A number of high-profile representatives from the academic community, civil society organizations, and international organizations were present for PROTECT’s kick-off conference in Brussels on 9 March 2020. The conference allowed both academics and stakeholders to become more familiar with PROTECT’s research objectives, Work Packages, and involved partners.
Key speakers from the United Nation’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the 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.
A vital moment to study refugee protection
In the aftermovie below, Sophie Magennis, Head of Policy and Legal Affairs, UNHCR Regional Office in Brussels, and Catherine Woollard, Secretary-General of ECRE emphasize 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.
Current refugee protection 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 shows Magennis and Woollard’s full talks in the first conference session, along with an in-depth presentation of PROTECT by Project Leader, Hakan G. Sicakkan, who initiated and manages the project from the University of Bergen, Norway.
Eleven partners – eleven Work Packages
Throughout the conference, representatives from PROTECT’s eleven partner universities shared their expertise, posed questions, and engaged in discussions and conversations with key speakers and conference attendees.
In the second conference session, the Work Package leaders engaged in a roundtable presentation of PROTECT’s eleven Work Packages.
Lessons learned from past research
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 European refugee governance and lessons from the past to the objectives outlined in the Global Refugee Compact.
Professor Emeritus, Kees Groenendijk from the University of Nijmegen reflected upon whether lessons learned from the implementation of previous soft law instruments pertaining to migrants and refugees are relevant for the implementation of the Compacts on Migrants and Refugees compacts, which are legally non-binding.
Lastly, PROTECT partner and Work Package co-leader, Professor Elspeth Guild from Queen Mary University of London posed the following question: “Why and how do we need to include the Global Migration Compact as a factor while assessing the Global Refugee Compact?“
In her presentation, Guild criticizes the presentation of refugees in the context of “burden” rather than “opportunity”. Guild concludes 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 was dedicated to looking forward and invited both migration and law experts to reflect upon the conditions and prospects for the success of the Global Refugee Compact.