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Escaping Realities? Why European refugee policies have failed and what could be done instead

International and European refugee law is under pressure.

The current refugee crisis has resulted in a collapse of both European and global solidarity in regard to refugee protection.

You can watch the lecture online (streaming service)

Refugee law under pressure.

In Europe, various Member States have introduced national border control and new restrictions to their domestic legal frameworks. Not only do many of these policies violate or challenge international refugee law, they also create a growing competition to push asylum flow to neighbouring countries that threaten to undermine both the Common European Asylum System and Schengen.

Most refugees remain in developing countries

Meanwhile, there is little attention to the fact that the 86% percent of the world's displaced persons remain in developing countries and that the asylum pressure experienced in Europe remains a fraction of the refugee protection burden placed upon some of the most heavily affected countries in e.g. the Middle East. So far, funding to assist these countries has been insufficient, much less willingness to engage in more concrete forms of burden-sharing, such as resettlement quotas.

And while the EU is struggling to find a commonly agreed framework for revising the Dublin System and create a more equitable distribution of asylum-seekers amongst the Member States, there has been no shortage of measures to block access to asylum in the EU and actively push back refugees to countries in the regions of origin.

Need for change?

While European refugee law and policy is based on fundamental principles of solidarity, of fairness, and of mutual cooperation, the current refugee situation suggests something else. The current crisis has led several governments to call for a revision of both the 1951 Refugee Convention and the European asylum acquis. Has international refugee law failed, or have European states failed? Should international and European refugee law be revised? If so, how can it be designed to respond better to similar crises? And how does (or should) European experiences influence the future of international refugee law? How will international refugee law look in the future, and how should it look?

The lecture will be held in English.

The lecturer

Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen is Director of Research at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and Executive Chairman of the Association of Human Rights Institutes.

He is an internationally renowned expert in the field of international refugee law and migration policy, regularly serves as a consultant to international organisations and governments and is a member of the Danish Refugee Appeals Board.

Questions and comments

After a prepared comment by dr. juris Vigdis Vevstad, the floor is open for questions and short comments from the audience.

The debate will be moderated by Professor Kjetil Mujezinović Larsen.

Watch online

Published Mar. 15, 2016 11:01 AM - Last modified Apr. 4, 2016 9:43 AM