Thomas Spijkerboer and Jordan Dez receive NWO grant

Thomas Spijkerboer and Jordan Dez have received a NWO Open Competition research grant with their proposal ‘Claim Making as Rights Making: Irregular Migrants Reshaping International Human Rights Law’. On the basis of this grant Jordan, who is an alumni of our Master’s program IMRL, will start a PhD from 1 September 2019 onwards.

The research
Does international human rights law protect all humans? For irregular migrants in makeshift camps in Calais, squats in Amsterdam, boats on the Mediterranean, and US detention centres, this question has renewed urgency. Their human dignity, even their right to life is at stake. This project takes an innovative approach by analysing the role of irregular migrants in developing IHRL doctrine, instead of analysing the effects of legal doctrine for irregular migrants. We will map how irregular migrants navigate and utilize the contradictions of IHRL regarding their inclusion or exclusion—and how by doing so, they reshape IHRL doctrine. In what ways precisely do migrants transform IHRL doctrine by engaging with it? How do they utilize the dynamics of different levels of claim making (local, national, international)? How do they relate to race and the prohibition of racial discrimination in their claim making? Do their claims limit or reinforce the exclusionary elements of IHRL? How can political theory help understand their rights making practices? To answer these questions, this project examines how migrants engage with IHRL through grassroots activism and litigation in Europe and the United States. By examining court cases and related media reports, and working with migrants in grassroots organisations on their strategic engagement with IHRL, this project will examine whether and how the rights claims of irregular migrants in fact make rights.

The assessment committee qualified the proposal as ‘very good, very relevant, urgent and both innovative and ambitious in its scope’. Moreover the committee is very positive about the quality and past performance of the research team, which also consists of Lieneke Slingenberg and Martijn Stronks, while it qualifies the institutional environment at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam as of ‘great quality’ and Thomas Spijkerboer as a world-leading expert in the field.