Update to Open Letter from International Lawyers to EU States, the European Union and European Publics on the Refugee Crisis in Europe

Update to Open Letter from International Lawyers to EU States, the European Union and European Publics on the Refugee Crisis in Europe

[Dr. Başak Çalı is Director for the Center of Global Public Law and Associate Professor of International Law at Koç University, Turkey. She the secretary general of the European Society of International Law. The following is written in her personal capacity. This is a follow-up post to the open letter we published 24 September.]

The open letter from international lawyers to the EU, EU states and the European Publics public concerning the existing international legal obligations to those seeking international protection has attracted signatures from over 900 international lawyers after it has been reopened for signature. The signatories include leading experts in international refugee law, Professors Deborah Anker (University of Harvard); Chaloka Beyani (LSE); Vincent Chetail (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies);  Bhupinder Chimni (Jawaharlal Nehru University); Michelle Foster (University of Melbourne); Geoff Gilbert (University of Essex, Editor in Chief, International Journal of Refugee Law); Guy Goodwin-Gill (Emeritus Fellow, All Souls College, Emeritus Professor of International Refugee Law, University of Oxford); Elspeth Guild, (Radboud University Nijmegen); James Hathaway (Professor of Law and Director, Program in Refugee and Asylum Law, University of Michigan & Distinguished Visiting Professor of International Refugee Law, University of Amsterdam); Jane McAdam (University of New South Wales (UNSW)); Boldizsár Nagy, (Central European University & Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest); Gregor Noll (University of Lund); Thomas Spijkerboer (Professor of Migration Law, VU Amsterdam) and many others.

On 30th September, the office of the President of the European Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, responded to the Open Letter explaining that the Member of the Commission responsible for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Mr Dimitris Avramopoulos ‘is looking into the points you have raised and will respond to you rapidly.’

In summary, the Open Letter urges European states and the EU to:

  •  meet their obligations of international responsibility-sharing, to resettle significant numbers of refugees and provide aid to countries hosting large numbers of refugees.
  • as regards those seeking protection in Europe, abandon those policies which prevent safe and legal access to protection. The UNHCR estimates over 2,860 people have died at sea trying to get to Europe this year alone. Suspending carrier sanctions and issuing humanitarian visas would largely prevent the need for those seeking refuge to make dangerous journeys.
  • respect and protect the human rights of those seeking refuge once they are in Europe, including by enabling them to access asylum procedures or ensuring safe passage to countries where they wish to seek international protection.
  • immediately suspend Dublin returns of asylum-seekers to their first point of entry, but ensure that its rules on family reunification are implemented fully and swiftly.
  • relocate asylum-seekers and refugees in a manner that respects the dignity and agency of those relocated, and increases Europe’s capacity to offer protection.
  • replace the Dublin System with one which accords with international human rights law and respects the dignity and autonomy of asylum-seekers, and supports international and intra-European responsibility-sharing.
  • implement fair and swift procedures to recognize all those in need of international protection.
  • while claims are being examined, afford those in need of international protection, at a minimum, the reception conditions to which they are entitled in international human rights and EU law.
  • respect the right to family life, including positive obligations with regard to family unity, facilitation of swift family reunification and family tracing.
  • treat all refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants with dignity and respect, respecting and protecting their human rights, irrespective of status.

Read the entire Open Letter here (.pdf).

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It is hoped that the EU leaders think and act rationally and dispassionately, rather than be guided by their emotions. The member states of the EU vary in size and economic power and there are social and cultural differences as well. The migrants’ influx on this scale is bound to have a large impact on the demographic profile and will inevitably lead to friction between the Europeans and the Middle Easterners. While states, no doubt must comply with treaty obligations, it must be pointed out that the conditions which prevailed when this Convention was drawn up is very different from the geopolitical realities of 2015. The time has come for the international community to consider having a fresh look on the Refugee Convention by incorporating provisions for repatriation of migrants/refugees to their home state as and when conditions become safe for their return.


Dear Kumar, Lloyd a Cohen and Ariel, When I read your comments, it makes me wonder that if there are many like you in the world, whether we are still deserving of human rights. Perhaps we would all be better off with a benevolent dictator to save us from the extremist in each of us. I can only wish that you will never find yourselves in a war torn country, in a conflict you had no control over. Wall in your precious culture and beget what makes culture itself, for lack of interaction will suffocate your culture till its own irrelevance and extinction. Yes the dynamics in this world are always on the move, do you want to play a long game or do you want to shut out the world? Charlie Chaplin was a refugee, Einstein was a refugee, would we have benefitted as much from their genius had they been forcibly repatriated as soon as their home state situation improved as Kumar would have it? Jesus was a refugee, Prophet Mohamed was a refugee, both were from the Middle East, would you have shut out both? Raphael Lemkin was a refugee, had he not stayed and lobbied in… Read more »


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Opinio Juris » Blog Archive Update to Open Letter from International Lawyers to EU States, the European Union and European Publics on the Refugee Crisis in Europe – Opinio Juris


“Syrian gang rape victim who fled to Germany after her ordeal is stabbed to death ‘in honour killing ordered by her own mother because she was seen as unclean after her sex assault,’” by Allan Hall, MailOnline, October 7, 2015. This is what will happen in the years to come if migrants posing as refugees are allowed into Europe. The signatories to the letter see only one side of the coin – adherence to treaty obligations at all costs.


Do the Germans and the EU still want to accept migrants? One hopes wiser counsel prevails and the decision is reversed. Treaty obligations undertaken by the member are not sacrosanct. Moreover conditions that existed in 1951 were totally different from the conditions of today. There is a fundamental change of circumstance.