New book captures regional developments, tools and techniques on “Solving Statelessness”

As the UNHCR #IBelong Campaign enters its third year, it has become evident that making meaningful progress towards the goal of ending statelessness demands a more ambitious approach to the whole statelessness debate. While research projects, mapping studies and doctrinal discussions have helped to clarify the challenges faced and our understanding of what is at stake, it is time to move beyond stocktaking to inspire solutions. “Solving Statelessness”, a new book co-edited by Laura van Waas (Co-Director of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion) and Melanie Khanna (UNHCR’s Chief of Statelessness Section), seeks to do just that. Twenty-five experts from academia, civil society and UNHCR have collaborated to produce fourteen essays which all approach statelessness from a solutions perspective.

Statelessness was long seen as a niche, technical problem and those working in this field often described their experience as a rather lonely one. This is no longer the case today. Interest in statelessness has been steadily increasing since the late 1990s – within academia, among governments, at the UN and among civil society organisations. With a fresh sense of purpose in addressing the issue, there is now a growing international movement engaged in finding solutions – spurred on by the UNHCR-led #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024. As Volker Türk, UNHCR’s Director of International Protection, outlines in his introduction to this ground-breaking publication: “The global debates have moved beyond the need to explain the problem and its causes and consequences. The time has come to accelerate the momentum to implement durable solutions effectively.”

The essays which have been collected in this book, published by Wolf Legal Publishers, look at what is being done, and what more can be done, to address the issue of statelessness. Eight essays adopt a thematic focus, exploring perspectives, tools and techniques for solving statelessness which are relevant across different countries and regions. These include chapters on addressing statelessness through the right to equality, the Sustainable Development Goals and through the UN human rights mechanisms. The remaining six essays in the book have a regional focus, exploring region-specific challenges, developments and innovations set against the backdrop of the broader context of a global campaign to solve statelessness. These include reflections on the “new norms and new commitments” relating to the right to nationality in Africa, the avoidance of statelessness among children displaced by armed conflict in the Middle East and North Africa (see full table of contents below).

Themselves inspired by the generosity with which the authors have shared their time and expertise in collaborating on this publication, co-editors van Waas and Khanna feel that “a sense of optimism fuels the statelessness agenda today”. As they explain in the book’s preface, “after fighting hard to bring the issue out of the shadows, the small but growing community of people who have taken up the cause have found courage in the momentum achieved – both with respect to putting statelessness on the map and making real progress to resolve situations in a number of countries”.

But there is also a long way to go, which is why such knowledge-sharing efforts are so important. With contributions from both scholars and practitioners, the book is likely to be of interest to anyone engaged in studying or implementing solutions for statelessness, including researchers, government policy-makers, staff of international or regional inter-governmental bodies and UN agencies, grass-roots and international civil society organisations, legal practitioners and advanced-level students. The book has been described by Irene Khan, Director-General of the International Development Law Organisation, as “essential reading for the human rights advocate or development practitioner who is committed to reaching and protecting the most marginalised in society. It amply demonstrates that unless the problem of statelessness is solved, the obligations of human rights, the aspirations of development and the rule of law will never be fully realised. Importantly, it also shows how statelessness can be solved, and so is of great practical and theoretical importance”.

Solving Statelessness can be ordered online from Wolf Legal Publishers here.

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Vacancy/internship at ECRE: legal assistant

The European Council on Refugees and Exiles in Brussels is recruiting someone (11 months) to assist ECRE’s Legal Support and Litigation Team with legal research on specific topics relating to international protection, contributing to the EDAL database and activities by the ELENA network. Applications should be submitted before 11 December 2016.

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International Refugee Law Student Writing Competition

The American Society of International Law’s International Refugee Law Interest Group (IRLIG) announced its third annual International Refugee Law Student Writing Competition, co-sponsored by the Global Migration Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva; the International Law Students Association (ILSA); the International Journal of Refugee Law; and the American Society of International Law (ASIL).

Papers may address any topic related to international law and refugees, internally-displaced persons (IDPs), and forced migrants. Papers must be written solely by the candidate, in English, and may not have been submitted for publication elsewhere.

The deadline for submissions is 21 November 2016, 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time.

For more information about the competition, click here.

