IARLJ European Chapter Conference
Ladies and gentlemen,
And for those of you visiting from abroad - welcome to Norway. It is a nice time to visit.
Few topics have dominated the media and political agenda over the last year as much as the increased movements of people over the European borders. Almost daily we have seen pictures of men, women and children fleeing to Europe from war, poverty and persecution.
We are all deeply affected and moved by the images we see and the stories we hear.
The current situation has challenged some established truths: about a borderless Europe, about the undeniable rights of refugees and about the limits of our empathy.
Amidst a heated public discourse, you as judges must continue the difficult task of deciding who will be allowed to stay. Of balancing the needs and interests of the individual and society. And of seeing and analysing the complexity in a situation that is often presented in a polarized way.
The fact that the standards you base your decisions on are supranational presents further challenges. In addition to domestic legislation you must consider the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union. National views do not necessarily always harmonise with these international standards.
I have immense respect for the difficult - and invaluable - job you are all doing.
The title of the conference “European Asylum Law – Protection amidst crisis” underlines that even in turbulent times the rule of law must prevail. It is important that similar cases are considered according to the same legal standards.
You as judges are the guarantee that this will happen. You are the guarantee that one of the cornerstones of our democracies stands firm also in trying times such as these.
From the program I see that in addition to protection, you will also discuss complex issues such as trafficking and highly personal questions and choices such as religious conversion and sexual orientation.
This in itself is a testimony of your ability to focus on the individual rather than falling in the trap of seeing the asylum seekers as one homogenous group.
I am confident that you will have a successful conference with challenging discussions and interesting conversations.