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Home Archive for category "Migration" (Page 5)

The Drowning Child

Published on September 3, 2015        Author: 

If you haven’t already – read, look, and weep. Then reflect, perhaps, on why and how it is that such images are able to penetrate the walls we erect to shield ourselves from an uncomfortable reality, even while we are rationally fully aware of that reality. Having done so, I could not help but remember this other, hypothetical drowning child (see also here and here):

To challenge my students to think about the ethics of what we owe to people in need, I ask them to imagine that their route to the university takes them past a shallow pond. One morning, I say to them, you notice a child has fallen in and appears to be drowning. To wade in and pull the child out would be easy but it will mean that you get your clothes wet and muddy, and by the time you go home and change you will have missed your first class.

I then ask the students: do you have any obligation to rescue the child? Unanimously, the students say they do. The importance of saving a child so far outweighs the cost of getting one’s clothes muddy and missing a class, that they refuse to consider it any kind of excuse for not saving the child. Does it make a difference, I ask, that there are other people walking past the pond who would equally be able to rescue the child but are not doing so? No, the students reply, the fact that others are not doing what they ought to do is no reason why I should not do what I ought to do.

Once we are all clear about our obligations to rescue the drowning child in front of us, I ask: would it make any difference if the child were far away, in another country perhaps, but similarly in danger of death, and equally within your means to save, at no great cost – and absolutely no danger – to yourself? Virtually all agree that distance and nationality make no moral difference to the situation. I then point out that we are all in that situation of the person passing the shallow pond: we can all save lives of people, both children and adults, who would otherwise die, and we can do so at a very small cost to us: the cost of a new CD, a shirt or a night out at a restaurant or concert, can mean the difference between life and death to more than one person somewhere in the world – and overseas aid agencies like Oxfam overcome the problem of acting at a distance.

At this point the students raise various practical difficulties. Can we be sure that our donation will really get to the people who need it? Doesn’t most aid get swallowed up in administrative costs, or waste, or downright corruption? Isn’t the real problem the growing world population, and is there any point in saving lives until the problem has been solved? These questions can all be answered: but I also point out that even if a substantial proportion of our donations were wasted, the cost to us of making the donation is so small, compared to the benefits that it provides when it, or some of it, does get through to those who need our help, that we would still be saving lives at a small cost to ourselves – even if aid organizations were much less efficient than they actually are.

I have always found this argument in its essence to be incredibly compelling, even if I am no utilitarian, and even if Singer’s argument when brought to its fullest is far too demanding of most of us. But even so, as the “migrant” crisis is sweeping Europe, as children are drowning on its shores, I feel that some people who are not moved by the big picture (like this guy) might, perhaps, be moved if they were asked a smaller, more human-scale question: what would you do if you saw a child drowning in a pond?

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The Use of Force Against People Smugglers: Conflicts with Refugee Law and Human Rights Law

Published on June 22, 2015        Author: 

On 18 May, EU ministers agreed on a military operation (EU NAVFOR Med) that could comprise, in its final phase, the boarding, seizure and destruction of suspected migrant smuggling vessels, subject to approval by the UN Security Council. Negotiations before the Security Council appear to have halted until both the Libyan government in Tobruk and the ruling authorities in Tripoli give consent. Meanwhile, a diplomatic source involved in the EU internal talks on the matter stated that a military operation could be decided on 22 June at the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg.

In earlier EJIL talk! posts, Melanie Fink and Sergo Mananashvili argued that a Security Council Resolution would be questionable under the law of the use of force. But a resolution would also raise issues of compliance with refugee and human rights law and thus would produce a norm conflict between a Security Council Resolution and other international law.

The Likely Need to Have Forces Close to the Libyan Shore

Let’s look at the most likely scenarios around the use of force, were the EU move forward and the UN Security Council to approve of the plans.

An earlier EU strategy paper had foreseen ‘intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; boarding teams; patrol units (air and maritime); amphibious assets; destruction air, land and sea, including special forces units.’ Since then, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, has pointed out that the operation would not include ‘boots on the ground’ in Libya. At the same time, it is clear that EU diplomats seek more than approval to destroy vessels intercepted at sea, and from which all migrants have disembarked. The EU seeks a UN resolution for destroy smuggling vessels before they have departed.

