Internationalizing the Academic Debate on Migration


Seven academics met on September 8-9th in Johannesburg, South Africa for the first step in establishing a research network on migration and international law in Africa, the Middle East and Turkey, thus internationalizing the academic debate on migration and international law.

The researchers come from Université Hassan II in Casablanca (Morocco), Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar (Senegal), Notre Dame University-Louaize in Lebanon, Süleyman Demirel University in Isparta (Turkey), University of Nigeria in Nsukka (Nigeria) and Lund University (Sweden).

The meeting was chaired by Thomas Spijkerboer, a Raoul Wallenberg visiting professor of human rights and humanitarian law. Spijkerboer has researched extensively on issues focusing on border deaths, gender and sexuality in asylum law; the crisis of European refugee law; illegalized refugees; and the role of courts in migration law. He started working on the research network in Africa, the Middle East and Turkey in 2017. He says,

The aim of the research network is to truly internationalise the academic debate on migration and international law by enabling academics from these countries to make their voices heard in academic discourse. This could mean setting up an annual research seminar, independent funding for researchers, producing academic publications and offering other similar support.

Spijkerboer believes that having an international network will give a better representation of what is going on and will enable academics from Africa, the Middle East and Turkey to make their priorities, dilemmas and research agendas heard in the international academic debate. It will give impetus to a non-European dominated perspective as “they will raise questions that we as scholars from the North can’t think of,” he says.

The network is unique because it will support research on migration and international law that is not dominated by the research agenda of the global North.

Because of the close links between academic discourse and policy making, changing academic discourse will affect policy making of the EU and other governments in the global North which can have a huge impact for migrants and refugees in these regions.

The next step for the research network will be to fundraise a kick-off seminar in Istanbul in April, 2019.