Summer School on ‘the Immigrant Child’ at Leiden University

June 27, 2018

From the 18th until the 29th of June 2018, a Summer School entitled ‘The Immigrant Child: Challenges and opportunities in international migration for children’ was organized by Dr. Mark Klaassen and Prof. Peter Rodrigues of the Institute of Immigration Law at Leiden University.

I had the honor to give a guest lecture about Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) as a ground for international protection under refugee law. Among other speakers, lectures were given by academics (for example from Saxion University of Applied Sciences, University of Antwerp, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University, Hogeschool Leiden, University of Liverpool, Universität Wien, National University of Ireland Galway) but also by practioners (for example by our Ministry for Justice and Security, the Immigration and Naturalisation Service and the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights). In addition, students also visited the location of the reception centre for former unaccompanied minors without lawful residence (Vluchtelingenwerk Utrecht) as part of the Summer School. The programme was very interesting and I told the organizers of the course: “I feel sorry that I am not a student any more. I would have loved to follow this Summer School myself!”

As a preparation for my lecture, students were asked to read the article entitled ‘Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting as a Ground for Asylum in Europe’ that I wrote together with Alina Balta, which was published in the International Journal of Refugee Law. Two students prepared a ‘poster presentation’ about this article and presented this to the group before I gave my lecture. They really did a good job and I could see that they have put a lot of effort in reading about the practice. They showed for example this youtube movie about psychotherapist and social activist Leyla Hussein who shares her personal experiences. After the short movie, all students were silent… It was so nice to see that the students had a true understanding of the enormous amounts of girls that are being cut worldwide. They finished their presentation with the following sentences:

After their presentation, I gave my lecture. I really enjoyed it, because students felt comfortable to ask all types of questions. They were breaking in when I was presenting – which I absolutely like – to ask questions about what is happening in communities when girls undergo FGM/C, what it means that there is ‘social pressure’ to undergo FGM/C and why it is so difficult to stop this practice, etc. We also spoke elaborately on asylum claims based on FGM/C and the “real risk” that girls and women face when they will be send back to their countries of origin. I explained that asylum claims could be in the first place based on the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. We discussed the well-founded fear for persecution, the convention grounds (membership of a particular social group, political opinion and religion) and the Internal flight or relocation alternative. In the second place, we also discussed the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and issues in relation to asylum claims based on Article 3 (“non-refoulement”), since many claims in Europe are based on the ECHR. I also shared with the students my experiences in asylum cases since I often serve as an expert witness. Afterwards, we even had discussions about reconstructive surgery and male circumcision as a possible ground for asylum. After all, it was a super nice experience and I hereby would like to thank the organizers of the Summer School as well as the students for an amazing day at Leiden University!