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Forced to Flee: When Migration is the only Alternative

Members of Nottingham City of Sanctuary attended a one day conference at Nottingham University on Friday hosted by the students and post graduates from the Human Rights Law Centre at the University on the subject of forced migration.  It was impressive to know how much research has been going on in the past few years about migration in all its forms.

The day started with a plenary session with the UNHCR representative to the UK, Ms Rosella Pagliuchi-Lor and Professor Geoff Gilbert from the University of Essex.  Both looked at the Global Compact on Migration from different angles   The Global Compact for Migration is the first intergovernmental negotiated agreement under the auspices of the UN to cover international migration in a holistic manner.  The Global Compact is not legally binding but relies on nations sharing responsibility, non-discrimination and human right and holds objectives to better manage migration at a local, national and regional level to create conditions that will enable migrants to enrich our society through their human, economic and social capacities.

The afternoon plenary session had presentations from Matteo de Bellis, a researcher on asylum and migration with the International Secretariat of Amnesty International based in London.  He discussed the migration from Libya to the EU, especially Italy, over the years and the changing border controls that have left thousands of migrants adrift, and Europe’s failure to protect those seeking sanctuary.  Matteo shared the platform with Dierdre Sheahan, a director from Paragon Law, a Nottingham-based law firm who have a specialist Asylum and Human Rights team.  She took us through the complexities of the UK asylum system.

In between the plenary sessions we were introduced to the work being done by academics and student researchers around the world on migration.  Speakers had come from around the world to present their research to us – from Canada, the USA, New Zealand and Germany.  Topics presented ranged from the problems of sexual violence towards asylum seekers to the predicted problems of rising sea levels and future climate refugees, who are not covered under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

All in all it was an extremely interesting day and it was fascinating to look at the refugee and asylum process from a global, academic and legal perspective but it did highlight the rather large gulf between the grass roots work done by the host of refugee support organisations at grass roots level and the academic and global world.  Something we need to address and work more closely together.