Cathryn Costello, Professor of Fundamental Rights at the Hertie School and Co-Director of its Centre for Fundamental Rights, contributed to the panel ‘Protection 360: Surveying refugee challenges across the regions’, which took place on 18 November 2020 in the frame of UNSW’s Kaldor Centre Conference 2020 'New Frontiers of Refugee Law in a Closed World'.
Following contributions by Maria Bances del Rey (UNHCR Americas Bureau) on Latin America, Oroub El-Abed (Centre for Lebanese Studies) on the Middle East, Ottilia Anna Maunganidze (Institute for Security Studies) on Africa and Vitit Muntarbhorn (Chulalongkorn University) on Asia, Costello reflected on Europe’s role in refugee protection. She opened with some remarks on the many different ‘Europes’, from the highly legalised rules that make up the EU’s Common European Asylum System, to its informal cooperation and containment strategies vis-à-vis the states that host most of the world’s refugees, notably under the EU-Turkey ‘deal’. There is also the Europe of human rights, with the European Court of Human Rights as a vanguard institution, particularly on non-refoulement, for many decades. However, it now seems to have lost some of its allure, and shortcomings in its protections are evident, in particular when one compares its jurisprudence with that of UN Treaty Bodies.
Costello then reflected on some of the key institutional and legal concerns about EU externalised migration controls, from its contribution to human rights abuses of externalised border controls in Libya, Turkey and elsewhere, to the lack of transparency and accountability in externalised projects, in particular those with international organisations as partners. She noted recent scholarship by Thomas Spijkerboer and Elise Steyger on the EU’s failure to respect its own public procurement processes in its externalised practices as emblematic of the lack of transparency and accountability in this field. She also discussed the challenges in ensuring that attempts to leverage better protection for refugees, in particular the right to work, are effective, noting Jennifer Gordon's important contribution on this topic for the ILO. She closed her intervention by noting the persistent disparities in refugee recognition rates across the EU, despite of legal harmonisation, urging greater scholarly attention to refugee recognition processes, a focus of a recent FMR issue and her RefMig project.