#escapes2021 – panel 7

#escapes2021 International Online Conference

Mediterranean Crossings:
Refusal and Resistance in Uncertain Times

University of Milan, 24 – 26 June 2021


The use of law in the struggles for freedom of movement: opportunity or limitation?

Coordinated by Elena Fontanari (University of Milan), Lucia Gennari (ASGI), Carlo Caprioglio (Roma Tre University), Francesco Ferri (ASGI)

With the participation of:

  • Francesca Esposito (Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford)
  • Fiorenza Picozza (Institute of Geography UNAM, Mexico)
  • Enrica Rigo (Roma Tre University)
  • Maurice Stierl (Warwick University of London, Alarm Phone)

In recent years, the call for respect of fundamental principles of the legal orders of western democracies has become a widespread practice in the speeches and actions of activists and groups supporting migrant rights. This is true not only for the organisations of the so-called “civil society” but, often, also for social movements that openly challenge the European border regime and claim freedom of movement for all. The law thus no longer seems to be just a tool – among others – through which to obtain the recognition of claims and political demands, but it appears more and more to become the very end of political initiatives in support of migrant people. Put differently, State and EU compliance with constitutional norms and international human rights law is often the referent object of social and political struggles in support of migrants.

Here the reference is, for instance, to those who provide legal information and assistance in border areas or in the cities, those who draft and distribute informative leaflets and booklets on migrants’ rights, those who promote initiatives of strategic or “diffuse” litigation, or, again, to those who are involved in various ways in SAR activities in the Mediterranean, where the compliance with the law of the sea and human rights are at the core of the dispute.

We propose a discussion starting from this considerations and around some questions addressed to activists, lawyers and jurists, researchers, social and legal operators, cultural mediators:

  • is it possible to challenge borders and, at the same time, assert freedom of movement through the use of law?
  • as a tool and reference object for political action, does law provide an opportunity to transform reality or limit the possibilities for change?
  • political action through law inevitably results in a call for legality or, conversely, can law be seen as an instrument to assert demands for social justice and open up new spaces for political action?
  • is this approach due to the weakness of the instances of radical transformation of social reality or, otherwise, does it seize unprecedented possibilities?
  • under what conditions can the lexicon of rights and the legal actions take on a perspective that is not only defensive, but which instead fosters the achievement of new rights?

The discussion during the round table will be developed in short speeches with the aim of stimulating interventions from the participants and starting from the reflections of the invited activists and researchers.

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Call for Papers