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Home Archive for category "Migration"

Repressing Migrant Smuggling by the UN Security Council and EU Naval Military Operation Sophia: Some Reflections on Jurisdiction and Human Rights

Published on November 3, 2017        Author: 

On 5 October 2017, the UN Security Council through S/RES/2380 (2017) renewed for the second time the enforcement powers that S/RES/2240 (2015) granted to states in order to fight migrant smuggling and human trafficking off the coast of Libya.

In a previous blog post that I wrote here in October 2015, I concluded by wondering what the effects will be of S/RES/2240 (2015) and by questioning, from several standpoints, the use of military action against migrant smugglers and human traffickers and in the overall management of the migrant crisis.

These UN Security Council resolutions provide the legal basis for the EU naval operation mandated with the task of disrupting the business model of migrant smugglers and human traffickers in the Southern Central Mediterranean: EU NAVFOR MED Operation Sophia. Established in 2015 by Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/778, its mandate has been renewed until 31 December 2018.

Criticisms of Operation Sophia are widespread and concerns over its failure to meet its objectives and its human rights implications are no secret (see among others Meijers Committee and Not so Humanitarian after All). On the occasion of the second renewal of the S/RES/2240 (2015), it’s time to take a closer look at Operation Sophia’s results, at the legal shortcomings of the web of legal instruments regulating its actions, and the various consequences these have had. Read the rest of this entry…

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Is N.D. and N.T. v. Spain the new Hirsi?

Published on October 17, 2017        Author: 

On 3 October the Third Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights published its judgment N.D. and N.T. v. Spain, which concerns Spain’s pushback policy in Melilla. It found a violation of Article 4 of Protocol 4 (prohibition of collective expulsions of aliens) and of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) taken together with Article 4 of Protocol 4. This post focuses on the issues of jurisdiction and the prohibition of collective expulsions addressed in the judgment, as well as its policy implications. 

Facts

The facts of the case are straightforward: on 13 August 2014 a group of Sub-Saharan migrants, including the applicants, tried to enter Spain via the Melilla border crossing which consists of three consecutive barriers. They managed to climb to the top of the third barrier. When they climbed down with the help of the Spanish forces, they were immediately apprehended by members of the Spanish civil guard and returned to Morocco in the company of 75 to 80 other migrants who had attempted to enter Melilla on the same date. Their identities were not checked and they did not have an opportunity to explain their personal circumstances or to receive assistance from lawyers, interpreters or medical personnel.

Jurisdiction

Spain argued that the events occurred outside its jurisdiction because the applicants had not succeeded in getting past the barriers at the Melilla border crossing and therefore had not entered Spanish territory. The Court first recalled its general principles on jurisdiction (paras 49-51), referring in particular to Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy, and specifying that when the State, through its agents, exercises control and authority over an individual, and thus jurisdiction, the State is under an obligation to secure the rights and freedoms that are relevant to the situation of that individual (para 51). Applying these principles to the facts of the case, the Court first observes that:

‘la ligne frontalière entre le Royaume du Maroc et les villes de Ceuta et de Melilla a été délimitée par les traités internationaux auxquels les Royaumes d’Espagne et du Maroc sont parties et qu’elle ne peut pas être modifiée à l’initiative de l’un de ces États pour les besoins d’une situation de fait concrète’ (para 53).

Yet in the next paragraph the Court explains that it is unnecessary to establish whether the border crossing between Morocco and Spain is located on Spanish territory because:

dès lors qu’il y a contrôle sur autrui, il s’agit dans ces cas d’un contrôle de jure exercé par l’État en question sur les individus concernés (Hirsi Jamaa, précité, § 77), c’est-à-dire d’un contrôle effectif des autorités de cet État, que celles-ci soient à l’intérieur du territoire de l’État ou sur ses frontières terrestres. De l’avis de la Cour, à partir du moment où les requérants étaient descendus des clôtures frontalières, ils se trouvaient sous le contrôle continu et exclusif, au moins de facto, des autorités espagnoles.

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Offshore Processing and Complicity in Current EU Migration Policies (Part 1)

Published on October 10, 2017        Author:  and

It has certainly been a busy summer in terms of developments in European Union (EU) migration policies. From an intensification of cooperation between Italy and the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept and ‘pull back’ migrants at sea; to a controversial Code of Conduct for non-governmental organisations involved in migrants’ rescue operations at sea; and the further mobilisation of funds for the EU-Africa Trust Fund, things have been all but calm on the Southern European front.

