Reflections on the Framing of and Responses to the Refugee ‘Crisis’

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Yudowitz Lecture Theatre, Wolfson Medical School Building, University of Glasgow

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GRAMNet Annual Lecture

Reflections on the Framing of and Responses to the Refugee ‘Crisis’ in Europe
Professor Cathryn Costello, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford

Friday 16th November, 5.00 - 6.00pm
Yudowitz Lecture Theatre, Wolfson Medical School Building, University Avenue, University of Glasgow

Organised by GRAMNet in collaboration with the School of Law, University of Glasgow

This lecture looks at the notion of ‘crisis’ in refugee studies, in particular examining the events of 2015 as framed in Europe as ‘the refugee crisis’. While that framing is open to challenge empirically, politically and ethically, it has nonetheless been resonant and powerful. The lecture is prompted by the question: Why do some ‘crises’ generate significant change, while others seem to paralyse?

To understand the nature of crisis, it draws on the writings of the feminist international legal scholar Hilary Charlesworth on crisis in international law, and work on policy failure in migration and EU scholarship. Professor Costello examines the ‘contested construction’ of the events of 2015, which in turn have dictated the range of political responses pursued, and those which were assumed to be politically unviable. That construction has tended to place responsibility for the scale of arrivals with decisions take in late 2015 by Chancellor Merkel, while downplaying the structural forces at work. Moreover, it has treated the suspension of Dublin returns as abnormal, rather than normal. So two ‘normal’ features of EU state practice, keeping a Schengen border open and not even attempting to give effect to all legally possible Dublin returns are construed as exceptional and indeed crisis-inducing.

Other responses to the crisis are assessed, including border closures, the EU’s attempts to establish responsibility-sharing, and the EU-Turkey deal. Professor Costello also consider some other developments, including moves to improve the conditions of Syrian refugees in the region of origin, including bot the EU-Turkey ‘deal’ and the Jordan Compact.

The talk also examines some varied judicial responses to the crisis, from the EU Court’s apparently judicially minimalist approach, to some important developments at domestic level. It concludes with some thoughts on the important role of scholars in times of crisis.

Cathryn Costello is Andrew W Mellon Associate Professor in International Human Rights and Refugee Law, at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford. Her research spans international and EU migration and asylum law, including its interactions with labour law. Her recent writings includes ‘Citizenship & Refugeehood’ Chapter 32 in Rainer Bauböck, Irene Bloemraad and Maarten Vink (eds) Oxford Handbook of Citizenship (OUP 2017) and (with Michelle Foster) ‘Non-refoulement as custom and jus cogens? Putting the prohibition to the test’ (2015) Netherlands Yearbook of International Law. Her monograph on the Human Rights of Migrants and Refugees in European Law (OUP 2015) was awarded the Odysseus Academic Prize. She is the co-editor (with Professor Mark Freedland) of Migrants at Work: Immigration and Vulnerability in Labour Law (OUP 2014). She is also the co-author of a several studies for the European Parliament and the UNHCR (most recently on Article 31 of the Refugee Convention). In 2018, she commenced her individual ERC-funded project entitled REF-MIG, on mobility, status and rights of refugees.

The lecture will be followed by a wine reception. Everyone is welcome.

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Yudowitz Lecture Theatre, Wolfson Medical School Building, University of Glasgow

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