Legal Seminar 2023

Racial Profiling, Policing and Immigration Control

29-30 November 2023 | VUB University, U-Residence Building, Green Room, 1050 Brussels, Belgium

Co-organised by PICUM and Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice.

In a 2018 report, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism addressed racism in the context of citizenship, nationality and immigration. The report calls attention to “explicit ideologies of racial superiority and to structural racism that occurs through institutions and policies” and “that might otherwise be ignored due to the absence of explicit racial, ethnic or religious” ill will. She underscored how this ethno-nationalism “has deep historical roots, including in relation to Europe’s colonial past.” The growing use of technology in the migration context is linked to this phenomenon, with “digital technologies being deployed to advance the xenophobic and racially discriminatory ideologies that have become so prevalent, in part due to widespread perceptions of refugees and migrants as per se threats to national security.”

Across Europe, policing and immigration enforcement is becoming increasingly interconnected. This occurs both conceptually, in the pervasive narrative of migration and threat, and operationally, given the role of law enforcement in immigration control in many EU countries. Racialised people bear the brunt; in the form of heightened criminalisation of movement, increased stops and searches, and a heightened experience of violence. Research from 2021 by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency shows that people from an ethnic minority are disproportionately affected by police stops, both when they are walking and when in a vehicle. Another study from 2014 showed that 79% of surveyed border guards at airports rated ethnicity as a “helpful indicator” to identify people attempting to enter the country in an irregular manner before speaking to them. Earlier this year, in February 2023, the Dutch court overturned a lower-court ruling by prohibiting the country’s border police from using racial profiling to carry out identity checks at borders.

This legal seminar, co-organised with Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice, is the fourth in a series launched by PICUM in 2017 that looks at EU law and its impact on and relevance for undocumented people. This year’s seminar looks at the intersection of racial profiling, policing and immigration control. It aims to gather advocates, community organisers and legal practitioners working on racial justice, migrant justice, prison abolition and related movements to:

  • Explore manifestations of racism and racial profiling in the context of migration control;
  • Examine how the legal and policy framework of migration enforcement intersects with criminal justice and punitive approaches;
  • Clarify the legal framework, under EU and international law, establishing rights and remedies for racial discrimination and related harms;
  • Learn and build on existing efforts and opportunities to challenge discriminatory and harmful practices against migrants and racialised people linked to policing and immigration enforcement, in the courts and beyond.

Meet the speakers

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Tendayi Achiume
Former UN Special Representative on Contemporary forms of
Emmanuel Achiri
European Network Against Racism (ENAR)

Emmanuel Achiri is the migration and policing advocacy officer at the European Network Against Racism. He is co-founder of VOIS Cyprus a migrant led organisation in Cyprus. He recently completed his PhD in International Relations which focused on critiquing the principle of voluntary repatriation.

Karin de Vries
Utrecht University

Karin de Vries is an associate professor of constitutional law at Utrecht University. Her principal research interest is in non-discrimination law, with a focus on racial discrimination against migrants and migrant minorities. She is a country expert on non-discrimination for the European Equality Law Network (EELN), a substitute member of the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights and a member of the Standing Committee of Experts on International Migration, Refugee and Criminal Law (Meijers Committee).

Download the presentation shared during the event.

Vida Beresneviciute
European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

Vida Beresneviciute is Project manager at Equality, Roma, Social Rights Unit at the EU Agency of Fundamental Rights (FRA). Her field of expertise with respect to the FRA’s work include survey research management, social research methods, data analysis and quality in the areas of equality and non-discrimination, racism, migration. Before joining FRA in 2011, she held academic research positions, holds a PhD in sociology.

Download the presentation shared during the event.

Sarah Chander
Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice
Alyna Smith

Alyna is Deputy Director at PICUM, where she is also focal point on digital rights and migration. She previously led PICUM’s work on justice, health and legal strategies, and has a background in law, human rights and philosophy.

Laurence Meyer
Digital Freedom Fund

Laurence Meyer  has a master in europaen comparative  public law from La Sorbonne university (Paris). She is a jurist and currently works as Racial and Social Justice Lead at Digital Freedom Fund. She co-leads the “Decolonising the digital rights field” process, jointly with EDRi and leads the “Digital Rights for All” initiative. She is part of the magazine AssiégéEs, and co-founder of the Ẅ XOOL (wou Rol) film festival dedicated to Afro-descendant women and non-binary filmmakers in France.  Laurence works on issues of digital rights and the notion of race in law and has written articles on these topics for French and German newspapers. She speaks French, English and German. She is based in Berlin.

