Past events

AAIL-ESIL event (October 2016)

On 14 October 2016, ESIL and the African Association of International Law (AAIL) coorganized a well-received conference on “International Legal Aspect of Migration: African and European Perspectives”. The conference generously funded by the Ministry of Security and Justice of the Netherlands and co-sponsored by the American Society of International Law (ASIL), brought together speakers from 12 countries, more than half of them from Africa. In order to accommodate francophone speakers and attendees, English-French interpretation services were provided throughout the day. The conference was organized around four panels, covering Foundational Issues, including the drivers of irregular migration, African and European Perspectives on Recent “Safe (Third) Country” Debates, including the increasing securitization of migration and asylum law in Europe, Multilateral Dependencies and Migration Management, and The End of the Journey – International Legal Obligations Regarding Resettlement, Relocation, and Return. After a day full of engaged discussion among the panelist as well as the audience, the general sentiment expressed in the various concluding remarks was that hopefully this conference was not only the first time AAIL and ESIL cooperated, but that it may be the start of a series of cooperation between the sister organizations in order to foster fruitful and much needed dialogue in areas of mutual concern.

More info about the AAIL-ESIL event can be found here: AAIL-ESIL Conference Booklet[2311].



EJIL: Talk! – Symposium on the (Ab)normality of Migration and the Legal Position of Migrants (May 2015)

In May 2015, the Interest Group (IG) on Migration and Refugee Law in close cooperation with EJIL: Talk! launched its first blog symposium under the impetus of IG founding members Isabelle Swerrissen, Lisa-Marie Komp and Evelien van Roemburg. In the blog symposium, the IG focuses on the idea that, despite the normalcy of migration, states have come to treat it 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. The person of the migrant is the object of such limiting, discouraging and selective policies.

Three members of the interest group took on this overarching topic in their contributions to the blog symposium, each in their own way. Juan Amaya-Castro kicks off the blog symposium. He argues that international migration law is “about selecting among potential or prospective migrants” and that it therefore provides a “license to discriminate” on the basis of economic worth. In the next post, Nikolaos Sitaropoulos counters this argument by saying that it “confuses differential with discriminatory treatment”. With reference to the case law of the Strasbourg Court, he shows that human rights provide a “protective layer” against discriminatory treatment. Concluding the blog symposium is Francesca Pizzutelli, who takes the potential for protection even further. She discusses “three types of limitations on state sovereignty with respect to migration”.


Panel discussion (May 2014)

On 16 May 2014, the Interest Group on Migration and Refugee Law of the European Society of International Law, the Centre for Migration Law of the Radboud University Nijmegen and the Amsterdam Center for International Law of the University of Amsterdam organized ‘Heading to Europe: Safe Haven or Graveyard?’, a panel discussion on migration by sea in the Mediterranean. The panel discussion was held at the Radboud University Nijmegen (CPO-zaal, Spinozagebouw, Montessorilaan 3, Nijmegen).

The year of 2013 has demonstrated that the tragedy of thousands of migrants and refugees drowning on the shores of Europe is now a common occurrence.  The fate of those who perished near the Italian island of Lampedusa has brought the urgency of the situation into focus. The aim of the panel discussion is to provide an overview of the legal rules and processes applicable to migration by sea in the Mediterranean and to reflect on their wider sociological implications.

The panel discussion consists of two panels, each followed by a plenary discussion. In the first panel, legal experts working in the field of academia and at stakeholder organizations (e.g. UN Refugee Agency, Council of Europe, European Union) focus on legal aspects of boat migration in the Mediterranean. The second panel brings together scholars and practitioners with first-hand experience from transit countries to discuss the sociological effects of the legal rules and processes. Click here for the complete program, and here for more information on the panelists.

The organizing partners cordially invite interested scholars, governments officials, practitioners and advanced students to join in the panel discussion ‘Heading to Europe: Safe Haven or Graveyard?’. Active participation in the discussion is strongly encouraged. Participation is free of charge. For participation, please register at the bottom of this page. The deadline for registration is Tuesday 13 May 2014. For inquiries, please contact Lisa-Marie Komp at




“People Will Come No Matter What”

On 16 May 2014, the Interest Group on Migration and Refugee Law of the European Society of International Law, in close cooperation with the Centre for Migration Law of the Radboud University Nijmegen and the Amsterdam Center for International Law of the University of Amsterdam, organized a panel discussion on migration by sea in the Mediterranean, entitled ‘Heading to Europe: Safe Haven or Graveyard?’. The panel discussion, which took place in Nijmegen, brought together approximately 50 scholars, government officials and practitioners working in the field of migration and refugee law and policy.

In the weeks preceding the panel discussion, a string of boat tragedies occurred in the Mediterranean in which more than 100 migrants and refugees are believed to have perished. The frequency with which such tragedies take place, demonstrates the urgency of the situation and sparked the idea of organizing a panel discussion on the topic. The aim of the panel discussion was two-fold: first, to provide an overview of the existing and developing legal framework applicable to migration by sea in the Mediterranean and, second, to reflect on the wider sociological implications of that legal framework. 

The first panel on the legal aspects of migration by sea in the Mediterranean was kicked off by Maarten den Heijer. He gave a presentation about the latest Frontex regulation on maritime surveillance operations. It was welcomed for including binding rules on search and rescue. However, in terms protection, disembarkation and accountability, much is still left to be desired. Next was Tineke Strik, who spoke about her investigation into the‘left-to-die boat’. She made a series of recommendations to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future, such as avoiding differing intepretations of what constitutes distress, taking away reasons for not rescuing boats and intensifying effort to share the burden placed on frontline states. Marcin Pruss, who closed the first panel, argued that, despite the numerous calls for improvements to the legal framework, it was not likely that new legal avenues for protection would be adopted. 2

The second panel, during which the sociological aspects of migration by sea in the Mediterranean were discussed, commenced with a presentation from Joris Schapendonk. His research into the trajectories of Sub-Saharan African migrants shows that they don’t travel in a straight line. Rather, legal developments, such as the conclusion of bilateral agreements, play into the the number and direction of migrant flows. Mirjam van Reisen, who spoke next, explains that this is the reason why, after the signing of the Italy-Libya agreement, human trafficking via the Sinai increased significantly. According to Aspasia Papadopoulou, who brought the second panel to a close, this goes to show that “people will come no matter what”. Therefore, it is important to have legal avenues so that migrants and refugees will not continue to head to Europe whilst risking their lives.

At the end of the panel discussion, Elspeth Guild offered some concluding remarks. According to her, the panel discussion has made it clear that the legal rules do not always have the intended effect of decreasing the number of arrivals to Europe. Therefore, we should critically reflect on the legal framework, bearing in mind that the developments at the external borders cannot be viewed in isolation. Rather, they must be seen as an integral part of the decision to create a Europe without borders. Instead of trying to displace responsibility onto human traffickers, member states should take responsibility for creating a Europe where there is need for border control measures in the Mediterranean.


panel (1)panel (2)