Irregular Migration


Course Objective

After this course, the student will be able to:
• Map the most important legal sources in international and EU law
concerning irregular migration;
• Map the diversity of legal contexts in which states and irregular
migrants seek to achieve their aims, including criminal law, private
law, international law, human rights law, and maritime law;
• Apply the variety of sources and legal doctrines to concrete cases
where states seek to regulate irregular migration and where migrants
seek to counter such regulations;
• Analyse how these various fields of law interact at the domestic, the
European and the international level in the field of irregular
migration; and
• To write a well-structured and argued legal analysis from different
Eindtermen: 1-7, 9-15.

Course Content

One of the consequences of the regulation of migration is the existence
of migration that is considered to be ‘irregular’. In the past 25 years,
law and policy have increasingly focused on preventing irregular entry,
on making irregular presence more difficult, and on return and removal
of irregular migrants.
In this course, law and irregular migration will be the focus of
attention. In this way, a social issue (irregular migration) which is
constituted by law (migration can only be irregular if law makes it so)
will be analysed through the lens of law. The field has been
characterized by conceptual innovations.
In addition to the classical administrative law approach to migration,
criminal and private law have been added to the arsenal of migration
policies. In addition, migration controls do not only take place upon
entry but have been delocalized. They now take place at foreign airports
during check-in, on the high seas or in the territorial waters of third
countries, or by third states (forms of externalization). But they also
take place throughout the territory of the state concerned by requiring
legal residence for entering into a labour contract, renting a house,
opening a bank account, and marriage (forms of internalization). Both
internalization and externalization often involve private parties as
‘deputy sheriffs’.
In these ways, law has been used as an instrument of states to govern
irregular migration. However, law has also been used in order to counter
state prohibition of irregular migration. For example, undocumented
migrants have campaigned for their basic rights in the USA as well as in
Europe. They have sought to regain some of the rights which have been
deprived by the conceptual and legal innovations sanctioning irregular
migration. They have done so in the fields of immigration detention,
pushbacks, shelter, racial profiling, border deaths, and labour rights.
This course focuses on the tensions and ambiguities that arise in the
process where both states and migrants seek to recruit the law for their
purposes. This course will include reading materials containing
empirical information about the social realities in which these legal
strategies are deployed.
These empirical readings give the course an important Empirical legal
Studies (ELS) component.

Teaching Methods

The course will be taught in weekly 3 hour classes, wherein obligatory
reading will be discussed and in-class assignments will be made. The
in-class assignments will reflect real-life situations and dilemmas,
emphasising the law in action-orientation of the course. Students should
prepare themselves thoroughly for each class by studying the required

Method of Assessment

Students have to write three assignments during the course. These will
consist of real-life assignments (drafting a case note, a legislative
amendment, and an advocacy brief), reflecting the law in
action-orientation of the course.

Entry Requirements

The general admission requirements for the IMRL master track apply:
• Applicants should have at least a Bachelor's degree in Law.
• Applicants who do not have a Bachelor in Law but in another subject
are still encouraged to apply, provided that they have completed at
least 60 ECT credits worth (one year) of law subjects, including some
international and European Law. This may be relevant for people with
e.g. political science or liberal arts degrees and ‘Law and (..)’
• Applicants who do not meet the abovementioned requirement can
exceptionally be admitted as well, provided that they have a sound
academic background and considerable experience in the field of law.


To be announced via Canvas.

Target Audience

This course is available for exchange students also.
Exchange students should have knowledge of EU and International Law and
must have followed 30 ec of law courses.

Courses of a Master's programme of the faculty can only be taken as a
secondary course if you have a diploma that allows admission to the
Master's programme/specialisation in question.

General Information

Course Code R_IrMig
Credits 6 EC
Period P4
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Law
Course Coordinator prof. mr. T.P. Spijkerboer
Examiner prof. mr. T.P. Spijkerboer
Teaching Staff prof. mr. T.P. Spijkerboer
C.H. Slingenberg
dr. G.N. Cornelisse

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Teaching Methods Lecture
Target audiences

This course is also available as: