The “scandal” of foreign criminals whom our governments cannot send back to their own countries has become something of a tabloid obsession. Yet, while suspected or convicted of serious crimes or considered to pose a danger to society, such “undesirable and unreturnable” aliens equally often languish in an ambiguous and even dangerous state of protracted legal “limbo”, lacking a defined immigration status and attendant access to basic rights in the host State. In the absence of an agreed common framework for resolving this anomalous situation, how do individual States deal with the legal and policy paradox that is embodied by these purportedly “undesirable”, but also ultimately non-removable, aliens?

This Special Issue offers a preliminary perspective on this contemporary concern by presenting eight specially commissioned pieces of new research. Each of the contributions examines a different national context where this issue has arisen in recent years, resulting in eight detailed country case studies covering Australia, Canada, France, Greece, India, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. The aim is to produce a comparative understanding of national responses in this relatively diverse range of countries.

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