Bignami Moderates Populist Politics and Asylum Law Panel

Francesca Bignami speaks behind a podium.
November 20, 2019

"This is an incredibly critical moment for asylum law in both the US and the EU," Francesca Bignami, Leroy Sorenson Merrifield Research Professor of Law, said during a panel for the International & Comparative Law program. "The legal framework that supports asylum law is increasingly coming under pressure from frequent large-scale, forced population movements and the rise of populist politics."

Professor Bignami moderated the panel discussion, "Populist Politics and Asylum Law: Comparing Europe and America," made up of asylum law experts from around the world. Panelists included Paulina Vera, Professorial Lecturer in Law and Acting Director of the Immigration Clinic, Dr. Lilian Tsourdi, Assistant Professor of European Union Law and Dutch Research Council grantee at the Law Faculty of Maastricht University, and João Rodrigues, Senior Legal Adviser for the European Parliament Liaison Office.

Panelists discussed differing asylum procedures in the US and the EU, irregular arrivals and detention conditions in the US and Europe, and international cooperation to address the refugee crisis. They compared American and European experiences in each of these areas, focusing in particular on the challenges to asylum law posed by the rise of anti-immigration populist politics.

A panel of four sits at a table talking.Ms. Vera shared her experiences representing clients currently navigating the US immigration system and outlined US asylum procedures. She described the human rights violations that have been occurring in US Customs and Borders Protection detention facilities and the impact anti-immigrant politics have had on her clients.

Dr. Tsourdi discussed how disaggregated the European asylum system is in comparison to the US, with the EU having to coordinate asylum law implementation for 28 member states. Similar to Ms. Vera's concerns for refugee conditions in the US, she spoke about the precarious conditions of refugees in transit zones in Europe.

Mr. Rodrigues emphasized the need for a structured dialogue between the United States and the European Union to address the current asylum challenges.

Watch the Panel