Ulrich Stege

Ulrich Stege is a Faculty Member and Director of the IUC Clinical Legal Education Program. In addition to his role at the IUC, he is a practising lawyer and member of the Italian and German bars. Since 2019, he is collaborating with the Italian Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI) and its MEDEA project related to migrants’ rights on internal EU borders. He is Co-President of the Global Alliance for Justice Education (GAJE), a founding member and Executive Secretary of the European Network for Clinical Education (ENCLE), a board member of the Italian Law Clinic Network, and member of the Francophone Network of Legal Clinics, ASGI and the Migration Law Network.

Download the presentation shared during the event.

Chloe Berthelemy
European Digital Rights (EDRi)

Chloé Berthélémy is Senior Policy Advisor at European Digital Rights (EDRi) where she leads the advocacy work on state surveillance, law enforcement and data protection issues. EDRi is a network of 50+ NGOs and experts that promote and defend human rights in the digital age.

Silvia Carta

Silvia Carta is an advocacy officer at PICUM, focusing on migration enforcement policies. She previously worked in a Brussels-based think tank, at the European Parliament. She has a background in International Relations and Human Rights Governance, and she holds an LL.M. in EU Law.

Download the presentation shared during the event.

Laure Baudrihaye
Independent expert

Laure is a lawyer based in Brussels, where she is currently working as a researcher (Phd) and lecturer at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in criminology. She also acts as a volunteer prison monitor in a large pre-trial detention prison in Brussels, and since 2020 heads up the appeals committee that adjudicates on complaints from detained people against the prison administration. Previously, Laure was Legal Director at the EU office of an NGO advocating for criminal justice reform.

Sara Traylor
Alarm Phone

Sara Traylor carries out social work, activism and research on migration-related topics. She is now focusing on the criminalization of people on the move in Italy, specifically those accused of facilitation of irregular migration. She is part of Watch the Med – Alarm Phone and the Captain Support Network, and she is currently working with the From Sea to Prison project with the Palermo-based association Arci Porco Rosso, as part of a working group that seeks to provide socio-legal support to criminalized people, in and outside prison. The groups and networks in which she is active aim to increase knowledge and awareness on the topic of criminalization of people on the move, in Italy and beyond. She graduated in 2020 from the interdisciplinary master’s “Advanced Migration Studies (AMIS)” at University of Copenhagen with a thesis on strategic litigation at international courts for violations occurring at the European borders.

Download the presentation shared during the event.

Selma Benkhelifa
Progress Lawyers

Selma Benkhelifa has been a lawyer specialising in migration law in Brussels since 2001. She is also a feminist and anti-racist activist. She has supported numerous collective actions by migrants to obtain their rights: occupations, demonstrations, hunger strikes, arrests, etc. The law is never set in stone; it is the result of a balance of power that we can reverse.

Lamprini Gyftokosta

Lamprini Gyftokosta was born and raised in a small town of Epirus in Greece. Her educational background is legal, with studies in Greece and the UK. For more than a decade, she has been working in different sectors in both Belgium and Greece, including a lobbying federation, a technology platform, and a consulting firm. Her focus has been on issues related to data protection and privacy, cybersecurity, health, and anti-discrimination. What is more, she strongly believes that knowledge is power and in her new role as a Director on AI and Human Rights at Homo Digitalis, she wants to engage into discussions about how technological developments and regulatory initiatives impact citizens rights and everyday lives. And make this information accessible to more people, giving them the right tools to better understand the world we live in and make better informed decisions.

Download the presentation shared during the event.

Thursday 30 November 2023

Adla Shashati
Greek Forum of Migrants

Adla has more than 20 years experience in issues of migrant communities, migration, the fight against racism and xenophobia at national and European level,  she was representing the countries of Southern Europe in the Board of the European Network Against Racism and Xenophobia (ENAR) and she is currently a member of the steering group of Equinox-Initiative for social justice. She is a member of the Sudanese Community in Greece and the director of the Greek Forum of Migrants.

