In a political climate characterised by Euroscepticism, xenophobia, and increasingly socially conservative policy, the 6th IARS Annual Conference strives to reaffirm Europe’s dedication to progress and equity. The Annual Conference provides decision-makers, researchers, scholars, and communities with a platform to discuss the biggest social policy challenges facing Britain and Europe, to exchange policy ideas, and provide evidence-based solutions.

Middle Temple welcomed participants from around Europe to the 6th IARS Annual Conference, and provided a space in which open and accessible discussions regarding policy could take place. Day 1 of the Conference focused on Epsilon, an IARS project built around sharing, developing and transferring innovative practices in education targeting professionals and volunteers working in services for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. Leila Zadeh and Dr Jason Schaub opened the day’s programme with keynote speeches on the challenges faced by those seeking asylum in the UK and Europe. A panel discussion on Epsilon’s activities around Europe shed light on the project’s findings and recommendations to improve support for LGBTQ+ migrants and refugees and provide adequate legal resources to those seeking asylum. As the day progressed, we heard speakers Jakub Niewiński, Allan Briddock and Bartosz Kotylak deliver workshops on the intricacies of European law and LGBTQ+ rights. IARS’ own Emily Lanham and Maija Linnala provided an in-depth look into the importance of public legal education and the Epsilon project’s recommendations. Jonathan Mastellari, Dr Antonia Torrens and Dr Simon Aulton shed light on the user-led methodology and good practices in Greece, Cyprus and other European countries in supporting vulnerable asylum-seekers.

The second day of the Conference placed emphasis on IARS’ Abused No More project – an initiative created with the aim of educating young migrant women and girls, who have suffered abuse on their legal rights and informing them on how to use government services most effectively. Director and founder of IARS, Dr Theo Gavrielides, opened the day’s programme with a discussion of what empowerment in the context of the Abused No More project looks like, and the importance of IARS’ recommendations for this project. He also introduced Eurodesk UK, a network informing young people and youth organisations about mobility opportunities in Europe, and promoted the network's exciting opportunities for volunteering, learning, working and travelling for young people beyond the UK. A panel comprised of researchers and charitable organisations presented findings of the project in their respective target countries of the UK, Poland, Cyprus, Italy, and Romania. Workshops focused on the mechanisms available to best protect and support survivors of gender-based violence and abuse, with emphasis on restorative justice (Maija Linnala) and public legal education (Emily Lanham). Steven Barrett, Sabrina Hussain, Daphne Spyropoulos, and Mily Saraswat led working groups and discussed the importance of legal education in supporting young migrants and promoting integration and inclusion. Simon Israel, an IARS patron, in addition to his role as a Channel 4 Home Affairs Correspondent, concluded the conference with a final reminder as to why the IARS Annual Conference represents a crucial building block in European policy and solidarity.

IARS thanks all conference participants for their attendance and contributions. We would also like to thank Eurodesk UK for providing us with exciting merchandise to hand out to participants. Here at IARS, sharing innovative and cutting-edge research with each other is paramount. Our mission to produce evidence-based and user-led solutions to social issues relies on charitable organisations all over the world sharing their findings and ideas about restorative justice, civic participation, and empowerment. Influencing policy whilst ensuring international solidarity and placing the most vulnerable at the centre of our discourse is IARS’ vision, and we hope that future conferences share the same dedication to progress, justice, and diversity that we saw this year.

Written by Justice Projects Intern - Antara Jaidev