Identifying smuggling vessels before they have departed will be challenging without deploying people on the ground in Libya. Smuggling vessels can clearly be identified as such only at or shortly before the time they are being used for smuggling. Read the rest of this entry…

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The Legal and Political Feasibility of the EU’s Planned ‘War on Smuggling’ in Libya

Published on June 10, 2015        Author: 

Introduction

On 19 April 2015, after a series of deadly shipwrecks, over 800 migrants perished when their smuggling boats, boarded in the Libyan port Zuwara, capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. The response from the EU was immediate. On 20 April, at a joint meeting of EU Foreign and Interior Ministers, the EU Migration Commissioner presented a 10-point action plan, the second point of which foresaw “[a] systematic effort to capture and destroy vessels used by the smugglers. The positive results obtained with the Atalanta operation should inspire us to similar operations against smugglers in the Mediterranean”. At the special meeting of the European Council on 23 April 2015, this was streamlined into the commitment to undertake “systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers”. These events precipitated the adoption on 18 May of a decision of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, establishing an EU military operation called EUNAVFOR MED with the mission “[to disrupt] the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean, achieved by undertaking systematic efforts to identify, capture and dispose of vessels and assets used or suspected of being used by smugglers or traffickers” (Art. 1).

According to Article 2 of the decision, EUNAVFOR MED shall be implemented in three sequential phases. The first phase will be the “lightest”, aiming at the detection and monitoring of migration networks through information gathering and patrolling on the high seas. It is only in the second and third phases that the operation should achieve the aforementioned aspirations. Thus, in the second phase, it is foreseen to board, search, seize and divert suspected vessels, both on the high seas and in the territorial or internal waters of the state concerned whereas for the third phase, the decision speaks of taking all necessary measures against a suspected smuggling or trafficking vessel and related assets, “including through disposing of them or rendering them inoperable in the territory of that State” (Art. 2(b).

The decision makes the implementation of those second- and third-phase measures which need to be conducted in the territorial sea, the internal waters or the land territory of Libya conditional upon “any applicable UN Security Council Resolution or consent by the coastal State concerned” (Art. 2). This is quite logical. As the planned enforcement measures involve a threat or actual use of coercive power, the fundamental international law principles of sovereign equality, territorial sovereignty and non-interference prohibit the EU Member States from exercising enforcement jurisdiction in the territory of Libya (including territorial and internal waters) without: 1) Libya’s permission and/or 2) the authorization of the UNSC under Chapter VII of the UN Charter (on international law implications cf. Gallagher and David, The International Law of Migrant Smuggling, CUP, 2014. p. 222).

Because there are competing authorities claiming to be the government of Libya, and inspired by the previous experience with the UNSC-accepted EU anti-piracy military operation ATALANTA (launched in 2008 in the framework of European Common Security and Defence Policy to combat the piracy off the coast of Somalia), the EU opted from the very beginning for seemingly the easiest and fastest solution, which is to obtain the green light from the UNSC. In the following, I will elaborate on the feasibility of this option. Read the rest of this entry…

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A Brief Response to Pizzutelli and Sitaropoulos

Published on May 22, 2015        Author: 

The argument that I made focused on the selection for admission of foreigners on the basis of economic worth, and I denominate this selection ‘discriminatory’. In his response Nikolaos Sitaropoulos argues that he is “not convinced that, in itself, such differentiation constitutes discriminatory, and hence unlawful, treatment”. However, the fact that it may not be, at least according to the European Court of Human Rights ‘unlawful’, or rather, in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights, although perhaps in breach of other international rules, does not mean that it is not ‘discriminatory’. The international human rights analysis of Sitaropoulos points in the direction of lawfulness for this discrimination in the context of admission. Allowing for this analysis to be correct, and at least suspending an important new argument, I would reframe the title of my argument to argue that it is international human rights law, and not just international migration law, that provides a license to discriminate on the basis of economic worth, exactly because it considers it lawful to do so. Referring to this practice as ‘differentiating’, rather than ‘discriminatory’, ignores the fact that we are talking about a very binary selection process: you are either admitted, or you are not. To differentiate is to identify difference. To discriminate is to grant somebody a right, or to deny it, on the basis of that difference.

