Coming to Olomouc to learn more about refugees and international law

August 22, 2022

Students of law, anthropology, history, European studies, and sociology were attracted to Olomouc by the International Summer School in Refugee Law and Rights. Its ninth year is being held under the auspices of the Aurora European University Alliance, and the main organisers are the UP Faculty of Law together with the V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ukraine.

The organisers prepared the concept based on previous successful years. “The first part of the summer school is focused theoretically and more generally on refugee issues and international humanitarian law. In the next part we are dealing with actual cases and the situation in a specific country. This year, due to the current events in Europe, we decided to focus on Ukraine,” said Selma Porobić, UP Aurora Alliance Manager, who is in charge of several teaching blocks at the summer school.

The Kharkiv university, which is a partner of Palacký University in the Aurora Alliance, contributed significantly to the programme. “The V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University has its own summer school, which has been dealing with the issue of internal displacement in the context of the eastern Ukraine conflict since 2014. However due to the current situation, they could not open it for their students this year. So we decided to combine our summer school and theirs and partially adapted to their needs,” said Porobić, who praised the smooth collaboration with her Ukrainian colleagues, Olena Mashyntsova and Oleksandr Khyzhniak.

Also exceptional is this year’s format. For the first time, it is being held in a hybrid way. “Some of the students work directly in the classroom, some of them join in on-line. Even some of the teachers are on-line. The hybrid format allows us some flexibility, but it is more challenging organisationally. Higher demands are placed on the lecturers. However, even those who could not come to Olomouc for various reasons, such as Ukrainian students, can participate this way,” Porobić pointed out.

The UP Faculty of Law provided its facilities and participated in the preparation of the ten-day event; several of its experts are lecturing at the school. The teaching blocks were prepared by Martin Faix and Eva Zorková, both from the Department of International and European Law, and by Maxim Tomoszek from the Department of Constitutional Law. “The lecturers include academics from both host universities as well as experienced experts. For example, two of our colleagues, Eva Garcia and Mark Macskovich, are working in the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Linking academic perspectives and practical, on-the-ground experience is essential to the quality of our event and its merit,” Porobić emphasised. The summer school programme combines expert lectures, workshops, and discussion sessions.

Thirty participants attend the ninth year of the International Summer School in Refugee Law and Rights. Most of them are students from the UK, Italy, and Germany. Vera Wild is a student who came to Olomouc from Hamburg. “I study law, but we don’t do much international law at our university. That’s why I’m looking for other options beyond my faculty. This summer school is a great opportunity for me to advance in this area of law,” said Wild. She likes the approach of the lecturers and highlights the opportunity for dialogue. “I appreciate the space for discussion and exchange of ideas, for working in groups. Since there are students from various disciplines and from other countries, the debates are very intriguing. The interactive aspects are very good.”

Aurora Alliegro, an Italian student of history at the University of Naples, had a different motivation for participation. “I study mainly modern history, and the last century has been full of wars and conflicts. In the future, I’d like to be a journalist, because I am fascinated by war reportage. So I’m very interested in the topic of refugees and international law, which are opening up new horizons for me,” explained Alliegro.

Foreign students come to Olomouc to be educated – but that’s not all. The organisers also show them the beauty of life in Olomouc. “This is my first time in the Czech Republic. Olomouc is so beautiful. Being a history student, I find there is a lot for me to see here. I think it’s an ideal place for student life,” said the young Italian.

This year’s International Summer School in Refugee Law and Rights follows up on the previous successful summer schools organised by the Centre for Refugees at the University of Sarajevo between 2012 and 2015 and by Palacký University Olomouc since 2018. One of its co-founders, together with Selma Porobić, was Barbara Harell-Bond, Professor Emerita at the University of Oxford, who has made a significant contribution to the active promotion of the rights of refugee communities around the world. The International Summer School in Refugee Law and Rights has its own website. This year’s school ends on 25 August.