Photo of Prof. Dr. Ellen Desmet, Human Rights Centre, Ghent University


Ellen Desmet is an Assistant Professor of Migration Law. She teaches Belgian, European and international migration law, coordinates the migration law component of the Human Rights and Migration Law Clinic, and co-lectures legal anthropology.

Ellen’s research interests are situated in the field of asylum and migration law, with particular attention for human and children’s rights implications, as well as social-scientific perspectives.

Until September 2016, Ellen was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Human Rights Centre (50%) and at the Law and Development Research Group of the University of Antwerp (50%). She was the Project Manager of the Interuniversity Attraction Pole (IAP) “The Global Challenge of Human Rights Integration: Towards a Users’ Perspective” (UGent) and the methodological advisor of the Localising Human Rights research program (UAntwerpen).

Before joining the Human Rights Centre in 2012, Ellen worked as a Senior Research and Policy Advice Officer at the Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre, and was a Substitute Lecturer in Anthropology of Law at the KU Leuven. She complemented her Law Degree with a Master in Cultures and Development Studies and a Master in Development Cooperation. Her PhD from KU Leuven (2010) concerned indigenous rights and nature conservation, including fieldwork in Peru.




POSITION Assistant professor of Migration Law

EMAIL Ellen.Desmet[@]

TELEPHONE +32 (0)9 264 69 13 / +32 (0)477 321 382 (Cell phone)

SECRETARIAT OF HRC +32 (0)9 264 69 11

CONTACT HOURS on appointment

VISITING ADDRESS Paddenhoek 5, 3rd floor, 9000 Gent, Belgium

POSTAL ADDRESS Ghent University, Campus Aula, Universiteitstraat 4, 9000 Ghent, Belgium


  • Assistant Professor of Migration Law, Ghent University (Oct. 2016 – present)
  • Post-doctoral fellow, Ghent University, Human Rights Centre (2012–Sept. 2016) – 50%
  • Post-doctoral fellow, University of Antwerp, Law and Development Research Group (2012– Sept. 2016) – 50%
  • Lecturer in anthropology of law (subst.), KU Leuven, Law Faculty (2012)
  • Senior research and policy advice officer, Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre (KeKi) (2010 – 2012)
  • Voluntary post-doctoral fellow, KU Leuven, Institute for Migration Law and Legal Anthropology (2010 – 2012)
  • PhD researcher, KU Leuven, Institute for Migration Law and Legal Anthropology (2005 – 2009)


University Degrees

  • Doctor in Law, KU Leuven, Belgium, 2010
  • Master in Development Cooperation, Ghent University, magna cum laude, 2004
  • Master in Cultures and Development Studies (CADES), KU Leuven, magna cum laude, 2003
  • Licentiate in law, KU Leuven, magna cum laude, 2002
  • University of Stellenbosch, South Africa (LL.M., one semester)
  • Candidate in law, KU Leuven, Department of Kortrijk (KULAK), magna cum laude, 1998

Additional (inter)national (human rights) courses taken

  • International course “Living Realities of Legal Pluralism”, Commission on Legal Pluralism, Cape Town, 4 – 7 September 2011


  • Third award of the Concurso de Jóvenes Latinoamericanistas, Consejo Europeo de Investigaciones Sociales de América Latina (CEISAL), 2007
  • Second award Jura Falconis, 2003
  • Award A.P.R. (Algemene Praktische Rechtsverzameling), 2002


  • European and International Asylum and Migration Law and Policy
  • Migration Law (in Dutch)
  • Legal Anthropology (in Dutch)
  • Human Rights and Migration Law Clinic


  • Member of the Centre for the Social Study of Migration and Refugees (CESSMIR), 2016 – present
  • Member of the Board of the Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre (KeKi), 2016 – present
  • Member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the International Journal of Children’s Rights, 2015 – present
  • Member of the Ghent Rolin-Jaequemyns International Law Institute(GRILI), 2015 – present
  • Member of the Steering Committee of the Scholars at Risk Network, Ghent University, 2014 – present
  • Member of the Vereniging voor de Sociaal-Wetenschappelijke Bestudering van het Recht (VSR – Association for the Social-Scientific Study of Law), 2013 – present
  • Member of the organizing committee of the international course “Human Rights for Development (HR4DEV)”, Antwerp, editions 2010, 2012 and 2014
  • Member of the Editorial Board of Tijdschrift voor Jeugd en Kinderrechten (Journal of Youth and Children’s Rights), 2011 – present
  • Member of the Commission on Legal Pluralism, 2011 – present


  • Migration Law
  • Human rights law, with a focus on children’s rights law


  • Desmet, Ellen, ‘Methodologies to study human rights law as an integrated whole from a users’ perspective: lessons learnt’, in Eva Brems and Saïla Ouald-Chaib (eds), Fragmentation and Integration in Human Rights Law: Users’ Perspectives, Edward Elgar Publishing (in press).
  • Desmet, Ellen (2018). ‘Minderjarigen in de volle rechtsmachtprocedure van de Raad voor Vreemdelingen-betwistingen’, Tijdschrift voor Vreemdelingenrecht (in press)
  • Desmet, Ellen (2018). ‘Rural-Urban Migration And Education In China: Unraveling Responses To Injurious Experiences’ in Tine Destrooper & Sally Engle Merry (eds), Human Rights Transformation in Practice, University of Pennsylvania Press, 183-207.
  • Corradi, Giselle, De Feyter, Koen, Desmet Ellen & Vanhees Katrijn (eds) (2018). Critical Indigenous Rights Studies, Routledge, x + 224 p.
  • Brems, Eva & Desmet, Ellen (eds) (2017). Integrated human rights in practice. Rewriting human rights decisions, Edward Elgar Publishing, xiv + 539 p.
  • Desmet, Ellen (2017). ‘Inspiration for children’s human rights from indigenous peoples’ rights’, in Eva Brems, Ellen Desmet & Wouter Vandenhole (eds), Children’s Rights Law in the Global Human Rights Landscape: Isolation, inspiration, integration?, Routledge, 127-145.
  • Desmet, Ellen (2017). ‘Legal pluralism and international human rights law: a multifaceted relationship’, in Giselle Corradi, Eva Brems & Mark Goodale (eds), Human Rights Encounter Legal Pluralism: Normative and Empirical Approaches, Hart Publishing, 41-54.
  • Desmet, Ellen (2016). ‘Identifying rights-holders in natural resource regimes. A critical assessment of the Peruvian protected areas legislation’, The Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, vol. 8, no. 1, 135-154.
  • Corradi, Giselle & Desmet, Ellen (2015). ‘A review of literature on children’s rights and legal pluralism’, The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law, vol. 47, no. 2, 226-245.
  • Desmet, Ellen, Op de Beeck, Hanne, & Vandenhole, Wouter (2015). ‘Walking a tightrope. Evaluating the Child and Youth Impact Report in Flanders’, The International Journal of Children’s Rights, vol. 23, no. 1, 78-108.


All the publications of prof. dr. Ellen Desmet can be found at the Ghent University Academic Bibliography of Ellen.Desmet@biblio.ugent

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