Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden Team Wins Second Place at the International Migration and Refugee Law Moot Court

Four master's students from Leiden University participated in this year’s edition of the International Migration and Refugee Law Moot Court, hosted by Antwerp University. Following the verbal rounds held between 21 and 22 March, the team went through to the finals, achieving second place overall.

This March, Leiden University sent its first team to compete in the International Migration and Refugee Moot Court. The team comprised four students from three different Leiden University master's degree programmes: Michela Farrugia and Taylor Ramey from the Public International Law (PIL) master's degree, Isabelle Oberschulte from the Advanced Children’s Rights master's degree, and Elisha Gunaratnam from the European and International Human Rights Law Advanced LL.M. programme. After qualifying for the verbal competition rounds with one of the top-ranked memoranda from the written round, the team finished in second place after pleading on behalf of the applicant in the final round.

The team spent three months working on their written briefs, navigating a complex case pertaining to the applicant’s – the asylum seeker’s – decision of asylum denial and order to leave the country (and return to her country of origin, Afghanistan). In their submissions, the students based their arguments on gender-based persecution, attempting to establish that Afghani women constitute a particular social group under the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Additional Protocol. Furthermore, the students introduced elements of international human rights law to their pleadings, putting forward submissions based on States’ non-refoulement obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).

In January 2024, the team was informed that it was one of the twelve teams selected to proceed to the verbal competition rounds and was invited to the University of Antwerp – this year’s host of the International Migration and Refugee Law Moot. When they arrived, the students competed against other universities before panels of highly-esteemed migration and refugee law judges from a broad, diverse range of jurisdictions. The team successfully pleaded in two preliminary rounds and semi-finals, eventually progressing to the finals, where they competed against the Singapore Management University team. Ultimately, the team won a very well-deserved second place overall.

The team would like to thank their coaches Talha Günay and Elena Kukovica, for their constant faith, support and mentorship over the past few months. They also wish to thank all others at Leiden Law School who volunteered their time in order to help the team prepare for the competition. Last but not least, the team would like to thank Leiden University’s Europa Institute and Wesseling Fund for facilitating their participation in this competition.

In the Mooties' own words:

Isabelle Oberschulte

This was my first ever moot court competition and I couldn't be more thankful for this experience! I had never explored the area of migration law in my studies before, so it was incredibly enriching to learn so much about this topic. The case gave me the opportunity to apply my legal knowledge directly to a situation that any of us could encounter in our future careers.

What will stick with me the most was our team's ability to work through any challenges and frustrations. On the days of the verbal rounds in Antwerp, it was amazing to see how Leiden really set itself apart from other teams thanks to our strong legal argumentation, our close team dynamic and our coaches’ constant motivation and support throughout the two days.

Elisha Gunaratnam

While I have competed in other moot court competitions before, it was very special to be able to participate in a competition that aligned with my specific area of interest. It was an honour to be able to participate in Leiden’s first ever International Migration and Refugee Law team, and I’m so thankful that Talha and Elena brought the four of us together in November. We went from not knowing each other to getting to a place where we could produce brand new arguments for the competition finals within only six hours. It was incredible to hear the judges tell us that we all have bright futures ahead of us within this field, and it was particularly rewarding to hear how much they admired our camaraderie throughout the event. This was definitely an unforgettable weekend, both in terms of the memories we made and the feedback we received from the judges. We'll apply that feedback to our studies and in future careers.

Taylor Ramey

I’m honoured to have participated in Leiden University’s inaugural International Migration and Refugee Law Moot Court team! Our team members came from a wide range of backgrounds and legal systems and we were able to use that broad knowledge base to formulate complex, well-devised legal arguments. I’ll be forever grateful for all that I've learned from my teammates and coaches and for our deep international understanding of what was previously a very American understanding of refugee and migration law. Alongside the invaluable feedback and advice from experienced, reputable judges, this will certainly help us in our future careers as lawyers and legal counsels. We were also able to have laughs and good times along the way, which is just as valuable!

Michela Farrugia

I greatly enjoyed my first ever moot court competition. I really enjoyed working on the case while we were preparing our written pleadings. I feel like this has deepened my knowledge of refugee law, which is an area of law I am deeply passionate about. The verbal rounds have also proven to be a very enriching experience I discovered that I actually enjoyed the challenge of having to plead a case in front of judges. But, most of all, I'm grateful for this opportunity because as it's allowed me to get to know my very talented teammates, learn from our dedicated coaches, meet people from all over the world and talk to experts in the field of refugee law.

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