IG in Naples (2017)

IG Pre-conference workshop, Naples (6 September 2017): “The Future of International Migration Law”


Interest Group members (left to right) at the ESIL Annual Conference, Naples: Rebecca Stern, Dana Schmalz, Kristof Gombeer, Giovanni Carlo Bruno, Tom Syring, Daniela Vitiello, Ana Beduschi


The 13th Annual Conference of the European Society of International Law (Naples, 2017) explored how international law has responded, or can or should respond, to the fundamental challenge of defining and regulating global public goods, global commons and fundamental values. The pre-conference workshop organised by the ESIL Interest Group on Migration and Refugee Law (MigRefLaw) focused on the realisation of the global public good and fundamental value of international protection of forcibly displaced individuals and the benefits of safe, regular and orderly migration to all actors involved.

Within the 250 million international migrants globally, about 65.6 million people are forcibly displaced. The situation in and around the arena of the Mediterranean has been labelled as a “crisis”, an “emergency”. This emergency does not take place in a legal void. To the contrary: the overall picture that emerges is one of multiple levels of governance, actors and legal regimes. Law making and law enforcement as well as humanitarian efforts take place in a global and EU context of treaties and regulations; a framework whose complexity is augmented by a myriad of national immigration and asylum regimes. Under the broad title of ‘the future of international migration law’, i.e. the body of law and the accompanying governance levels and actors sketched above, the IG MigRefLaw workshop investigates how these multiple levels and legal regimes interact, and how this affects the provision of international protection.

The workshop panels approached this topic from mainly two angles. Panel 1 discussed whether –  and if so, how – a multi-layered and fragmented landscape of actors and legal regimes affects international protection: does a fragmentation of legal tools and policies lead to differences in the level of protection and hence threaten the provision of this public good? Or can legal regimes complement each other and enhance protection? Are there any newcomers or actors of increasing significance? What role is there for the different actors in the field in the provision of international protection and how do they interact? Nula Frei (Fribourg) looked at the interaction between international and European anti-trafficking law, on the one hand, and the asylum system based on the 1951 refugee convention, EU Directives and national laws, on the other hand, with the aim of setting out how asylum procedures must be designed to be in conformity with the international obligations of victim of human trafficking protection. In light of the recent transformation of Frontex into the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Daniela Vitiello (Roma 3) explored the potential contribution of this EU Agency’s new configuration to the legal conceptualisation of the European Integrated Border Management. Finally, Chao Yi (McGill) questioned whether treaty interpretation can function as a legitimising foundation of the Internal Relocation Principle under refugee and human rights law treaties.

Panel 2 provided a platform for the presenters to focus on what they signal as peculiarities and new challenges in the ongoing responses to the emergency and in what one could call an emerging body of international migration law. Ana Beduschi (Exeter) analysed the potential as well as caveats of using big data technologies to prevent migrants’ deaths at sea and to protect individuals against ill-treatment and trafficking from a human rights law perspective. Subsequently, Gail Lythgoe (Glasgow) discussed the spatial assumptions of international refugee law and illustrates how states use techniques such as moving borders, ‘offshoring’ administrative decision making, creating corridors and excising land to serve political agendas. Lastly, Ralph Wilde (UCL) talked about the relationship between an expanding scope of legal protection of migrants, on the one hand, and a diminishing willingness of states to provide protection, on the other hand, using the example of the extra-territorial application of the non-refoulement principle.



Welcome speech by Giovanni Carlo Bruno of the Italian Institute for Research on Innovation and services for Development (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche)

panel 1

Panel 1 (L > R): Kristof Gombeer, Nula Frei, Daniela Vitiello, Chao Yi


Panel 2 (L > R): Tom Syring, Ana Beduschi, Gail Lythgoe, Ralph Wilde





13.00 – 13.15            Introduction by Interest Group conveners

13.10 – 13.30            Welcome speech by Giovanni Carlo Bruno

13.30 – 15.45           Panel 1: ‘De-Fragmenting Paradigms in EU Migration and Asylum Governance: New Pathways to International Protection or Rising Threats to Global Public Goods?’

     Moderator: Kristof Gombeer (VU Brussel / Leiden University)

  • Nula Frei (University of Fribourg)

‘Protecting Victims of Human Trafficking in Asylum Procedures’

  • Daniela Vitiello (Roma Tre University; NCCR – On the Move)

‘The “agentification” of the EU-ropean integrated border management as a key component of the EU’s externalisation toolkit. From Frontex to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency’

  • Chao Yi (McGill University)

‘Finding a Plausible Legitimizing Foundation of the Internal Relocation Principle under Refugee and Human Rights Treaties’


15.45 – 16.00           Coffee break


16.00 – 18.00            Panel 2: ‘(Ab)normalities of international migration and refugee law: challenges and innovations’

     Moderator: Tom Syring (Norwegian Immigration Appeals Board)

  • Ana Beduschi (University of Exeter)

‘The Big Data of International Migration: Challenges and Obligations for States under International Human Rights Law’

  • Gail C. Lythgoe (University of Glasgow)

‘Rethinking the Spatial Assumptions of International Refugee Law’

  • Ralph Wilde (University College London)

‘Unintended Consequences’




Building:        Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (National Research Council)

Address:        Via Guglielmo Sanfelice no. 8, Naples, ITALY

Room:            Sala conferenze (6th floor)

Web:               http://www.esil-sedi.eu/node/1101

Contact:         kristof.gombeer@vub.be