IBA Annual Conference Sydney 2017

8 Oct - 13 Oct 2017

Room C2.1, Convention Centre, Level 2

Session information

Rights without borders: is the concept of asylum alive and well in a post-truth world?

Tuesday 10 October (0930 - 1230)

Room C2.1, Convention Centre, Level 2


Human Rights Law Committee (Lead)
European Regional Forum
IBA's Human Rights Institute
Immigration and Nationality Law Committee


The session aims to consider a multiple jurisdiction response from the panel on the treatment of asylum seekers who enter (or are unable to enter) target countries. It and will draw on speakers from a number of the most-affected countries including the US, France, the UK and Australia. This session will complement the session ‘Race and refugee issues in Australia: are policies of detention and separation working?’, which is taking place at 0930 – 1230 on Monday and is also being jointly presented by the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee, the Human Rights Law Committee and the IBA’s Human Rights Institute. The session on Monday will consider asylum seekers and refugees within the domestic setting of Australia, while this session will provide an overview of the international treaty framework imposing obligations on adhering countries to provide asylum and subsidiary protection. The session will examine whether the obligation of non-refoulement in international law, requiring signatory state actors not to return persons and vessels from state borders to conditions of danger or loss of liberty, could be used more proactively to provide urgent or immediate aid and assistance at border or entry points. We hope to explore the concept of a ‘humanitarian visa’ to allow legal entry of asylum seekers into the target country pending applications in order to rescue them from danger or save lives. The treatment of asylum seekers who have entered the target country borders whether on land or sea, and their conditions of detention pending application will be of special focus, including the legality of ‘warehousing’ and other forms of detention facilities. Finally, the overall framework for the discussion will consider the impact of media/social media coverage of the refugee crisis on host countries' responses to the idea of offering asylum. Is there evidence of a more tolerant response in countries where there is largely accurate factual reporting, for example, of numbers of migrants and refugees? Is there a growing intolerance towards the idea of asylum that is being encouraged or promoted within target countries as part of a political debate, which is becoming more hostile to the idea of asylum? Is mainstream media coverage predominantly accurate or are ‘alternative facts’ being utilised to amplify an anti-asylum message? Is social media being used to dehumanise migration politics and say the unsayable? Is misinformation creating a more intolerant environment at government level for debate around the issue of asylum and immigration generally? How can a counter-narrative be promoted consistent with international obligations? Is it in our mutual interests to do so? We are all excited by the opportunity to collaboratively discuss these issues in a domestic and international context across two sessions, and welcome contributions during both sessions from all legal professionals, regardless of geographical practice area.

Session / Workshop Chair(s)

Neelim Sultan 1 MCB Chambers, London, England; Co-Chair, Human Rights Law Committee
Karl Waheed Karl Waheed Avocats, Paris, France; Vice Chair, Immigration and Nationality Law Committee


Julian Burnside AO QC Victorian Bar, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Lisa Button Save the Children Australia, North Carlton, Victoria, Australia
Agnes Callamard Columbia University, Global Freedom of Expression, New York, New York, USA
Marco Mazzeschi Mazzeschi srl, Milan, Italy
Cristina Puigdengolas Fernando Pombo Foundation, Madrid, Spain
Professor Sultan Uzelturk Yeditepe University Law Faculty, Istanbul, Turkey