Jona Zyfi

PhD Student

Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • Artificial intelligence and automation in relation to migration and refugee processes
  • Big data and predictive analytics in relation to detention, borders, and punishment
  • Forced and irregular migration
  • The criminalization and securitization of migration and asylum 
  • Refugee protection and resettlement 
  • The intersections of citizenship, belonging, state sovereignty/power and human rights

Working Dissertation


Audrey Macklin


Jona (Yona) Zyfi is a doctoral student at the Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies and a Junior Fellow at Massey College. Born in Albania and raised in Australia, her research is motivated by her lived experiences with immigration and refugee systems and processes. While her research interests are broad, her PhD work focuses on the role and human rights impact of technology in immigration and refugee status determinations. In 2020 Jona was awarded a SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Doctoral Scholarship and is a past recipient of the SSHRC Top 25 Storyteller Award, the Barbara Frum Memorial Award in Canadian Scholarship and an Ontario Graduate Scholarship. Presently, she is a research assistant for a project examining private refugee sponsorship in Canada from a sponsor’s perspective and the co-host of an academic podcast called Criminologia. She is also one of three researchers on the Canadian team of the PROTECT project which studies the impacts of the United Nations’ Global Refugee Compact and Global Migration Compact on the functioning of the international refugee protection system. The study is being conducted in 20 countries and is funded by the European Commission under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 framework. Outside of academia, Jona is an English-Albanian interpreter, plays tennis, and enjoys biking with her husky, Nala. 


  • (forthcoming) Zyfi, J. & Macklin, A. (n.d.). The role of privatization in Canada’s immigration detention centers. In A. Luscombe, D. Silva., & K. Walby (Eds.), Private Influences, Privatization, and Criminal Justice in Canada (Chapter 13). Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.
  • Macklin, A., Goldring, L., Hyndman, J., Korteweg, A., Barber, K., & Zyfi, J. (2020). The kinship between refugee and family sponsorship (Working Paper No. 2020/4). 
  • Zyfi, J., Abu Alrob, Z., & Atak, I. (2020, August 4). Canada’s response to the Global Compact on Refugees: Are we doing enough? The Migration Initiative.
  • Atak, I., Abu Alrob, Z., & Zyfi, J. (2020, July 27). The US is not safe for asylum seekers: Federal Court of Canada strikes down the Canada-US Agreement. PROTECT.
  • Macklin, A., Barber, K., Goldring, L., Hyndman, J., Korteweg, A., Labman, S., and Zyfi, J. (2020). Kindred spirits? Links between refugee sponsorship and family sponsorship. In S. Labman, & G. Cameron (Eds.), Strangers to neighbours: Refugee sponsorship in context (pp.). Montreal, QC: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
  • Zyfi, J. & Atak, I. (2018). Playing with lives under the guise of fair play: the safe country of origin policy in the EU and Canada, Int. J. Migration and Border Studies, 4(4), 345-365. [Special Issue: The Criminalisation of Migration and Asylum: A Comparative Analysis of Policy Consequences and Human Rights Impact].
  • Macklin, A., Barber, K., Goldring, L., Hyndman, J., Korteweg, A., Labman, S., and Zyfi.J. (2018). A preliminary investigation into private refugee sponsorship, Canadian Ethnic Studies, 50 (2), 35-58. [Special Issue: Canada’s Syrian refugee program, intergroup relationships and identities].
  • Zyfi, J. (2016). Syrian refugee resettlement in Canada: An auto-ethnographic account of sponsorship (Working Paper No. 2016/2). 


MA (Criminology), University of Toronto
BA Hons. (Criminology, Ethics and Psychology), Ryerson University


Zyfi, J. (Aug 2020). Destined to be a criminal: Biometrics, race and predictions of criminality. Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), Prague, Czech Republic.
(Nov 2019). The Privatization of Immigration Detention in Canada. American Society of Criminology (ASC), San Francisco, USA.
Zyfi, J. (May 2019). Role of biometrics in immigration decisions. Canadian Association for Refugees and Forced Migration Studies (CARFMS), Toronto, Canada.
Zyfi, J. (Jun 2019). Privatization of immigration detention practices in Canada. The Migration Conference, Rome, Italy.
Zyfi, J. (Jul 2018). Playing with lives under the guise of fair play: The safe country of origin policy in the EU and Canada. International Association for the Study of Forced Migration, Thessaloniki, Greece.
Zyfi, J. (May 2018). Syrian refugee resettlement through storytelling. CARFMS Student Caucus, Ottawa, Canada.
Zyfi, J. (Nov 2017). You say safe, but for who? ASC, Philadelphia, USA.
Zyfi, J. (Sept 2017). Europe’s Influence on Canada’s Designated Country of Origin Policy. International Metropolis Conference, The Hague, Netherlands.
Zyfi, J. (May 2017). Safe for Some, Not for Others: Europe’s Influence on Canada’s Refugee Policy. CARFMS, Victoria, Canada.
Zyfi, J. (Nov 2016). Challenges in the Fight against Human Trafficking in Europe: Enhancing the Resilience of State Policy and Practice. (animated poster). ASC, New Orleans, USA.
Montevirgen, M., & Zyfi, J. (Jun 2016). #RefugeeCrisis: Analyzing Social Constructions of the Syrian Refugee Crisis Through Twitter Hashtags. Justice, Crime and Deviance Graduate Conference, Brantford, Canada.
Zyfi, J. (May 2016). Safe Countries of Origin Concept in the EU and Canada: Policy and Human Rights Implications. CARFMS, Winnipeg, Canada.
Zyfi, J. (Jun 2015). Asylum in Canada: Policy and Human Rights for Refugees. (research video) Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Congress, Ottawa, Canada.
Zyfi, J. (May 2015). The Criminalization of Migration in a Canadian Context. CARFMS, Toronto, Canada.
Zyfi, J. (Feb 2015). The International Student Experience. Speaking Your Language Mental Health Symposium, Toronto, Canada.

Administrative Service

Student Director. The Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (CARFMS).
Cluster Co-Lead. The Emerging Scholars & Practitioners in Migration Issues Network (ESPMI).
Peer Reviewer. International Journal of Migration and Border Studies, Inderscience Journals.
Peer Reviewer. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees.
Graduate Student Representative. Faculty of Arts & Science Governance Council, University of Toronto.
Graduate Student Representative. Faculty of Arts & Science Graduate Curriculum Committee, University of Toronto.
Unit 1 Departmental Steward. CUPE 3902.