The (ab)normality of migration and the legal position of migrants under international law

Call for blog submissions

The ESIL Interest Group on Migration and Refugee Law seeks to organize a blog symposium in the Fall/Winter of 2014 on the topic of the (ab)normality of migration.

Migration is a normal part of life, and always has been. Cells migrate, birds migrate and, of course, humans migrate. Human migration is a constant in the history of the world. Migrants make up a steady 3% of the world’s population. As the world’s population grew, the number of migrants grew with it. But this has not changed the percentage: it continues to be roughly 3%. People have always sought new and better homes, for varying reasons. Of course, some of the underlying reasons for migration should not be accepted as normal, such as persecution, war and natural disasters. However, such forced migration only accounts for a small percentage of overall migration. Moreover, the causes of a phenomenon should not be conflated with the phenomenon itself: the observation that some of the causes for migration are not normal does not detract from the fact that migration is a normal phenomenon.

Despite the normalcy of migration, it appears that we have come to treat migration more and more as an abnormality in recent times. Many policies bear testimony to this development; one need only think of increasing restrictions on family reunification, measures of migration-related detention, and the introduction of civic integration tests. At the same time, countries crucially depend on migration; either upon the (un)skilled workforce it delivers, or upon the revenue it creates. Policies introduced therefore aim to limit and shape migration, so that only the wanted embark on the journey. Migration is thus increasingly seen as an abnormal phenomenon that must be controlled, and the person of the migrant has become the object of such limiting, discouraging, and/or selective policies. The question therefore arises what this means in terms of the legal position of migrants under international law.

The blog symposium will feature three or four longer contributions by different members of the interest group. The objective of the blog symposium is two-fold. First, members select a policy and describe how, according to them, it fits within the broader trend identified above. Second, members critically engage with the selected policy and analyse how it affects the legal position of migrants under international law. The blog symposium will preferably be published on EJIL:Talk! which, in light of its large following and professional approach, is the most appropriate outlet. Contributions are not subject to a word limit, but should in principal not exceed 1000 words. Contributions are reviewed by the Coordinating Committee of the interest group and/or editors of EJIL:Talk!.

Members of the Interest Group are invited to participate in this symposium. If you would like to do so, please send an e-mail to lisa-marie.komp [at] by Wednesday, November 5.

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Call for papers: Nordic Asylum Law Seminar 7-8 May 2015

The Lund / Uppsala Migration Law Network (L/UMIN) in co-operation with the Faculty of Law, Uppsala University, are organising the 2015 Nordic Asylum Law Seminar, 7-8 May, in Uppsala (Sweden). The Seminar offers a forum for exchange and dialogue on issues related to domestic, European and international refugee and asylum law between scholars, governments, judicial institutions, practising lawyers and civil society in the Nordic and Baltic context.

The overarching theme for this Seminar is Unequal Treatment: The Root of All Claims for Protection? The chosen theme is to be interpreted broadly and to include material as well as procedural aspects of determination of refugee or complementary protection status. The Seminar consists of plenary sessions with renowned keynote speakers and workshops were papers submitted by scholars and other participants will be commented and discussed. Junior scholars are particularly encouraged to submit and present papers.

Abstracts (no more than 400 words) should be sent to seminar [at] migrationlawnetwork [dot] org by Monday 26 January 2015.

Click here for more information.  

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“Migrants’ and children’s rights need better protection in the Netherlands”


Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, released a report after his visit to the Netherlands, stating that “The Netherlands has a solid human rights protection system, but in practice there are shortcomings, in particular as concerns migrants and children, that need to be addressed”.

Especially the extensive use of administrative detention of asylum seekers and immigrants concerns Muižnieks, since detention is a practice that is only allowed as a measure of last resort, for the shortest possible period of time and when no effective alternative is applicable. Addressing specifically the systematic detention of asylum seekers arriving at international (air)ports from non-Schengen countries, the Commissioner notes that unaccompanied minors are exempted from its application and that families with children are to be detained only in exceptional circumstances.

See here more information, and click here for the report.

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Policy shift within UNHCR: alternatives for encampment


UNHCR has just released a new policy on alternatives to refugees camps. The policy paper indicates that refugee camps, while remaining an important feature of the humanitarian landscape, might also have a signigicant negative impact on the longer term for all concerned. Living in camps, says UNHCR, can cause dependency and weaken the ability if refugees to manage their own lives, which perpetuates the trauma of displacement and creates barriers to solutions. Furthermore, camps can also distort local economies and development planning, while also causing negative environmental impacts in the surrounding area.

The policy shift has been received as a positive breakthrough, although much is dependent on its implementation. According to the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), this will be a considerable challenge. UNHCR acknowledges itself as well that creating effective alternatives to camps requires a permissive policy environment, and national legislation in many countries of asylum continues to require encampment. Furthermore, with governments becoming increasingly exclusionary in their politics regarding refugees, convincing them to allow refugees to move freely is going to be difficult.

Read the policy paper by UNHCR here, and the reaction of the IRRI here

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Symposium on the Protection of Persons Fleeing Armed Conflict and Other Situations of Violence


On Monday 20 October 2014, the University of Luxembourg will host a symposium, jointly organised with the UNHCR, on the protection of person fleeing situations of armed violence.  The event will consider the issue of assessing claims for international protection for persons fleeing armed conflict or other situations of violence: using Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Geneva Convention or Article 15 of the EU Qualification Directive? Particular attention will be paid to the new UNHCR guidelines on the subject.

