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Conference on Refugee Law

Project Overview

A day-long conference that covered topics relating to refugee, asylum and migration legislation, as well as political policy.

Identifying the Problem

The legal system governing political asylum seekers, refugees and undocumented workers is complicated enough for those trying to navigate their way through it in. Yet through her own experiences working in this field, Sofia realized that the lack of knowledge extended beyond the people who were new to Sweden. “I found that refugees themselves were very unaware, but so were the people actually involved in the organizations working with the refugees, giving them legal advice,” she says. “This is a very complicated legal system, it’s very bureaucratic. It’s important to understand how the system works, how the law actually is.” Sofia knew that in order to be able to work with these issues effectively, legal advocates needed to fully understand the system. Without this understanding, those depending on the legal advocates might suffer the consequences.

Creating A Solution

In order to facilitate the spread of this knowledge, Sofia organized a small conference on refugee and immigration law in Stockholm, Sweden. At the time, she was working with Ingen människa är Illegal (No One is Illegal), an organization that provides support to those whose asylum applications have been denied. While No One is Illegal had previously held educational conferences or seminars, those events had never lasted more than an hour or two. Sofia wanted to organize a day-long event that would cover several topics that she knew many people working in the field had questions about.

Four members from No One is Illegal agreed to speak at the conference, and each speaker would discuss a different issue. The first lecture was about the Dublin Regulation, which aims to determine which EU member is responsible for a given asylum claim by placing the responsibility with the state through which the asylum seeker first enters the EU. The second lecture concerned the unique problems faced by the unaccompanied minors, mostly from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somali, who come to Sweden to seek asylum. The third topic at the conference concerned the legal implications of Sweden’s health care system’s exclusion of all undocumented individuals. Finally, the conference included a general overview of the national legal system and how it was related to the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention Against Torture. 

Sofia decided that since the lectures were specifically geared towards educating professionals in the field, the conference would not be open to the general public. Nonetheless, the turnout was excellent, with around 40 activists working for refugees attending the event. Sofia was pleased with the reaction of the audience, who expressed their gratitude at having the opportunity to learn more about these topics.

Lessons Learned

Sofia encourages anyone who is trying to undertake a similar project to get advice from people who have organized similar events and to plan early. Sofia has organized several conferences before, but because of this project's success, she plans on organizing an even larger conference in the near future. She would like her next conference to last an entire weekend, bringing together speakers and audience members from all over Sweden who work in various fields relating to asylum seekers, refugees, and undocumented workers.

Funding

The most important aspect of organizing this conference was to secure a space that included a stage and sound system for the speakers, as well as chairs for the audience. Sofia was able to reserve an appropriate room through a state-run organization that provides such spaces to NGOs. Because the space was free and the speakers volunteered their time, Sofia only had to purchase refreshments, the cost of which was covered by No One is Illegal.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Denmark Denmark 2011

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