Britain & Europe Seminar Series: Refugee Protection, Migration and Human Rights in Europe
04 March 2014, 6:00 pm–7:30 pm
UCL Faculty of Laws
Moot Court, Bentham House
The Syrian crisis is not only the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis at present, but also Europe’s biggest refugee crisis in 20 years. Last December the Commissioner carried out a “thematic mission”, following the route taken by many Syrian refugees through Turkey, Bulgaria and Germany. This journey strengthened the Commissioner’s conviction that European states can and must do much more to live up to their obligation to protect Syrian refugees.
During various other country visits the Commissioner witnessed the extreme difficulties faced in general by irregular migrants, including asylum seekers, coming to the EU: ‘push-back’ practices in the Mediterranean, ‘Dublin returns’ to countries whose asylum systems are dysfunctional, and the criminalisation of migration. These problems are compounded by a raising wave of racist manifestations against migrants, by politicians, the public and the media. Racist extremism has made serious inroads in the political life of several European countries. Racism and prejudice affect also migrants originating from European countries, in particular those from the Western Balkans and the new EU member states. Roma migration has become a hot subject in the UK recently. This debate needs to be placed back into its correct context, namely, the right of every person to leave a country.
- Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights, European Council
- Dr Virginia Mantouvalou, Co-Director, Institute for Human Rights and Reader in Human Rights and Labour, UCL Faculty of Laws
About the Speaker
Nils Muižnieks was elected Commissioner for Human Rights on 24 January 2012 by the Parliamentary Assembly and took up his position on 1 April 2012. He is the third Commissioner, succeeding Thomas Hammarberg (2006-2012) and Alvaro Gil-Robles (1999-2006).
Born in 1964, Mr Muižnieks is a Latvian national educated in the United States of America, where he obtained a Ph.D. in political science at the University of California at Berkeley.
He has been working in the field of human rights for the past two decades and has acquired extensive knowledge in the field of international human rights monitoring, training and education.
Prior to his appointment as Commissioner for Human Rights, he held prominent posts such as Director of the Advanced Social and Political Research Institute at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Latvia in Riga (2005-2012); Chairman of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (2010-2012); Latvian minister responsible for social integration, anti-discrimination, minority rights, and civil society development (2002-2004); and Director of the Latvian Centre for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies - now Latvian Human Rights Centre (1994-2002).
He has also published extensively on human rights issues, in particular on racism, discrimination and minority rights. Latvian and English are his mother tongues, and he is also fluent in French and Russian.