There is little doubt around it: migration is one the defining challenges of our century. In the past few years, millions of desperate people have reached Europe’s borders seeking a safe haven as they flee conflict, hunger and persecution.
War continues to ravage Syria leaving a bloody trail of more than a quarter of a million deaths. More than 6.6 million Syrians are currently internally displaced, with another 4.8 million seeking refuge in other countries. Of the 1.2 million refugees who have arrived in Europe since 2015, half are Syrian.
But Syria is not the only country in crisis. Refugees are coming to Europe’s shores from countries as diverse as Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Mali, Niger, Chad and the Central African Republic.
In the face of this grave humanitarian and policy crisis the International Rescue Committee, a global humanitarian and advocacy organisation, requested urgent legal advice from TrustLaw concerning border control, boat push-backs, maritime rescue, discriminatory asylum procedures, and family reunification. Within two weeks, Latham & Watkins, in partnership with lawyers in Austria, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia, a public international law consultancy, Lex Specialis and the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, produced 42 memoranda of advice in advance of the 17 March 2016 EU Council meeting.
Spanning 12 jurisdictions, the legal research was used to contribute to local advocacy work in Greece and at the intergovernmental level, informing advocacy efforts aimed to influence policy responses. The lawyers have since expanded the research to help IRC examine barriers to the implementation of legal pathways for the transfer of vulnerable refugee groups trapped in Greece, and to identify alternative routes to protection.