“International Refugee Protection” 6/5/2019

The first session of the seminar “Asylum and Refugee Law: Recent European Developments”, entitled “International Refugee Protection”, was successfully completed on Monday, May 6, 2019. Coordinator was Mr. Ioannis Stribis, Assistant Professor at the University of the Aegean and Programme Director of the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence of the University of Athens.

The event began with the greeting of Prof. Yannis Valinakis, President of the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence, University of Athens, who gave a brief review of the 20 years of operation of the Jean Monnet University Center. The first speaker, Ms Kalliopi Stefanaki, Lawyer and Head of the UNHCR Legal Aid Division, focused mainly on the definition of a refugee. In addition, in the first part of her speech, she referred to the International Law on the Protection of Refugees, specifically the Geneva Convention, and under which conditions it was adopted. She also mentioned the role of the UNHCR, while in the second part of her speech Ms Stefanaki referred to the Global Compact on Refugee, an concluded her speech  with personal reflections, on the situation of refugees today, not only in theory but also in practice.

Mr Stribis then stressed the importance of the refugee recognition process and the legal basis of the decisions taken by UNHCR. Finally, he raised the question of whether societies are ready to accept the refugee population, and what this decision entails.

Second speaker Ms. Erika Kalantzi, Lawyer and Associate Coordinator at the European Asylum Lawyers Network discussed the importance of strong political will in the refugee issue. She began with a brief reference to the history of refugee movements, and also quoted Fridtjof Nansen’s words, “Humanitarian action is always limited by politicians.” Extensive reference was made to the Geneva Convention. Concluding her speech, Ms. Kalantzi referred to practical issues such as food and shelter, as well as examples of practical difficulties faced by asylum seekers, such as issuing IDs, registrations or travel documents, and how some of them can be more easily tackled.

The discussion ended with questions from the participants.

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