The International Journal of Refugee Law (IJRL) is a peer-reviewed journal that publishes original articles of high academic excellence and is an essential tool for academics, policymakers and practitioners concerned with the protection of refugees and other forced migrants. We feel very honored to have our article published by this prestigious journal.

A Brilliant Thesis

In the academic year 2013-2014, Dr. Annemarie supervised several Master Thesis for students of Tilburg University. One of them, Alina Balta, wrote a double thesis to complete two Master Programmes: the LL.M International and European Public Law and the MSc Victimology & Criminal Justice. The topic was Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) as a ground for asylum in Europe. Her thesis explored whether and how girls and women can receive protection in Europe and the challenges that can emerge in the process. The student constructed a legal and policy framework applicable to FGM/C and analyzed all related asylum cases before the European Court of Human Rights. After graduation, Dr. Annemarie proposed to Alina to turn her thesis into an academic article that they could publish together in a peer-reviewed journal. Before submitting it to the IJRL, they asked Fadela Novak (UNHCR), Andrea Vonkeman (UNHCR), and Martin Vegter (Defence for Children) for feedback, which they generously offered.  

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Limited Protection

The article illustrates that both the Council of Europe and the European Union have undertaken significant legislative efforts in past decades. But despite this extensive legal and policy framework, the de facto legal protection offered to asylum seekers on FGM/C-related grounds is limited. An analysis of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights reveals that it has actually rejected all cases related to this practice. Our article then goes on to analyze the existing obstacles that cause this incongruence, including the lack of a harmonized approach in Europe, the lack of gender- and cultural sensitivity in the assessment of asylum claims, and the lack of understanding that vulnerable groups need special attention.

Sharing Results

Aside from publishing the article and receiving a very positive response from academics, practitioners and other readers, we were able to present our work during a capacity-building seminar in Brussels in 2016 organized by the End FGM European Network. 

After graduation, Alina Balta pursued a PhD in the field of reparations for victims of mass atrocities and International Courts at Tilburg University. In 2020, she successfully defended her PhD and was awarded the ‘cum laude’ distinction.