A number of high profile representatives from the academic community, civil society organisations, and international organisations were present for Protect’s kick-off conference in Brussels on 9 March. The conference allowed both attendees and stakeholders to become more familiar with Protect’s research objectives and involved partners. Key speakers from United Nation’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) also stressed the urgency of Protect’s research, given the recent and ongoing developments on Europe’s external borders.

The Importance of Protect’s Research

In the aftermovie below, the invited speakers Sophie Magennis, Head of Policy and Legal Affairs, UNHCR Regional Office in Brussels, and Catherine Woollard, Secretary General, European Council of Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) emphasise the fitting timing of launching a project like Protect, and stressed the importance of a critical examination of the current system for international refugee protection.

View the full conference programme here

Current Refugee Protection System and the Way Forward

In the first conference session, Magennis went into more detail about the achievements and expectations of the Global Refugee Compact and the Global Refugee Forum, while Woollard posed the question “Do European Asylum Procedures meet the protection and burden-sharing requirements of Global Refugee Compact”? The video below show Magennis’ and Woollard’s full talks in the first conference session, along with an in-depth presentation of Protect, by Protect’s Principal Investigator, Hakan Sicakkan. Professor Sicakkan initiated Protect, and manages the project from University of Bergen, Norway.

Presenting Protect Work Packages

Throughout the conference representatives from Protect’s eleven partner universities shared their expertise, posed questions and engaged in discussions and conversations with other key speakers and conference attendees. In the second conference session, the Protect Work Package leaders engaged in a roundtable presentation of Protect’s Work Packages.

Visit our YouTube channel for full presentations of Work Packages

Lessons Learned from Past Research on Migration and Refugees

Session three was dedicated to exploring key issues for Protect. The session was opened by Professor Frank Caestecker from Ghent University, who took the audience on a historic journey of refugee governance, and related lessons from the past to the objectives outlined in the Global Refugee Compact.

Professor Emeritus, Kees Groenendijk from University of Nijmegen reflected upon whether lessons learned from implementation of international soft law on migrants and refugees are relevant for the implementation of the Compacts on Migrants and Refugees compacts.

Lastly, Protect partner and Work Package leader, Professor Elspeth Guild from Queen Mary University of London posed the following question: “Why and how do we need to include the UN Global Migration Compact as a factor while assessing the Global Refugee Compact? In her presentation, Guild criticises the presentation of refugees in the context of “burden” rather than “opportunity”. Guild concludes by arguing that there is space to integrate both compacts into the global asylum and migration regimes as part of the commitments that states undertake. 

Looking Forward: Securing the Success of the Global Compact on Refugees

The last session of the kick-off conference concerned itself with looking forward, and invited both migration and law experts to reflect upon the conditions and prospects for the success of the Global Refugee Compact.