Together with images of a right-wing Defend Europe ship sailing the Mediterranean to track the activities of humanitarian NGOs, the summer has also left behind renewed plans for offshore processing centres to identify persons in need of international protection outside of the EU. On 27 September 2017, the European Commission presented its new plans for a ‘stronger, more effective and fairer EU migration and asylum policy’, aimed at ‘enhancing legal pathways for persons in need of international protection’. Whilst press releases emphasise the resettlement aspect of the plan, a closer analysis of the official documents and related policies issued throughout the summer, reveals a slightly different picture.

In this first blog post we reconstruct a complex web of EU migration policies that, in our view, indicate a shift towards extraterritorial protection, and more specifically the introduction of a multi-stakeholder mechanism for the offshore processing of asylum claims in the Sahel. Read the rest of this entry…

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An Introduction: The Child in International Refugee Law

Published on August 29, 2017        Author: 

I want to start by expressing my thanks to the editors of EJIL: Talk! for arranging this book discussion, and to Deborah Anker (with Nancy Kelly and John Willshire Carrera), Eirik Bjorge, Mary Crock, and Colin Harvey for agreeing to participate in the discussion. The participants are all leaders in their fields, and I am privileged that they have agreed to engage with The Child in International Refugee Law.

It is a sad reality that the horrors faced by refugee children – both in their country of origin, and in their attempt to secure international protection in a host State – continue to dominate our news feeds. In the past month alone, we have seen damning reports of Australia’s offshore processing regime, which has involved the transfer and detention of children, and, in some cases, the separation of children from their parents; reports that thousands of Syrian children in Jordan’s Za’atari camp are being deprived of an education; and reports that over 10,000 child migrants went missing in Europe last year. As Harvey recognises in his contribution, “there is no principled reason why children should face the formidable obstacles they do in the sphere of refugee protection”. The need for change is heightened by the reality that childhood is a wasting asset. As Goodwin-Gill recently observed, “[c]hildhood, once lost, is never recovered”.

The premise underlying The Child in International Refugee Law is that international law has an important role to play in securing greater protection for refugee children. As Beth Simmons persuasively argues, international law provides a “rights based framework to supplement the protective framework that has a much longer history in many societies”. It is particularly important in the context of children, with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (“CRC”) providing a “lever to give … would-be advocates influence over policies likely to have an important impact on the well-being of those who are not able to organize and speak for themselves” (Simmons, Mobilizing for Human Rights (2009) 307).

The central thesis of the book is that the 1951 Refugee Convention is capable of responding in a sophisticated and principled way to refugee claims brought by children. More specifically, the CRC has an important role to play in both informing and supplementing the 1951 Refugee Convention.

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Itamar Mann Concludes the Discussion on “Humanity at Sea”

Published on August 7, 2017        Author: 

This symposium brought together four of my favorite scholars to engage with Humanity at Sea, and I couldn’t be more thankful. I learned a great deal from each of the reviews and entirely agree with Jaya Ramji-Nogales when she writes, in an understatement, that they leave me with “ongoing questions to address.” I will only begin to lift the burden here.

The Place of Human Rights  

If human rights are to be conceptualized around a dyadic encounter, asks Chantal Thomas, must this encounter be a physical one? “Perhaps the horrific reports of Mediterranean crossings on television or in other media might stage a form of virtual encounter […] that serves as the catalyst for generating human rights.” In the book, I try to provide a starting point for approaching such questions.

Chapter 5 examines the use of surveillance systems and other technologies both by states engaged in “migration management”– and by migrants, refugees, and smugglers. Using such technologies, relevant actors re-construct and manipulate the physical encounter at sea (which is discussed in previous chapters). They are thus able to partake in the transformation of human rights jurisdiction. Since I completed the book, the use of these technologies has developed quickly and there are many more examples to discuss: Read the rest of this entry…

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Tarnished Hospitality: Reflections on Itamar Mann’s ‘Humanity at Sea’

Published on August 4, 2017        Author: 

What men, what monsters, what inhuman race,

What laws, what barbarous customs of the place,

Shut up a desert shore to drowning men,

And drive us to the cruel seas again.

The above verse, recounting the plea of the Trojan refugee Aeneas to queen Dido when washed ashore in present-day Libya, repeatedly comes to mind when reading Itamar Mann’s new book, Humanity at Sea. Like Mann’s volume, this part of Vergil’s Aeneid (Dryden’s translation, I, 760-63) zooms in on the basic norms governing the encounter between the powerful and the dispossessed. An encounter that, if with a somewhat reversal of cast, is played out thousands and thousands of times these years as refugees and migrants try to cross the very same waters.

