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ERC Advanced Grant for Professor of Migration Law Thomas Spijkerboer

11 April 2024
Thomas Spijkerboer, Professor of Migration Law at the Amsterdam Centre for Migration and Refugee Law of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, has been awarded an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). In this five-year research program MIGJUST, he will investigate the unrecognized fundamental conflict between the European Court of Human Rights, which adopts a sovereignty approach in its migration jurisprudence normalizing immobility, and the Inter-American and African human rights commissions and courts, which adopt a human rights approach normalizing mobility. This fragmentation of international law also occurs within UN human rights committees.

This fragmentation is not recognized in scholarly research, which assumes that the European approach represents the most advanced version of international law. This fragmentation is problematic because it undermines the international character of international law. Legal doctrine overlaps with the dominant political theory on migration law, which focuses on Europe and North America and disregards the different positions developed in Latin American, African, and Islamic political theory.

MIGJUST aims to address this bias by studying Inter-American, African, and UN jurisprudence and by linking European, Inter-American, African, and UN jurisprudence to political theory.

Reformulating international human rights
Spijkerboer's ambition is to reformulate international human rights law in the field of migration by incorporating both Inter-American, African, and UN jurisprudence and European jurisprudence into the analysis. He will analyze the diverse principled positions and investigate how that conflict relates to diverse ideas of migration justice in European, North American, South American, African, and Islamic political theory. Subsequently, he will formulate legal alternatives inspired by non-ideal political and legal theory.

Ending bias
In this way, MIGJUST makes a fundamental academic contribution by ending the assumed European bias, contributes to legal practice by unlocking Inter-American, African, and UN jurisprudence, and contributes to international cooperation among states, IOs, and INGOs by making their different normative positions understandable to each other.

Thomas Spijkerboer receives 2.5 million euros from the ERC for his groundbreaking research. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam has received four ERC advanced grants within the disciplines of law, computer science, and twice within natural and astronomical sciences.