Cross-border portability of refugees' personal status - Bridging private international law and migration law

Cross-border portability of refugees' personal status - Bridging private international law and migration law

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The EU member States seem to have prioritised the reception of asylum seekers and the development of short-term assistance programmes. Yet strategies to tackle the long-term legal consequences of the refugee flows into Europe are less clear. While those short-term interventions are of course important, European countries will sooner or later inevitably be confronted with important legal issues that transcend the reception of refugees, the ‘bed-bath-bread’ and other logistical issues.

This presentation takes a closer look at one of the long-term legal concerns, namely the cross-border portability of refugees’ personal status (age, parental status, marital status, etc.). This difficult issue is considered in the ‘Declaration on the Legal Status of Applicants for International Protection from Third Countries to the European Union’ (September 2015) of the European Group for Private International Law (GEDIP) to stress the importance of recording and recognizing facts and documents concerning the personal status of asylum seekers and refugees, such as births, marriages and deaths. The Declaration pinpoints the crucial link between migration law, including refugee and asylum law, and private international law.

This presentation aims to identify and to map interactions between the asylum procedure and the cross-border portability of the refugees’ personal status. It will discuss legal problems encountered by asylum seekers/refugees with regard to their personal status acquired in one country and transferred to another country (such as the absence of documentary evidence, the issue of limping legal relationships). At present, insufficient research data exist on the interaction between international refugee law (relating to the rights and obligations of States regarding the protection of refugees) and private international law (dealing with private relationships in a cross-border context), least of all empirical research data. The lack of in-depth empirical research is all the more worrying as the continuing flow of refugees into Europe will create multiple complex legal issues: How do people prove their family ties? How do asylum and migration authorities assess foreign documents that relate to the civil status of refugees? What if no (authentic) documents can be presented? These and many other crucial private international law questions remain – due to the short-term crisis management – underexposed.

The paper will discuss some interactions between international refugee law and private international law in the field of registration and recognition of the personal status of refugees and their families. It will expand on the private international law concept of personal status in international refugee law and on international refugee protection in private international law instruments.

Professor Jinske Verhellen
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School of Law
Taylor Building C11

Suzi Warren
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Tel: +44 (0) 1224 273421