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Vacancy: research position (University of Graz)

The Institute of International Law and International Relations and the European Training and Research Centre for Human Rights and Democracy at the University of Graz are looking to fill a Research Position (pre-doc) for a period of 30 months. The research project looks at how transnational governance of irregular migration impacts citizenship. More info regarding the job description, qualifications, etc. can be found here: fwf-project-position-graz-migration-studies . The application deadline is 15 November 2016.

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New Book: Nationality and Statelessness in the International Law of Refugee Status

A new book, written by our IG member Eric Fripp, has been recently published, which is entitled Nationality and Statelessness in the International Law of Refugee Status (Hart Publishing, Oxford, 2016).

The book focuses upon analysis of the international law regarding nationality and statelessness (now including applicable parts of international human rights and non-discrimination law) as this affects the law of entitlement to refugee status.

For more information about this comprehensive monograph, consult this web link.

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New Book: The Political Economy of International Law – A European Perspective

A new collected volume has recently been published, edited by Alberta Fabbricotti, a member of our Interest Group, which is entitled “The Political Economy of International Law – A European Perspective” (Edward Elgar, London, 2016). Chapter 17 of the book, written by Interest Group members Daniela Vitiello and Marion Panizzon concerns “Political Economy and International Migration Law“.

“The book provides a much-needed systematic and coherent review of the interactions between Political Economy and International Law. The book reflects the need felt by international lawyers to open their traditional frontiers to insights from other disciplines – and political economy in particular. The methodological approach of the book is to take the traditional list of topics for a general treatise of international law, and to systematically incorporate insights from political economy to each.”

For more information about this highly topical book, consult this web link, or the e-book version of it.

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International Conference (special section): External and Internal Displacement – Impacts and Lessons Learned from Resettlement Processes

The Regional Studies Association, an international institution based in England, is organizing a special session entitled “External and Internal Displacement: Impacts and Lessons Learned from Resettlement Processes” in the conference: “New Pressures on Cities and Regions” to be held in London, UK on 24- 25 November 2016.

This session aims to provide a review of the resettlement processes and programs on the mass displacement of people throughout the contemporary era. Worldwide, this review can give a solid ground for further innovations for this kind of crises in terms of a better life for all; the hosted and comer. The primary focus is on both displaced people whether they are internally displaced persons (IDPs) or externally displaced persons (refugees) and their impacts on the host territory of displacement. The internally displaced persons, on one hand, have not crossed an international boundary, but have, for whatever reason, fled their homes, causing internal demographic flows. On the other hand, different nations witnessed (and are witnessing) several flows of refugees. Both types of flows have their impacts on the host communities that they end up settling, affecting, for example, their socio-economic aspects, their built environment and reshaping of Human settlements, to mention a few.

The link for more information and the call for abstracts on this special session can be found here.

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Blog: Needed In Europe: A Comprehensive Plan of Action on Refugees

by Susan M. Akram and Tom Syring 

this blog entry was originally posted at the American Society of International Law’s International Refugee Law blog 


What is the legal responsibility that European states bear towards refugees? The question does not lend to a simple, black-and-white, answer; and currently, some states are failing to uphold international norms that regulate humanitarian and migration policies.

On March 18, 2016, European Union (EU) Heads of State and Turkey entered into an agreement with a view to “end irregular migration from Turkey to the EU” and replace it with “legal channels of resettlement of refugees to the European Union.”

Under the terms of the deal, all new ‘irregular migrants’ – defined as persons either not having applied for asylum or asylum-seekers whose applications were deemed inadmissible – crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands would be returned to Turkey. In other words, for every returned Syrian (the largest group of ‘irregular migrants’), another Syrian would be resettled to the EU from Turkey directly. In addition, Turkey promised to “take any necessary measures to prevent new sea or land routes from Turkey to the EU.” In exchange, the EU would allocate €3 billion under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, with an additional €3 billion to be mobilized by the end of 2018. Lastly, and perhaps the main motivating factor for Ankara to enter into this accord, the EU promised an accelerated process to lift visa requirements for Turkish citizens.

In parallel proceedings, the EU is also pushing ahead with a migrant pact on Africa, offering similar incentives – a share in the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa – to a number of African countries in exchange for stemming the flow of potential refugees to Europe. The deal, already deemed “morally unacceptable” by several human rights organizations, may also be questionable on legal grounds.

