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What is the state of Europe's "humanitarian borders" in 2022? Since Europe began evoking a "refugee crisis" at its external borders in the Mediterranean in 2015, a number of border areas have become sites of humanitarian suffering, of humanitarian assistance to refugees and other migrants, alongside stricter and more complex structures for controlling and preventing unwanted migration.

The concept of humanitarian borders, although not new, became increasingly used by scholars from 2015 onwards, to describe the tensions and mutual relations between efforts to assist and help refugees, and efforts to contain their movement - in short, between efforts to care and control. The humanitarian borders of Europe cover different geographies, and have at different times been found along the Southern borders (in the Mediterranean, on the Greek islands), the Eastern borders (in the freezing forests between Belarus and Poland), in the North (along Norway's border with Russia) and within Europe with the situation in and around Calais and people crossing the English channel, as some of the most well-known examples. Humanitarian borders are at the same time sites of contestation over who should respond and act, between humanitarian organizations, volunteers and the state - where processes of criminalizing help occur as part of processes to control and contain. Finally, Europe's humanitarian borders have become contested sites about who should receive protection and not, and how to receive those who are not entitled to international protection.

In this seminar, concluding the HumBORDER project (2017-2022) we take stock of how humanitarian borders have evolved in and alongside Europe's borders since 2015 and discuss key challenges today, between new and protracted reception sites.

To attend, please email Ayse Bala Akal, indicating which session you would like to take part in, your name and your institutional affiliation.

December 1

12:30–14:00 Introductory Session: Europe`s Humanitarian Borders from 2015 to 2022

What are the humanitarian borders of Europe? How have they evolved since 2015: how are new ones emerging, and protracted reception crises persisting and evolving over time? What take-aways can we make of how different groups of migrants meet quite different (humanitarian) borders on their journeys towards Europe?

In this first introductory session, we provide an overview of the humanitarian borders of Europe, from what the concept entails to how politics and practices of reception are negotiated and reshaped by different actors interacting. A series of short presentations of the various border areas in Europe will follow.

Topics and speakers:

  • 'Introduction: Humanitarian borders – pertinence and key issues' (Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert, PRIO)
  • 'Researchers’ & practitioners’ insights into different humanitarian borders in Europe: Camps in Greece' (Heidi Mogstad, CMI)
  • 'Detentions in the UK' (Maisie Fitzmaurice, PRIO)
  • 'Poland’s eastern borders' (Anna Ratecka, Jagiellonian University)
  • 'Search and rescue in the Mediterranean' (Trygve Thorson, MSF Norway)
  • 'EU research into new border technologies' (Lise Endregard Hemat, PRIO)
  • Comments & insights from respective research' (Polly Pallister-Wilkins, University of Amsterdam; and Elisa Pascucci, University of Helsinki)

The discussion will be moderated by Ayse Bala Akal (PRIO).

14:00–16:00 Citizen and grassroots humanitarianism at Europe's borders: A book talk: Conversation with the authors of "Citizen Humanitarianism at European Borders" (edited volume) and "Humanitarian Borders: Unequal mobility and saving lives"

In this session, we will present and discuss two books: First, the authors of the edited volume Citizen Humanitarianism at European Borders, Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert and Elisa Pascucci, produced as part of the HumBORDER project in 2021, will introduce the overarching topic of “citizen humanitarianism”, before hearing from the contributors to the volume, including Robin Vandevoordt (University of Ghent) and Kavita Ramakrishnan and Ludek Stavinoha (University of East Anglia).

Next, Polly Pallister-Wilkins, author of Humanitarian Borders: Unequal mobility and saving lives, published in 2022, will share key insights from her book and in particular perspectives from her chapter on “grassroots humanitarianism”. A discussion with the audience will follow.

The session is chaired by Mirjam Abigail Twigt (University of Oslo).

December 2

09:00–10:30 Breakfast seminar: Pets beyond borders: Norwegian responses to the Ukrainian influx

This breakfast meeting gathers animal rights practitioners and academics to discuss the implications of mass influx of pets across humanitarian borders for animal welfare and future migration and refugee management.

The care for animals rapidly became a part of the humanitarian narrative of the attack on Ukraine. In an unprecedented move, governments globally have welcomed Ukrainian pets with or without their owners, and without documentation, rabies vaccine, and/or microchip. Humanitarian action is typically human centric; this broad societal acceptance of pets as legitimate refugee companions, and the attendant rapid regulatory accommodations, are unique developments. In the Norwegian context, an estimated 5% of Ukrainian refugees have brought their companion animals (cats, dogs, ferrets, birds etc). Remarkably, these developments have been met with little public discontent- and almost no critical academic analysis.


  • Åshild Roaldset, Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge
  • Martine Synnøve Bergersen Lie, Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, University of Oslo
  • Annichen Kongsvik Sæteren, Scandinavian Institute of Maritime Law, University of Oslo
  • Kristin Bergtora Sandvik, PRIO and Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, University of Oslo

The sessions is chaired by David Rodriguez Goyes (University of Oslo).

11:00–12:15 Closed workshop session (invitation only)