Mann’s inductive approach is not shy of ambition, however. A proper understanding of the encounter between the ‘universal boat person’ and the naval authorities, we are told, holds the keys to an entire theory of human rights. His core argument, that at the heart of human right lies a dyadic encounter quite distinct from both the constitutional and intergovernmental approaches forwarded by positive international law, is both simple and compelling. Read the rest of this entry…

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Review of Itamar Mann’s ‘Humanity at Sea’

Published on August 4, 2017        Author: 

Itamar Mann’s Humanity at Sea is bold, engaging, and wide-ranging. Perhaps most importantly, it is not afraid to confront standard clichés about the conceptual underpinnings and normative architecture of international refugee law and international human rights law. In addition to specifically legal sources, it marshals a wide range of materials from a number of disciplines, particularly moral and political philosophy, in order to develop an original argument about the centrality of the refugee “encounter”—the physical and symbolic meeting between those seeking protection and those empowered to accept or reject them—to the nature of human rights generally.

On Mann’s account, human rights are non-positive norms of universal value or implication; they cannot be reduced to the rights and duties enumerated in conventional human rights instruments, whether domestic or international. Far from being ineffective or of merely marginal significance, they are one of the two “foundations” of international law, the other being sovereignty. Read the rest of this entry…

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Human Rights Adrift from Natural Law: A Review of Itamar Mann’s ‘Humanity at Sea’

Published on August 3, 2017        Author: 

What is the source of human rights law?  Itamar Mann’s new book, Humanity at Sea: Maritime Migration and the Foundations of International Law, offers a thoughtful and original answer to this age-old question.  He suggests that human rights law is neither positive law nor natural law, but rather a “commitment to paradoxically and counterfactually regard some form of imperative as extra-political.” (13)  Mann argues that this imperative originates in a dyadic (rather than collective) encounter with the presence of another person, presenting the “universal boatperson” to illustrate this concept. (12-13)

The book is structured as a series of rich case studies, which Mann utilizes exceptionally effectively.  Through exegesis and context, he provides new understanding of and insights into familiar situations and cases, including the stories of Jewish displaced persons traveling to Palestine, refugees fleeing Vietnam by boat, Haitians pursuing protection in the United States, and African migrants seeking safety on the shores of Europe.  We see here both the political theorist and the human rights reporter in action, drawing in the reader with detailed and fascinating stories, and drawing out the theoretical implications in provocative new ways.  Read the rest of this entry…

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Encounters and their Consequences: A Review of Itamar Mann’s “Humanity at Sea”

Published on August 3, 2017        Author: 

Humanity at Sea explores the outer frontiers and inner tensions of human rights law in its treatment of migrants who, intercepted at sea, challenge the interpretive boundaries of international law as well as the literal boundaries of states.

In providing an impressive and often moving overview of legal and administrative responses to migrants at sea, Mann also seeks to offer a “new theory of human rights” (p.6). The jurisprudential focus lies with whether states can be obligated to assist. Though international law confers a duty of rescue on the high seas, that duty extends only to immediate emergency assistance: once out of physical danger, it would not prevent migrants from being returned to their home territories.  By contrast, the duty of non-refoulement, which compels states not to “expel or return” migrants to territories where they could be persecuted (Art. 33, 1951 Refugee Convention), has traditionally been interpreted to apply only to receiving states’ territories, not to interception outside territorial waters on the high seas.

Mann’s theory provides a framework for understanding how states may come to extend this obligation, through a more general conceptualization of how new human rights come to be recognized. Whereas international legal thought has oscillated between positive law and natural law as a basis for state obligation, Mann’s innovation is to reject this dyad.  Read the rest of this entry…

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Book Discussion: Itamar Mann Introduces “Humanity at Sea”

Published on August 2, 2017        Author: 

Legal and political discussion around maritime migration began long before the current crisis. In 1976, a speaker at the American Society of International Law annual meeting warned his listeners of a surge of migrants that will land on beaches in the early 21st century: “The little old ladies in tennis shoes will bring them tea and toast – at first [But] What will the Australians do when the number reaches one million or two or three?”

When I started to ponder Humanity at Sea about a decade ago, migrants at the maritime crossings between the “developed” and the “developing” worlds had already generated significant interest among commentators.  But these earlier conversations did not prepare for the events of the so-called refugee crisis, and the media’s near-obsession with the subject. The images we all saw starting from August 2015 chillingly rendered real what I initially thought of as a metaphor — bare and extreme – for the most basic dilemma about human rights: where do human rights come from?

In the book, I argue that human rights obligations cannot emanate from consent to human rights treaties, as voluntarist and positivist accounts of human rights would argue. Read the rest of this entry…

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