Participants will include Pascale Moreau (UNHCR), Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston (CJEU), Judge Lars Bay Larsson (ECJ), Judge Ledi Bianku (ECHR), Alice Edwards (UNHCR), Prof. James Sweeney (Lancaster University), Blanche Tax (UNHCR), Serge Bodart (ULB), Prof. Matthew Happold (University of Luxembourg), and Philippa Candler (UNHCR).

For more information, click here

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UNHCR: Turkey receives as many Syrian refugees in three days as Europe did in three years

news article

On Wednesday 26 September, UNHCR reported that Turkey received 138,000 refugees in three days, which is equivalent to the number of refugees received by Europe in the past three years. Spokesperson for the UNHCR, Melissa Fleming, revealed this at a press conference held at its headquarters in Geneva.

During the press conference, Fleming also called on the international community to provide more assistance to Turkey, which has so far received a million and a half Syrian refugees. She said that huge numbers of Syrians are fleeing Islamic State terrorist attacks and that many of them try to make their way to Turkey in search of safety.

Read more here

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Publication: the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision on detention of asylum seekers

Second Strike and You are (Finally) out? The Quashing of the Prevention of Infiltration Law (Amendment No. 4)
by Reuven (Ruvi) Ziegler
(this article has been cross-posted on the Oxford Human Rights Hub Blog)


On 22 September 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court sitting as a High Court of Justice quashed in a 217-page judgment (HCJ 8425/13 Anon v. Knesset et al, full text in Hebrew) the Prevention of Infiltration Law (Amendment no. 4) (full text in Hebrew). The amendment enacted two schemes: first, section 30A, authorising the detention for one year of any ‘infiltrator’ (the term was introduced by the above law, and shall be used in quotation marks in this discussion) entering Israel after the amendment’s coming into force. Second, Chapter D, authorising the holding in an ‘open’ residency centre of ‘infiltrators’ whose removal from Israel (according to the State’s official determination) proves to be ‘difficult’. ‘Infiltrators’ are to be held indefinitely unless they ‘voluntarily’ agree to return their state of origin, or to be transferred to a third state (see my critique of the legislation, and discussion of the proceedings before the HCJ).

Almost a year to the day, on 16 September 2013, the same panel quashed Amendment no. 3 that authorised the detention of ‘infiltrators’ for three years (see my analysis). This is the first time that the Supreme Court has re-annulled primary legislation. Following a brief outline of the judgment, I shall consider several themes that may be of comparative constitutional interest. Continue reading

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Call for papers: Refugee Law Initiative Working Group

The Refugee Law Initiative (RLI) invites submissions to its Working Paper Series. The series provides for the rapid dissemination of preliminary research results and other work in progress, reflecting cross and inter-displicinary interests within refugee law and policy, broadly defined. Recent papers have considered integration, detention and smuggling of asylum-seekers, gender-related asylum claims and long-term encampment.

Schermafbeelding 2014-09-26 om 20.45.30The RLI Working Papers are prominently displayed on the RLI website as a resource for scholars and practinioners worldwide. Papers published in the series may subsequently be published in journals or books provided that an acknowledgement is given to the RLI Working Paper Series.

For the submission guide, see here. For further information click here, and / or to submit a paper please contact the Editor-in-Chier, Dr. Ruvi Ziegler, at r [dot] ziegler [at] reading [dot] ac [dot] uk.

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Call for papers: ESIL Research Forum 2015

The European Society of International Law has issued a call for papers for its 2015 Research Forum, which will take place May 14-15, 2015, at the European University Institute. With the transition to Annual Conferences, the Society will maintain the Research Forum in a smaller but more intensive format. The Research Forum is re-launched as a scholarly conference which promotes engagement with research in progress by members of the Society. From 2015, it will be convened at least once a year and is organiSed around a broad theme.

The Research Forum targets in particular scholars at an early stage of their careers, especially advanced PhD students and post-doctoral researchers. All ESIL members are invited to attend the Research Forum as audience members. This year, the Research Forum calls for papers addressing the following set of issues in international law:

The Use of Force
Statehood, Secession, the Creation of States
The Legitimacy and Illegitimacy of Governments and States
Territories and Boundaries

Read more here

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Israeli Supreme Court orders closing detention center. Again.

The Israeli High Court of Justice ordered the state on Monday to close the Holot detention facility for asylum seekers within 90 days, a dramatic decision that marked the first time the court has ever struck down two versions of the same law: the Anti-Infiltration Act. As part of its ruling, the High Court also overturned another provision of the same law that allowed asylum seekers who entered Israel illegally to be incarcerated without trial in a closed facility for up to a year.

Justice Uzi Vogelman, who wrote the majority ruling, termed conditions at the Holot detention center “wretched” and said the court was justified in overturning a law enacted by the Knesset for the second time because the legislation “violates human rights in an essential, deep and fundamental way.”

Last year, the Court had already ruled that African migrants and refugees could not be detained for 3 years without a trial. Dr. Reuben Ziegler, a member of this Interest Group, has written two publications on the infamous Anti-Infiltration Act and the rulings of the Court. These publications can be found here and here.

More on the recent judgment of the Court can be found here

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