World Refugee Day falls each year on June 20. The first Word Refugee Day, designated an international day by the United Nations General Assembly, was held in 2001 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. According to UNHCR,   the day “celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution … it is an occasion to build empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives.”

Refugee law has been and continues to be a major focus of many Max Planck Law researchers. Dr Dana Schmalz (Senior Research Fellow, MPI Heidelberg) and Dr Katia Bianchini (Research Fellow, MPI Halle) are two examples of current researchers who have recently produced major works in the field.

Schmalz’s book Refugees, Democracy and the Law: Political Rights at the Margins of the State was published by Routledge on 9 September 2020. Its back matter provides a description that speaks for itself: 

The work introduces readers to the evolution of refugee law and its core issues today, as well as central lines in the debate about democracy and migration. Bringing together these fields, the book links theoretical considerations and legal analysis. Based on its specific understanding of the refugee concept, it offers a reconstruction of refugee law as constantly confronted with the question of how to secure rights to those who have no voice in the democratic process. In this reconstruction, the book highlights, on the one hand, the need to look beyond the legal regulations for understanding the challenges and gaps in refugee protection. It is also the structural lack of political voice, the book argues, which shapes the refugee’s situation. On the other hand, the book opposes a view of law as mere expression of power and points out the dynamics within the law which reflect endeavors towards mitigating exclusion.

Also in 2020, Bianchini produced a working paper entitled “En Route to Protection: A Literature Review of Key Issues in Refugee Law”. The working paper reviews the literature over the past twenty years “dealing with the key protection issues affecting asylum seekers. Its aim is to identify works that capture gaps in the legal framework or implementation problems affecting EU member states or the EU as a whole …” 

Then in January 2021, Bianchini published an article in the leading outlet International Journal of Refugee Law.  The article is entitled “Identifying the Stateless in Statelessness Determination Procedures and Immigration Detention in the United Kingdom”. In it, Bianchini highlights the specific problems that stateless persons — those not recognized as citizens of any State — in getting access to justice. 

On World Refugee Day, Max Planck Law not only aligns itself with the mission to “build empathy and understanding”, but through its research, to also contribute to improving the legal frameworks that might help to alleviate the plight of the millions of displaced persons across the world.