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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

One aspect of the dramatic situation of migrants and refugees in Europe is the increasing number of border deaths. In his seminal article ‘The Human Costs of Border Control’ (2007), Thomas Spijkerboer raised the question of whether this is a human rights issue. In his talk, he will address the ways in which traveller safety is addressed in three different legal systems, being that concerning air travel (in the context of the International Civil Aviation Organization), sea travel (in the context of the International Maritime Organization), and irregular travel (in the context of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime). The stark contrast between the sophisticated, imaginative and innovative systems developed in the context of the IMO and especially the ICAO, and on the other hand the UNODC context, suggests that the right of states under international law to exclude aliens from their territory implies the right of the same states to exclude these aliens from their positive obligations under the right to life as laid down in international law.

about the speaker

Thomas Spijkerboer is a professor of Migration Law at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, where he is one of the lecturers in the master’s track on International Migration and Refugee Law. He studied law at the Universiteit van Amsterdam and from 1982 to 1986 worked as a volunteer at the Rechtswinkel Amsterdam (legal clinic), specializing in housing law. From 1986 to 1993, he worked at Advokatenkollektief Zaanstreek (lawyers’ collective), where he specialised in asylum cases. Later, he was a lecturer in Migration law at the Catholic University of Nijmegen, where he wrote his dissertation Gender and Refugee Status (Ashgate, 2000; Praemium Erasmianum 2001), combining qualitative, quantitative and purely legal approaches.

Since 2000 Thomas has worked at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, where he established the research group on migration law, one of the largest research groups on the issue worldwide. He co-directed (together with Kees Groenendijk) the research project 'Transnationality and Citizenship: New Approaches to Migration Law' and from 2011-2012, carried out the research project 'Fleeing Homophobia. Asylum claims related to sexual orientation and gender identity in the EU', resulting in a report and an edited volume. Since 2013, he has led the multi-disciplinary research project 'Border Policies and Sovereignty. Human rights and the right to life of irregular migrants'. In addition, he is the ad interim head of the NWO-funded research project 'Migration Law as a Family Matter'.

More information about his work can be found at: