On 15 december 2022, Eva van der Wal, student of the master International Migration and Refugee Law, has won the Hanneke Steenbergen thesis award 2022. The Hanneke Steenbergen thesis award is a yearly prize for the best thesis in the field of migration law written at a Dutch university. Eva’s thesis is titled ‘Exploring the African Accountability Avenue: Libya’s Responsibility for Violating the Right to Leave under Article 12 (2) ACHPR by pullback operations’. It concerns the interception of migrants on the Mediterranean Sea by the Libyan coast guard in order to avoid them reaching Italian territory. Taking existing research establishing “legal blackholes” as regards pushbacks of migrants on the high seas head on, Eva develops an innovative approach that shifts the focus from states of arrival (Italy) to states of departure (Libya) and from non-refoulement to the right to leave. Shedding light on an often underrecognised accountability venue for the protection of human rights for migrants, she makes a convincing case for the viability of the African human rights system as a forum to tackle pullbacks on the Mediterranean when the European system is circumvented through migration policy choices.
The jury of the thesis award, consisting of Kees Groenendijk, Aldo Kuijer and Jaap van der Winden, praised Eva for the originality of her approach and her sharp and balanced legal argumentation. The thesis was supervised by assistant professor Janna Wessels. She commented that the award is ‘well-deserved for an excellent thesis which is the product of creativity and hard work’.
Two other students of the master International Migration and Refugee Law were nominated for the thesis award. Ana Luz Manzano Ortiz wrote her thesis about the question whether migrant caravaners in Mexico have a subjective right to transit through a third country in order to apply for asylum in the country of the migrant’s choice. The thesis written by Anastasia Karatzas concerned missing unaccompanied minors in the EU and the establishment of a duty upon Member States to locate them and secure their protection.
Congratulations to Eva, Ana Luz and Anastasia!