Francesca Pizzutelli provides a welcome overview of international legal limitations that may protect people from discrimination according to economic worth. How should we, however, qualify these limitations? Do they indicate a new legal development? Or are they instead scattered exceptions that confirm a rule? Her analysis strongly reminds me of two very telling and almost identical anecdotes in which a refugee lawyer in the UK and an immigration officer in Germany were advising some prospective asylum seekers to seek entry through employment or ‘knowledge migration’, because that offered much better prospects. In addition, how should we assess these rather humble limitations against a backdrop in which citizenship of EU countries is increasingly for sale? And what to make of the fact that as this piece goes online, the UN Security Council is preparing military action against smugglers and accepting that this may result in the killing of ‘migrants’, as ‘collateral damage’? This author at least finds it hard to see in the limitations highlighted by Pizzutelli a significant obstacle to the right to discriminate according to economic worth.

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The Human Rights of Migrants as Limitations on States’ Control Over Entry and Stay in Their Territory

Published on May 21, 2015        Author: 

As Juan Amaya-Castro points out, (domestic) migration legislation is about selecting among potential or prospective migrants, i.e. creating two categories of migrants: ‘documented’ or ‘regular’ migrants, whose migration status complies with established requirements, and ‘undocumented’ or ‘irregular’ migrants, whose migration status does not so comply. Where does this leave international law and, as Juan Amaya-Castro calls it, its humanist-egalitarian tradition?

This post will argue that Amaya-Castro underestimates the strict and strong limitations on the sovereignty of states established by international human rights law, international refugee law and international labour law. In particular, states’ discretion in the adoption and enforcement of migration policies is limited by their obligation to respect, protect and promote the human rights of all individuals within their territory and subject to their jurisdiction (UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 15, para. 5). This post discusses some of the far-reaching consequences of this principle, focusing on three types of limitations on state sovereignty with respect to migration: limitations on the prerogative to control entry; limitations on the prerogative to establish conditions for entry and stay; and limitations on the treatment of irregular migrants.

Limitations on the prerogative to control entry

The obligation not to reject refugees and asylum-seekers at the frontier may be an exception to state sovereignty conceptually, but it is far from exceptional in practice, especially in certain European contexts. Of the 19,234 people “intercepted” along EU borders by the joint border control operation Mos Maiorum between 13-26 October 2014, 11,046 people (57%) claimed asylum (Mos Maiorum final report, p. 25). More than a quarter of those “intercepted” were Syrians, followed by Afghans, Eritreans, Somalis, Iraqis – individuals whose need for international protection can easily be argued (ibid., p10).

Nikolaos Sitaropoulos expertly discussed the limitations imposed on states’ sovereign prerogative to control entry and stay by the Council of Europe human rights framework, in particular its obligation of non-discrimination. Outside that framework, the guidance provided by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is also worth mentioning. In 1998 the Committee criticised Switzerland’s so-called three-circle-model migration policy, which classified foreigners on the basis of their national origin, as ‘stigmatizing and discriminatory’ (UN Doc. CERD/C/304/Add.44, para. 6). Four years later, the Committee expressed concern at the possible discriminatory effect of Canadian migration policies (in particular, a high ‘right of landing fee’) on persons coming from poorer countries (UN Doc. A/57/18, para. 336). On these grounds, this post argues that the general principle of non-discrimination is a limitation to states’ discretion in the adoption and enforcement of all migration policies, including their prerogative to control entry. Read the rest of this entry…

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Why International Migration Law Does Not Give a License To Discriminate

Published on May 20, 2015        Author: 

Juan Amaya-Castro argues that states’ selective immigration policies are discriminatory, and that this discrimination has been legitimized by international (migration) law. From a legal point of view, this is rather a misperception that confuses differential with discriminatory treatment. The latter is not allowed by contemporary international law as this post will show.

International migration law is not a self-contained legal regime. It is a multi-layered body of law consisting of various international, regional or bilateral treaties and agreements which leave “the alien’s body protected by a varying number of layers (legal regimes) depending upon the sartorial tastes of the State involved” (Richard Lillich, The Human Rights of Aliens in Contemporary International Law, Manchester UP, 1984, 122). Some of the most migrant-protective layers are certainly those provided by international and European human rights law and principles.

As regards migrants’ entry, the UN Human Rights Committee in its 1986 General Comment No 15 noted that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

“does not recognize the right of aliens to enter or reside in the territory of a State party. It is in principle a matter for the State to decide who it will admit to its territory. However, in certain circumstances an alien may enjoy the protection of the Covenant even in relation to entry or residence, for example when considerations of non-discrimination, prohibition of inhuman treatment and respect for family life arise”.

