Migrant Rights at the European Borders – FNR Lecture Series

  • Faculty of Law, Economics and Finance (FDEF)
    07 September 2023

The externalisation of migration controls to third countries has become one of the central strategies of EU migration management. The EU and its member states contribute to this externalisation process by concluding soft law agreements which prepare, implement, and therefore replace international agreements. This move towards informalisation is most notably displayed by the EU Migration Partnerships and the Memorandum of Understanding between Italy and Libya. In this context, Frontex (the European Border and Coast Guard) has become a key actor in implementing the EU externalisation policies. Its cooperation with origin and transit states is designed to prevent onward movement towards the EU and facilitate return and readmission. The concept of European Integrated Border Management (EIBM) buttresses this dense network of soft law arrangements with the participation of national and supranational authorities. In addition, technological advancements are contributing to changing the traditional practice of border controls, with many different actors involved in a complex dynamic of securitisation.

These relations open manifold questions from both a European and international law perspective. How can AI contribute to effective border procedures while respecting migrant rights? What are the human rights implications of Frontex Status Agreements with third countries, and how can they be challenged? What are the different roles and responsibilities of the EU, its member states and countries of origin and transit? More generally, what is the role of the European post-colonial ties with third countries vicariously managing migration towards Europe?

These lecture series aim to bring together experts in international and EU law to tackle some of these pressing issues. The goal is to draw out some lessons relevant for protection-oriented practitioners and policymakers, as well as students and researchers interested in the EU’s compliance with European and international human rights law.

The Lecture Series will consist of eight lectures, given over the 2023/24 academic year and hosted in English or French. Before each lecture, and depending on the availability of the lecturer, the essential information (a draft paper, a blog post or key primary sources) will be distributed to participants to stimulate a lively discussion during the seminar.


Dr Lilian Tsourdi (Jean Monnet Chair in EU Migration Law and Governance, Maastricht University)

16 November 2023, 16.00-18.00

The New Pact on Migration and Asylum is the EU’s latest policy framework on asylum, migration, and border management policies, and the series of legislative proposals that accompany it. Its stated aim is to establish ‘seamless migration processes and stronger governance’. Negotiations on the Pact legislative instruments have been ongoing since September 2020. A renowned expert in EU immigration and asylum law and policy, Lilian Tsourdi will critique key provisions of the Pact instruments focusing on the underlying externalisation of protection obligations impetus and its impact on fundamental rights; the proposed governance structures and their potential for further administrative integration; and the Pact’s vision on solidarity

Registration link

Dr Mariana Gkliati (University of Tilburg) and Prof Tineke Strik (European Parliament/Radboud University)

12 December 2023, 12.30 – 14.00, online and in presence

The action of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) is currently under unprecedented examination for human rights violations at the EU’s borders. Nonetheless, its operations beyond EU borders remain scarcely scrutinised. A video by Tineke Strik, the rapporteur of the final report by the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group at the European Parliament, will introduce Frontex’s human rights compliance. The guest speaker, Mariana Gkliati, will address the different human rights risks and implications of Frontex operations in third countries, the accountability gaps in the current legal framework governing them, and some reflection on how to tackle them.

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Prof Mauro Gatti(University of Bologna) and Prof Eleftheria Neframi (University of Luxembourg)

30 January 2024

Through the work of the European External Action Service and the European Commission, the EU has been contributing to the implementation of the Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees, including through support for actions in and outside Europe to protect the human rights of all migrants. This lecture law will examine the relationship between the Compacts and the pre-existing EU legal framework governing migration. Building on his expertise in EU external relations, Mauro Gatti will discuss how the EU attempted to shape the Global Compacts and how it positions itself during their implementation. Professor Eleftheria Neframi will engage in discussion with the invited speaker on some of the most recent developments in the external dimension of the EU migration policy.