Both the EU-Turkey and EU-Africa agreements include the contribution of large sums of money to enhance the situation for refugees already in the respective regions by creating employment and development programs. Although this approach addresses some of the root causes of migration, the problem is that it relies heavily on partners that, at least in part, have a rather dubious track record when it comes to the protection of human rights. These regimes, due to their repressive nature, represent the very reason a number of bona fides refugees try to leave.

While the EU migrant pact on Africa is still in the planning, the EU-Turkey deal has formally been in force for three months. It has led to a reduction of new arrivals, but the agreement is fragile.

The redistribution of about 160,000 refugees currently in Italy or Greece to other EU Member States has barely begun. Due to inner-EU resistance, only about 2,200 of these refugees were resettled by the end of May 2016. Only about 500 had been ‘exchanged’ with Turkey and the lifting of EU visa restrictions for Turkish citizens seems to be a distant and uncertain reality. Meanwhile, inner-EU and post-Brexit sentiments, fueled by nationalism and funneled into populist votes, threaten to undermine even the least common denominator in the EU solidarity project.

Yet, none of that affects the legal obligations each and all EU Member States have towards refugees.

Some Background: International Law, Refugees, and the EU

European states are parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol. The core requirements of these international treaties are also obligatory across the EU, since the EU Charter incorporates the Convention’s provisions as binding on all EU Member States. This means that every person fleeing persecution or war and violence should have access to fair refugee and asylum determination procedures, the obligation of non-refoulement – states are required not to return someone to their home country if their lives would be threatened – and the prohibition against mass expulsion.

Additional obligations are also placed on Member States by EU law. For example, in emergency situations, where there is a mass influx of displaced persons, states must provide temporary protection against return regardless of international EU agreements (such as Dublin and Schengen). European states parties to the European Convention on Human Rights are also prohibited from sending refugees to other states, where the individuals would be at risk of return to persecution or violations of their Convention rights [See for example, M.S.S. v. Belgium & Greece (2011); NS & ME (2011)].

An important fact that gets lost in the migration and refugee debate is that none of these provisions require European states to grant refugees citizenship rights. The obligations are not to send refugees back to a place where their life or freedom would be threatened, to provide full and fair asylum proceedings, and to grant asylum to those individuals who meet the standards defined by international law.

Do the EU’s Migrant Deals Violate International Law?

As a point of departure, international law and EU law (the EU Asylum Procedures Directive) consider a country safe when there is a democratic system, no consistent persecution, no torture or inhumane or degrading punishment, and no armed conflict or general threat of violence. Apart from its own Member States, the EU Commission currently operates with a proposed list of eight safe countries of origin, mainly in the Western Balkans, and now Turkey, entailing still individual, but fast-tracked asylum procedures.

As far as return of non-nationals is concerned, such as Syrians to Turkey, or Congolese to Libya or Sudan, the ‘safe third country’ concept becomes relevant. Few of the countries that the two pacts would encompass have solid human rights safeguards with respect to their citizens, not to mention provide fair access to asylum procedures for non-citizens. Hence, here it would seem rather questionable that the safe-country criteria would be met.

Furthermore, Turkey is the only country that has maintained provisions in its ratification of the Refugee Convention by which it recognizes only European nationals as “refugees;” and thus gives no refugee recognition to the millions of people the country is currently hosting from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and elsewhere.

Ankara also recently adopted a new Law on Foreigners and International Protection (the LFIP), under which until recently, Syrians were not subject to refoulement and were given very generous temporary status and benefits. However, since last year there is evidence that Turkey has begun refouling refugees to Syria and Iraq, and with its application of the Refugee Convention that fails to recognize non-Europeans as refugees, it remains to be tested whether it can be considered a ‘safe third country,’ for Syrians and other refugee nationalities.

The European side of the agreement, as far as it affects putative refugees, violates all of the obligations that EU Member States owe to those seeking refuge under international law and treaties.

