Global Migration Justice: Beyond conflicting approaches to migration in international human rights law MIGJUST (2024)

The key hypothesis of the MIGJUST research project (which is funded by European Research Council grant ERC-AdG-2023- 101141743) is that there is a fundamental conflict in human rights case law on migration between the human rights approach, adopted by the Inter-American Court and Commission of Human Rights and the African Court and Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights, and on the other hand the sovereignty approach of the European Court of Human Rights. The difference is also at work in the case law of the UN human rights bodies. The two approaches are reflected in, and are in turn reinforced by, political theory on migration justice. In academic studies, the conflict has not been noted because the case law of the European Court of Human Rights is considered to constitute the most developed version in international human rights law. The conflict between the two approaches is problematic because it goes against the international character of international law and hinders international cooperation. MIGJUST will address this problem by (a) analysing the under-studied case law of the Inter-American, African and UN human rights bodies; (b) carrying out a comparative analysis of the European, Inter-American, African and UN case law in the field of migration; (c) relating the varying positions to political theory on migration justice; and (d) developing methodologies to resolve the doctrinal conflict.

Global Migration Justice: Beyond conflicting approaches to migration in international human rights law (MIGJUST)

Introduction to the Special Issue Asylum for Containment: The Contradictions of European External Asylum Policy (2024, with Gamze Ovacık)

European policy interventions seek to improve asylum systems in neighbouring countries so as to enable containment of refugees and migrants outside Europe. While this is a consistent policy from a European perspective, from the perspective of third countries these two policy objectives are contradictory. On the one hand they would like to improve their asylum systems; on the other hand they find it unreasonable to bear even more of the brunt of migration issues that often are an effect of European foreign policy. This special issue of the European Journal of Migration and Law brings together analyses of this by researchers from Turkey (by Gamze Ovacık, Meltem Ineli-Ciger and Orçun Ulusoy), Tunisia (by Hiba Sha’ath and Fatma Raach), Serbia (by Rados Djurovic), Morocco (by Sara Benjelloun) and Egypt (by El-Sayed). All these articles are accessible (for the time being partly behind a paywall….) here.

Introduction to the Special Issue Asylum for Containment: The Contradictions of European External Asylum Policy, European Journal of Migration and Law 26(2024)2, 147-153

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami: Innnspirit-ed, 2021 (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam)

Asylum for Containment / L’endiguement par l’asile (2023, with Bachirou Ayouba Tinni and 8 others)

Since 2015, Europe has intensified its cooperation with third countries in the field of asylum and migration. This report synthesises four country studies concerning European political, legal and financial instruments in this field in Niger, Serbia, Tunisia and Turkey. These very different case studies allow for the identification of fundamental challenges of European external asylum and migration policy (i.e. challenges which are not specific to just one third country).

Depuis 2015, l’Europe a intensifié sa coopération avec les pays tiers dans le domaine de l’asile et de la migration. Ce rapport synthétise quatre études de pays concernant les instruments politiques, juridiques et financiers européens dans ce domaine au Niger, en Serbie, en Tunisie et en Turquie. Ces études de cas très différentes permettent d’identifier les défis fondamentaux de la politique extérieure européenne en matière d’asile et de migration (c’est-à-dire les défis qui ne sont pas spécifiques à un seul pays tiers).

Bachirou Ayouba Tinni; Olga Djurovic; Rados Djurovic; Abdoulaye Hamadou; Meltem Ineli-Ciger; Gamze Ovacık; Fatma Raach; Hiba Sha’ath; Thomas Spijkerboer and Orçun Ulusoy: Asylum for Containment / L’endiguement par l’asile. EU arrangements with Niger, Serbia, Tunisia and Turkey / Dispositifs de l’UE avec le Niger, la Serbie, la Tunisie et la Turquie, Brussels: CEPS 2023

Iba N’diaye: Rhamb (1979), private collection

Coloniality and Case Law on the Australian Asylum Offshoring Scheme (2023)

Mohammed Kazem, Even the shadow does not belong to them (2018), Biennale Lyon 2022

This article presents an analysis of case law from Nauru, Australia and Papua New Guinea concerning the Australian offshoring scheme for asylum seekers. Its specific focus is to enquire to what extent and how colonial conceptual and ideological patterns of thought play a role in the reasoning of the courts involved. The analysis shows the Australian averseness to have its external action in former colonies subjected to international (human rights) law; and the juggling of sovereignty so that it justifies the administration of policies in former colonies. However, it also shows resistance to this coloniality, be it from actors with relatively little power. These insist on application of well-developed international human rights norms to Australian administration of its policies in two former colonies, and to some extent incorporate international power relations into their sovereignty reasoning. Other courts in the global South have engaged more fundamentally with core assumptions of international migration law.

Coloniality and Case Law on the Australian Offshoring Scheme, International Journal of Migration and Border Studies, 7(2023)2, 132-148

Country reports ASILE project concerning Niger, Serbia, Tunisia and Turkey (2022)

As part of the EU funded ASILE project about the role of the EU in the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees, I co-authored reports about the implementation of EU migration instruments in Niger, Serbia, Tunisia and Turkey. These reports provide the material for a comparative report to be published in 2023.

