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RSC Public Seminar Series, Hilary Term: 'Destination: Europe'

Convenors: Cathryn Costello and Stephanie Motz

In the absence of safe and legal routes to claim asylum, refugees currently make their own way to Europe, risking their lives in the process. They face many European crises: humanitarian ones at their places of arrival and border crossings; legal ones as some states flout their international and EU obligations, and security ones as rational fears become unduly associated with refugees. There are, of course, many Europes: the EU (with its elaborate Common European Asylum System); the wider Europe of the Council of Europe and pan-European human rights protection, encompassing Turkey; and the Europe of the Mediterranean, Mare Nostrum. Faced with the arrival of refugees in large numbers, the reactions and responsibilities of these various Europes will be considered. Reactions range from small scale offers of relocation and resettlement; to military responses to human smuggling in Libya; to border closures of the Balkans and Central and Eastern Europe; and moves to accommodate large new refugee populations in Germany, Sweden and the other main destination states. The series will examine the implications for European integration, European values and the global refugee protection regime, taking a long and broad view. Legal, historical and political perspectives will be explored.

This seminar series complements Issue 51 of Forced Migration Review, published on 5 January 2016 and also titled 'Destination: Europe'.

About this seminar

2015 saw several EU Member States struggling with the largest asylum-seeker and migrant arrivals in their territory in decades. Public, political and operational responses in different Member States have ranged from generous and welcoming to hostile and violent. As the strains on national and EU asylum systems become increasingly evident, it is apparent that the EU was not prepared for the crisis, despite ongoing conflict, human rights violations and unsustainable conditions in many of its neighbouring countries. Furthermore, despite 15 years of efforts to construct a common EU asylum policy, the Union does not have a united view on how to address it effectively, in line with fundamental rights and refugee protection obligations, as well as political and practical realities on the ground.

This lecture will examine how the EU’s Common European Asylum System reached this point, and consider its prospects for the near future. It will analyse the commitments made by all Member States to develop a common system for protecting refugees based on ‘solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility’, and critically assess measures taken to date, in light of their notable gaps as well as positive achievements. It will look in particular at proposals and initiatives launched in 2015, including emergency ‘relocation’ of asylum-seekers, and other measures envisaged in the European Commission’s Agenda for Migration. It will examine what can and should be done now by Member States and the EU in order to address the immediate challenges in a lawful, principled and sustainable way -  and ask what might be the consequences if they fail to do so.

About the speaker

Madeline Garlick will assume the role of Chief of the Protection Policy and Legal Advice Section in UNHCR’s Division of International Protection, Geneva from January 2016. She is also a Guest Researcher at the Centre for Migration Law at Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and teaches on an occasional basis at Sciences Po, Paris, and at the College of Europe in Bruges. She was responsible for UNHCR’s liaison to the EU institutions from 2004-2013. She worked previously for the UN in Cyprus, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on legal issues related to the rights of displaced people. She is qualified as a barrister and solicitor in Victoria, Australia.