A Comprehensive Plan of Action Needed

An appropriate response to the worst refugee crisis since World War Two is for all of Europe to participate in the UN Refugee Agency-led (UNHCR) proposal for a Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA), which sets out a specific number of refugees that each state should accept, the various kinds of statuses that participating states are willing to provide, minimum standards of benefits to be granted, and fair refugee status determination processes in all states. Similar CPAs have been negotiated in response to mass international refugee flows since the 1970s, and well-established guidelines and criteria exist as solid precedent to resolve the current dilemma plaguing Europe.

No one state is obliged to shoulder the entire refugee burden; it should be divided among the states. Currently, the front-line states of Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon are bearing an overwhelming share of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – not Europe. Turkey by itself has over 2 million registered refugees.

The wealthy countries outside the region have pledged no more than 130,000 resettlement slots. Less than 70,000 have applied for asylum in Europe, which amounts to less than 1.39 percent of the Syrian refugee flow.

Germany has adopted a more “open door” policy and took in close to 1 million refugees in 2015 (more than the total number of refugees the U.S. accepted in the last 10 years), but this response must be seen in the context of what the front-line host states are currently confronting. In Lebanon, for example, one in four persons is a refugee. Angela Merkel’s response is the correct legal one, but Germany should not have to take that position by itself. A carefully planned and implemented global CPA is the only way forward, and it is required by law.

Previous well-planned CPAs can act as legal precedents for the current crisis in Europe. These include the Indo-Chinese CPA of the 1970s, the CIREFCA following the Central American civil wars of the 1980s, and the Balkan CPA of the 1990s. Far from destabilizing resettlement in host and home states, each of these CPAs provided the responsibility-sharing and resource-sharing pacts necessary to push resolution of the conflicts forward as well as providing what was necessary to resolve the refugee crisis in each particular situation.

There is also no evidence that resettled refugees or individuals granted temporary protection in host or third states in these prior CPAs depressed the economies of those states. Current data gathered for Jordan, for example, shows that since the influx of Syrians, the state’s economy has actually grown due to a flood of refugee aid and entrepreneurship by a highly skilled and resilient refugee community. In fact, a well-planned CPA is more likely to augment the economies of European states, as the majority of the refugees are young, educated, and motivated. This new labor force will boost the tax and social security base of populations across Europe that are aging and retiring. It could be a win-win.


Susan M. Akram is Clinical Professor and Supervising Attorney at the International Human Rights Program at Boston University School of Law and Co-Chair of the American Society of International Law Interest Group on International Refugee Law. Tom Syring currently serves as Legal Adviser at the Norwegian Immigration Appeals Board and Co-Chair of the European Society of International Law Interest Group on Migration and Refugee Law.




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Blog: Why hasn’t the rise of new media transformed refugee status determination?

by Rosamary Byrne
this blog was originately posted at Oxford University Press Blog

Information now moves at a much greater speed than migrants. In earlier eras, the arrival of refugees in flight was often the first indication that grave human rights abuses were underway in distant parts of the world. Since the advent of the Arab Spring in 2011, the role of new and social media as agents of transformation has become a staple of global assumptions about the power of technology to diversify political expression and facilitate networks for social change. The events of that year also triggered a heightened awareness of the promise of technology to bear witness to human rights violations.

By arming ‘citizen journalists’ with so called ‘liberation technology’ there is now capacity to document human rights abuses on an unprecedented scale. Given the need for better and more individualized evidence of rapidly evolving situations in refugee-producing states, what has been the impact of e-evidence on refugee status determination (RSD)? Continue reading

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Registering Humanity: The EU’s Plan to Halt Citizen-led Response to the Migration Crisis

Reposted from Border Criminologies, University of Oxford (Faculty of Law)
by Mariani Gkliati, member of the Interest Group

Civil society has always been the first responder to humanitarian emergencies. For decades, fishermen, lawyers, and people living in the southern European coast have been rescuing and supporting migrants, replacing the often non-existing government structure.

While those in the frontline of the refugee crisis on the Greek island of Lesvos are being honored with a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, the EU and its member states are moving in the opposite direction, placing a strain on civil society. The Draft Council Conclusions of 26 January 2016, drawing on the policy guidelines of the EU Agenda on Migration, place the emphasis on migrant smuggling and call for higher penalties and the intensification of law enforcement, close surveillance of social media, and the participation of NGOs in investigations into migrant smuggling.

Continue reading

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