievable.

Through these findings, my thesis makes three key contributions:

  • Exposing the gaps in human rights discourses and esoteric political imaginations, it offers an alternative approach to understanding the perplexing nature of the state of Eritrea and the realities of the people fleeing the county, by suggesting a total absence of law and rights, using the rule of ‘no-laws nor rights’ as a starting point.
  • The thesis looks at how, in their constant struggle for survival and political existence, refugees play a disruptive role by shaking the principles upon which the nation-state system has been built. Agamben makes this case from a Euro-centric perspective, thus he fails to see the links between the “world of modernity” and the “world of coloniality”, and hence, the subjectivities these worlds create, shape, and reproduce.
  • Drawing on clues from seminal thinkers in the fields of sovereignty and biopolitics, such as Arendt, Foucault, and Agamben, the thesis opens new areas of criticism to further our understanding of the role of the state in the biopolitical b/ordering of societies and the policing of the ability to qualify as human.

Through my Ph.D. work and subsequent research, I seek to impact and effect change in four inter-related domains:

  1. Empirical domain – to uncover and document multiple axes of immobility and precarity and discounted capabilities. 
  2. Structural domain – to examine the concrete structures that led to the lived experiences, such as the rule of “no-laws nor rights” in Eritrea and the “carceral continuum” with its borders, asylum regimes, and humanitarian responses.
  3. Policy domain – to promote a) “decolonial” and more humane immigration policies; b) safe passages and hospitable reception zones; c) human-centered, trauma-informed, and decolonial asylum systems; and d) “restorative integration” strategies.
  4. Conceptual domain – to examine modes of production and administration of power that are responsible for biopolitical exploitation, collective indignation, and loss of rights of refugees.

© 2022. Hyab T. Yohannes.