Conference at IEU Segovia: ‘Protecting Migrants and Refugees: Challenges and Recent Trends’

@Elena Yustres

Last Thursday 26th October, the IE Law School hosted a conference where some students from the IE University Segovia campus had the chance to address the refugee crisis and the consequences it currently has on modern societies.

The refugee phenomenon is one of truly global proportions, affecting not only millions of marginalized people directly, but also the policies and practices of most governments in the world. It is important to understand that not all migrants receive the same legal treatment. Voluntary or economic migrants are those who leave their countries for reasons not related to persecution and continue to enjoy protection from their own government even when abroad, while refugees or forced migrants relocate due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality or membership of a particular social group. Although migration is certainly not new to the last decade, the extremely unstable political and military situation in many countries around the world has fueled massive influxes of refugees and as a consequence, has led to many applications and claims concerning this influx of asylum-seekers.

Last Thursday 26th October, the IE Law School hosted a conference where some students from the IE University Segovia campus had the chance to address the refugee crisis and the consequences it currently has on modern societies. We had Honorable Judge Luis López Guerra as our guest speaker, which was an incredible honor and an enriching experience for students. Mr. López Guerra is a Spanish lawyer, magistrate, politician and professor at Universidad Carlos III in Madrid. He has held multiple public positions, including that of Vice President of the Constitutional Court of Spain and of the Spanish General Council of the Judiciary. After being elected to the Assembly of Madrid in 2007, he was named magistrate of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for Spain in Luxemburg.

The ECHR is an institution aimed at guaranteeing the rights of migrants and refugees in difficult situations. Established by the European Convention of Human Rights in 1959, this supranational court hears applications from individuals or states alleging that one contracting state has violated one or more human rights provisions concerning civil and political rights set out in the Convention and its protocols.

My main takeaway from the conference was that, surprisingly, there is no universal right to enter or remain in a country other than one’s country of origin. Similarly, refugees have the right to seek asylum, but not to be granted asylum; while the states have the right to grant asylum if they wish to, but no obligation. This illustrates the difficulty and the degree of ambiguity that can arise from non-binding international legislation. There are many details and variables that must be considered on a case-to-case basis and here resides the challenge of achieving a comprehensive global agreement, where all nations contribute in an equitable manner, that will finally solve this problem that affects virtually all societies around the globe.

As a student of PLE (Politics, Law and Economics), I found the talk extremely interesting and relevant on a personal level. From previous courses, I knew that refugees have always existed, but finally gained legal acknowledgement in the Geneva Convention of 1951 as a result of World War II. Since then, a lot has been done in order to raise refugees’ standard of living and minimize their suffering.  Nonetheless, the world around us is changing at an unequalled rate while the response of institutions and governments seems to be considerably slower. Forced migration is of capital importance for today’s interdependent societies and as a global issue, it is in need of a global response. As of today, there are more than 25 million refugees in need of assistance around the world, which is without a doubt worthy of analysis. From what Mr. López Guerra explained to us, I arrived at the conclusion that there is still a long road ahead of us. We must be aware that citizens, especially young people, have the moral obligation to be up to date on the current situation of the refugee crisis since it affects us all. The more conscious people are about the issue, the faster and the more efficient institutions will be at achieving a solution.