This article adopts a critical approach in analysing restriction as a response to the refugee in policy and legal scholarship. eu migration policy hinders territorial access and poses methodological and epistemological challenges to progressively minded policy-makers and researchers. Contesting migration control means, crudely, arguing for removing restrictions or accepting them and advocating incremental protection improvements. This choice creates three conditions resulting in the refugee’s desertion. First, “legal idolisers”, who cling to protective laws, overlooking their exclusive function and second, “pragmatist-realists”, who argue a realist approach to restriction is necessary to further protection. Consequently, the field becomes vulnerable to opportunistic research designed to be palatable to policy-makers. This creates, thirdly, a sinking ship for those arguing for the removal of restrictions. Mainstream scholarship and public debate paint migration control critics as adopting a “cuddle policy” towards “illegals” and abstract the migration discourse from structures of domination and questions of historical injustice.