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

De falende evacuatie uit Kabul was een voortzetting van het asielbeleid (met Fadi Fahad, 2022)

Waar de regering stelt dat de snelle machtsovername door de Taliban de oorzaak is van het falen van de evacuatie, wordt in dit artikel betoogd dat dit een uitvloeisel is van de relativering van de risico’s voor Afghaanse medewerkers die al jaren de basis vormde van het Nederlandse asielbeleid. Er was al sprake van een jarenlange opstapeling van ondubbelzinnige informatie die wees op de kwetsbaarheid van lokaal Afghaans personeel. Pas in juli 2019 leidde dit ertoe dat Afghanen die voor de internationale strijdkrachten hadden gewerkt als risicogroep werden aangemerkt, terwijl is gebleken dat de Nederlandse regering al sinds 2009 de bedreigende veiligheidsrisico’s voor deze groep structureel heeft erkend. Uit rechterlijke uitspraken blijkt echter dat het risicogroepbeleid in de beoordeling van asielaanvragen regelmatig niet werd uitgevoerd. In combinatie met de onderschatting van de gevolgen van de terugtrekking van de internationale troepenmacht heeft dit geleid tot het te laat intreden van het besef van de ernst van de situatie en de falende evacuatie

De falende evacuatie uit Kabul was een voortzetting van het asielbeleid, Nederlands Juristenblad 2022, 1762-1770

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

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

The geopolitics of knowledge production in international migration law (2021)

This chapter addresses the involvement of academic research on international migration law in the political project of the global North to impose its view concerning international migration law on the global South. The purportedly well-established principle of international law that states have the right exclude foreigners has its origins in the US Supreme Court’s Chinese Exclusion case law. The doctrine holding that the right of exclusion is inherent in state sovereignty developed there has been adopted and transformed by the European Court of Human Rights. In order to show the continuing relevance of the Chinese Exclusion doctrine, I will analyse a rather everyday judgment of the European Court about boat people (J.R. et autres v Grèce 2018).  This will be contrasted with a judgment about boat people from the global South, issued by the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Supreme Court of Justice (Namah v Pato 2016). I will then show how the PNG judgment, and law from the global South more generally, is sidelined in academic work, while Strasbourg judgments are treated as embodying the state of international law (even when they are being criticised). I will analyse this as an act of power erasing sources of international migration law from the global South. As an example, I include bibliometrics on the International Journal of Refugee Law. I will close by showing that this erasure can be, and actually is being resisted within the discipline of international law.

Confronting the Colonial Structure of International Migration Law (lecture, 2021)

Inaugural lecture of the International Franqui Professor Chair 2020-2021, Ghent University: Youtube. 

A version of this talk with a specific focus on settler colonies is Coloniality, Settler Colonialism, and International Migration Law (Annual Howard Adelman Lecture, Centre for Refugee Studies, York University, 17 June 2021), Youtube

Anonymous (1617): Hugo de Groot (Collection Haags Museum)

Introduction to the Symposium on COVID-19, Global Mobility and International Law (with E. Tendayi Achiume and Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen, 2020)

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, international mobility all but ground to a halt by the second quarter of2020. Airline traffic dropped more than 70 percent, and thousands of grounded airplanesfilled up the runways.All over the world, travel restrictions and quarantine measures are still in place at the time of this writing, and cross-border mobility remains largely shut down for all but the most essential forms of travel. Although some countriespartially relaxed travel restrictions over the summer, there can be no question that the pandemic has fundamen-tally reconfigured global mobility and migration, even if only temporarily. Amidst these shifts, this symposiumdocuments and reflects critically on the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for mobility and migrationacross international borders, on pertinent governance structures, and on thefield of global migration and mobilitylaw more broadly. A key hypothesis motivating the symposium is that COVID-19 has both laid bare and exacer-bated the discriminatory andflawed nature of current international rules related to migration and global mobility.Hence, we have invited our contributors not only to reflect on the implications of current developments, but alsoto imagine alternatives and to consider the possibility that COVID-19 might represent a kind of“Stunde Null,”anat least temporary reset, for the terms of global mobility and migration law.

The Symposium includes contributions by Guofu Liu; Frédéric Mégret; Florian Hoffmann, Isadora d’Avila Lima and Nery Gonçalves; Tesseltje de Lange, Sandra Mantu and Paul Minderhoud; Abdoulaye Hamadou; John Reynolds; and Ian Kysel and Chantal Thomas.

E. Tendayi Achiume, Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen and Thomas Spijkerboer: Introduction to the Symposium on COVID-19, Global Mobility and International Law, AJIL Unbound 114(2020) 312-316


Zehra Doğan: Kızıl Ay Tutulması 3 (Red Moon Eclipse 3). Created in 2018 in Diyarbakır prison from coffee, tea, cigarette ash, turmeric, bleach, tomato paste and pencil on the artist’s sister’s skirt. Photograph: Zehra Doğan . For more information see The Guardian 10 November 2020