Dr Catherine Warin (EIPA / Passerell) and Prof Jorg Gerkrath (University of Luxembourg)

14 March 2024

In this lecture, the speakers will engage in a conversation about Luxembourg’s international protection system. Catherine Warin, a Lecturer in EU Law and the founding president of Passerell, will present the Luxembourgish international protection system and the challenges migrants face while navigating it. The lecture will shed light on two gray areas of the system: the increasingly restrictive conditions for migrants to access and remain in reception facilities, and the difficulties in ensuring effective procedural guarantees for vulnerable migrants such as children and victims of gender-based violence.

Dr Salvo Nicolosi (University of Utrecht) and Dr Lorenzo Bernardini (University of Luxembourg)

24 April 2024

This lecture will present the legal and practical challenges that individuals encounter when challenging the conduct of EU institutions, bodies and agencies that violated their fundamental rights while implementing the European integrated border management strategy. Such a difficulty has become particularly evident with reference to the operation of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex). Building on his current research on the topic, Salvo Nicolosi, will address the legal challenges of bringing Frontex or other EU agencies involved in externalised border management practices to court. The lecture will also provide an overview of less formal accountability mechanisms and recommendations for legal reforms that could address the current accountability gap in the existing system of judicial remedies.

Dr Tamas Molnar (EU Agency for Fundamental Rights/Corvinus University of Budapest)

23 Mai 2024

Successfully returning those third-country [non-EU] nationals who do not fulfil the conditions for entry, stay or residence in the EU is an element of crucial importance to the functioning of the common EU migration policy. Over the years, EU policymakers have recurrently urged returning more migrants in an irregular situation to third countries. To achieve this goal and to raise the currently relatively low return rates, the EU and its Member States have been increasingly adopting, next to ‘hard law’ instruments (e.g. the Return Directive and EU readmission agreements), various non-legally binding instruments (eg the EU Return Handbook) internally, and agreed on several informal return arrangements with third countries of origin, externally. After looking at the inception and evolution of the EU return/readmission policy as well as its legal bases/issues of competence in the EU Treaties, this lecture will appraise the implementation of the EU return and readmission policy, also in light of relevant CJEU case law. The assessment will focus on the key challenges and shortcomings hampering an effective EU return policy and readmission cooperation with third countries, together with the fundamental rights implications of this fairly sensitive policy area. The lecture will also critically assess the gradual shift towards soft law in the EU’s return/readmission policy, canvassing its risks in upholding the rule of law and the fundamental rights of returnees.

Dr Derya Ozkul (Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford) and Dr Elif Biber (University of Luxembourg)

3 June 2024

The use of new technologies is rising in the migration and asylum fields across Europe. Several states have started using (or testing) them to control who enters their borders or to choose who gets access to their territories or their protection mechanisms. A multitude of new technologies is being used and tested on migrants, including asylum seekers, across the EU borders. Based on her extensive research on the use of AI during border management activities, Derya Ozkul will offer a comprehensive analysis of these practices in detail. This scrutiny will be approached from a sociological standpoint, delving into the changes in identity determination and immigration and asylum decision-making. Based on her expertise in EU public law and digitalisation, Elif Biber, a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Law, will act as a discussant and engage in discussion with the invited speaker, exploring the potential legal ramifications and safeguards necessary to uphold fundamental rights.

Prof Vincent Chetail (Geneva Graduate Institute) and Dr Kathryn Allinson (University of Bristol)

12 June 2024

The externalisation of migration management to third countries through soft law agreements is becoming a recurrent solution for countries of destination. Over the years, the EU and some member states have adopted bilateral and multilateral migration agreements to stymie the arrival of migrants in Europe. The informal nature of these agreements poses several challenges to their democratic scrutiny and judicial oversight. The speakers will provide an overview of these soft law instruments, while critically assessing their compliance with the EU and its member states ‘hard law’ commitments to human rights. This lecture will compare these developments with the role of the Global Compacts as soft law instruments that consolidate human rights protections for migrants and refugees.