Bachirou Ayouba Tinni , Abdoulaye Hamadou , Thomas Spijkerboer: Rapport de pays Niger

Olga Djurovic, Rados Djurovic, Thomas Spijkerboer: Country report Serbia

Fatma Raach, Hiba Sha’at, Thomas Spijkerboer: Country report Tunisia

Gamze Ovacık, Meltem Ineli-Ciger, Orçun Ulusoy, Thomas Spijkerboer: Country report Turkey

Muhammad al-Idrisi: World map (1154), copy from 1456 by Alî ibn Hasan al-Hûfî al-Qâsimî

Coloniality and Recent European Migration Case Law (2022)

This article interrogates European law as actively contributing to the undermining of migrants’ rights, since its inception. It claims that European case law in the area of migration is a continuation of a pre-existing characteristic: the tendency to privilege the interests of European states over those of migrants and of Europeans with transnational ties. The chapter thus examines the hypothesis that current-day migrants, being people from former European colonies, are subjected to a split form of legality that was perfected at the end of the colonial era. The legal system maintains the pretence of equality before the law while at the same time relegating colonial subjects to sub-standard legal protection by either excluding them from the application of human rights standards altogether or by lowering these standards. In addition to these two elements, a third legal governance technique with its origins in colonialism is the use of emergency powers themselves. Coloniality thus remains a structuring element of human rights law as it responds to migration. Naming and exposing this colonial structure may be helpful to the extent that it makes a legal and political critique possible, in addition to helping actors to navigate the field.

Coloniality and Recent European Migration Case Law, in Vladislava Stoyanova and Stijn Smets (eds), Migrants’ Rights, Populism and Legal Resilience in Europe, Cambridge University Press 2022, 117-138

Wissem Ben Hassin: Untitled (2018). Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, Tunis; Collection of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs

Ik zie ik zie wat ik niet zie: Etnisch profileren en structurele rassendiscriminatie in het migratierecht (met Karin de Vries, 2022)

Hoewel de KMar inmiddels heeft laten weten niet door te zullen gaan met etnisch profileren in het kader van MTV-controles, is zulk profileren volgens de Nederlandse rechter niet in strijd met internationale discriminatieverboden. Dat strookt echter niet met de rechtspraak van het EHRM: als huidskleur, ook al is dat in een optelsom van criteria, beslissend is voor de vraag of iemand wordt staande gehouden is er steeds sprake van een onderscheid in strijd met artikel 1 Protocol 12 EVRM. Tegelijkertijd valt niet te ontkennen dat ras historisch steeds in grote mate bepalend is geweest, en nog steeds is, voor het antwoord op de vraag wie zich relatief vrij over de wereld kan bewegen, en wie niet. Die ongelijke toegang tot legale migratie komt voort uit het koloniale verleden en heeft tot gevolg dat mensen zonder rechtmatig verblijf vooral mensen van kleur zijn. Het verbod om expliciet onderscheid te maken op grond van ras maakt het echter onmogelijk om het structurele verband tussen huidskleur en verblijfsstatus juridisch te erkennen

Ik zie ik zie wat ik niet zie: Etnisch profileren en structurele rassendiscriminatie in het migratierecht, Nederlands Juristenblad 25 februari 2022, 549-555

Migration management clientelism: Europe’s migration funds as a global political project (2022)

In response to the 2015 migration ‘crisis’, the European Union intensified the externalisation of its migration policies, in particular through the EU Trust Funds for Syria and Africa, and the Facility for Refugees in Turkey. The legal construction of these financial measures is such that in many projects, normal implementation and public procurement procedures are not applied. This creates opportunities for clientelism. A limited number of actors (Europe’s ‘clients’) has emerged to implement European policies in third countries. This way of implementing externalisation projects will first be analysed in functionalist terms and in terms of path dependency. The paper will conclude by arguing that, in addition to such analyses, this way of implementing externalisation is to be understood as (a) expanding the scope of legitimate action of European states outside their territory; and (b) setting norms for international actors such as non-European states, international organisations and corporations.

Migration Management Clientelism. Europe’s migration funds as a global political project, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 48(2022)12, 2892-2907

Race and the regulation of international migration. The ongoing impact of colonialism in the case law of The European Court of Human Rights (with Karin de Vries, 2021)

In the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) the right of States to control migration is firmly established despite strong indications that the effects of migration control are not racially neutral. In this article we attempt to understand how it is possible that the doctrine of sovereign migration control is not considered to breach the prohibition of racial discrimination. We argue that the ECtHR’s approach to migration and racial discrimination fits a pattern in the historical development of migration law whereby the right to travel, and the power of States to restrict this right, have been consistently defined in such a way as to protect the interests of the predominantly white population of today’s global North. Hence, the ease with which the racialised impact of migration control is accepted as normal and compatible with the prohibition of racial discrimination is consistent with migration law’s long history as part of colonial and postcolonial relations.

Race and the regulation of international migration. The ongoing impact of colonialism in the case law of The European Court of Human Rights, Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights 39(2021)4, 291-307

Migration Emergencies in the European Postcolony (2021)

This interview, by Lea Espinoza Garrido, Sylvia Mieszkowski, Birgit Spengler and Julia Wewior, focuses on the legal concept of emergency in current European migration law. In its interest in colonial legacies, this conversation overlaps with some of the double issue’s articles – most notably those by Eichinger, Espinoza Garrido, Sarkowsky, Wewior and Wilton. Yet the interview also offers a unique focus on the colonial legacy of European case law. The interviewee, Thomas Spijkerboer, critiques the European legal tradition’s thinking about the state of exception (Carl Schmitt, Giorgio Agamben). He argues that merely building on this tradition runs the risk of erasing the racial specificity which may be hidden, but is, in fact, crucial to the legal concept of emergency, especially in the context of discussing current migrant emergencies. In order to avoid this erasure, Spijkerboer draws on Achille Mbembe, one of the most prominent contemporary thinkers of (and from) the postcolony, to foreground that which is so easily lost in current discussions of European migration law: the role that race plays in the organisation of freedom within liberalism and the insight that modern techniques of legal pluralism are deeply rooted in the history of colonial rule.

Migration Emergencies in the European Postcolony: an Interview with Thomas Spijkerboer, Parallax 2021(27)2, 223-239