Ting Chen
Roses D’Acier

Ting is coordinator (non-binary person) of the organisation ‘Roses d’Acier’ (Roses of Steel) since 2019, and a volunteer for it since 2014. Created in 2014, the community organisation, Roses d’Acier, is self-managed by Chinese migrant women in precarious situations and sex workers in France. The organisation is in contact with more than 400 women. The vast majority do not speak French, are in an irregular situation in France and their families remain in China. Migration projects are mainly organized around the economy and work.”

Parvin Abkhoudarestani

Parvin Abkhoudarestani is a psychologist, feminist and activist for refugee rights. She was born in Iran, studied at Central Tehran University IAUCTB and lived under the fascist Islamic regime for 25 years. She fled in 2017 and sought asylum in Germany. In 2022 she filed a legal complaint against Greece for the multiple, violent pushbacks she was subjected to at the Greek/Turkish border (with the support of ECCHR). She works as a child psychologist.

Laure Palun

Laure Palun’s interest in the protection of human rights began at University, from which she graduated with two masters degrees in law and economics. She started to work in an association that provides legal support to migrants locked up in detention centres. Outraged by the treatment of migrants in France and Europe, she quickly joined Anafé (National Association of Border Assistance for Foreigners), first as a volunteer visitor in the waiting area. Since 2015, she has been an employee of Anafé, an association she has been managing since 2018. She campaigns for the strengthening of the fundamental role that civil society must play in the necessary improvement of the reception of migrants in France and in Europe.

Monish Bhatia
Immigration raid

Dr Monish Bhatia is a Lecturer in Sociology at the University of York. He has published several articles and book chapters, and is the co- editor of numerous books and journal issues including Media, Crime, and Racism (Palgrave, 2018), Critical Engagements with Borders, Racisms and State Violence (Critical Criminology, 2021), Migration, Vulnerability, and Violence (International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 2020), Race, Mental Health and State Violence (Race & Class, 2021), and Racism, Violence, and Harm: Ideology, Media and Resistance (Palgrave, 2023/forthcoming). In 2021, Monish won an award from the Hate Crime Network (part of the British Criminology Society) for his article titled Permission to be Cruel: Street Level Bureaucrats and Harms Against People Seeking Asylum (Critical Criminology, 2020). Monish continues to work with various third-sector, grassroots, and campaigning organisations.

Download the presentation shared during the event.

Esra Ozkan
JET Table
Stephanie Richie
Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice
Saskia Bricmont
Member of the European Parliament
Jennifer Kamau
International Women* Space

Jennifer Kamau is the Spokesperson and Co founder of International Women* Space, an Organisation that was founded in 2012 from the Oranienplatz Movement. IWS is an Anti-Racist, Anti Capitalist and anti Colonial Feminist Organization that consists of Refugees and Migrant Women. In 2019 she initiated the Break Isolation Group (BIG) a Self organised Working group consisting of only Refugee Women which enables them to organise against Isolation and the Racist Asylum Process. She is also offering Political Tours with Querstadtein which is a platform for Refugees and Homeless people to share with interested persons about places in the city that they identify with. She is also coordinating a Project with Eoto and Frieda Frauen Zentrum to support BiPoC Community fleeing from war in Ukraine and is also in the Senate`s Commission against anti Black Racism that is a part of the UN Decade of People of African Descent.

Recommended readings

  • Equinox (2022) Ending fortress Europe: Recommendations for racial justice approach to EU migration policy, available here
  • Fundamental Rights Agency (2023) Stop discrimination and ethnic profiling in Europe, available here
  • Fundamental Rights Agency (2023) Being Black in the EU – Experiences of people of African descent, available here
  • PICUM (2022) Digital technology, policing and migration – What does it mean for undocumented migrants?, available here
  • PICUM (2021) The EU’s migration and anti-racism policies: are we ready for a racism-free Europe?, available here
  • PICUM (2021) Tarajal and the legacy of racism in Spain’s migration system, available here
  • UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (2018) Racial discrimination in the context of laws, policies and practices concerning citizenship, nationality and immigration, A/HRC/38/52, available here
  • UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (2020) Racial discrimination and emerging digital technologies: a human rights analysis, A/HRC/44/57, available here