This is true also under another core law-making treaty, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as interpreted by the Strasbourg Court (see below).

Differential treatment of migrants does not always equal discrimination

Migration control measures that differentiate among (prospective) migrants are not automatically unlawful. Whether such state action affecting migrants constitutes  discrimination is grounded in the principle of prohibition of discrimination enshrined notably in Article 14 ECHR and in Protocol No. 12 to the ECHR. Non-discrimination grounds indicatively enlisted therein are: “sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status”. Read the rest of this entry…

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International Migration Law: License to Discriminate?

Published on May 19, 2015        Author: 

The story of international law and migration commonly begins with the observation that states have the sovereign right to deny access to non-nationals. This statement is then qualified with the observation that there are some exceptions to this rule. Refugees and other people who may run serious risks if returned to their country, or are otherwise expelled, and in some cases people requesting admission on the basis of family reunification, should be allowed access. The sovereign right to exclude is presumed to be inherent and ‘age-old’. That impression is mistaken. Immigration control is a relatively recent phenomenon. Until late in the 19th century, political demographic conditions made population growth desirable, so immigration was welcomed. It was only with the desire to limit Chinese immigration into the US and Australia, a desire motivated by racist considerations, that immigration control and the passport regime became the new ‘normal’, and that the reference to the ‘age old’ sovereign right to control immigration began to gain force.

Recently, a number of countries have made headlines because of innovative immigration policies designed to attract investors and entrepreneurs. Spain, Chile, Canada, and others are now conceiving of immigration policies within the broader context of increasing their economic competitiveness. Many other countries already offer benefits to so-called ‘knowledge migrants’. What makes this new wave stand out is the overt effort to compete with other countries for talent and investment. One could almost forget that fear of immigrants has been the main driving force behind most immigration policies around the world. Although government officials in many countries experiencing immigration may be under pressure to implement policies that bring immigrant numbers down, immigration policies have typically also been made with an eye to economic sectors eager for access to certain workers, whether skilled or unskilled. In other words, immigration policies cater not only to those fearful of (large scale) immigration, but also to those in need of specific forms of labor.

As such, migration law is not just about putting up barriers to migrants but also about selecting among potential or prospective migrants. In the Dutch political context the term of art is kansarm (poor in prospect) or more broadly in public opinion debates kansloos (prospectless). Kansarm even made it into the 2010 coalition agreement, which also exempted so-called knowledge-migrants (kennismigranten) from various measures deemed to make immigration more difficult; the factor used to determine whether someone is a knowledge-migrant is a minimum level of income. Blunt as Dutch political discourse may be, public discourse on immigration in most immigration countries often takes such distinctions for granted. Read the rest of this entry…

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Symposium on the (Ab)normality of Migration and the Legal Position of Migrants

It is with great pleasure that the ESIL Interest Group on Migration and Refugee Law, in close cooperation with EJIL:Talk!, launches its first blog symposium, which will run on EJIL:Talk! this week. The interest group was established in April 2013, making it one of the newest members of the ESIL family. Underlying its foundation is the strong belief that human migration is a constant in the history of the world and a defining reality of our time. The interest group aims to provide a forum for discussion on the legal principles and processes governing the movement of people across borders as well as their reception in host communities. The interest group thereby hopes to build a shared knowledge base among ESIL members interested in migration and refugee law.

In its first blog symposium, the interest group focuses on the idea that, despite the normalcy of migration, states have come to treat it more and more as an abnormality in recent times. Many policies bear testimony to this development; one need only think of increasing restrictions on family reunification, measures of migration-related detention, and the introduction of civic integration tests. At the same time, countries crucially depend on migration, either upon the (un)skilled workforce it delivers, or upon the revenue it creates. Policies introduced therefore aim to limit and shape migration, so that only ‘the wanted’ embark on the journey. The person of the migrant is the object of such limiting, discouraging and selective policies.

Three members of the interest group took on this overarching topic in their contributions to the blog symposium, each in their own way. Juan Amaya-Castro kicks off the blog symposium. He argues that international migration law is “about selecting among potential or prospective migrants” and that it therefore provides a “license to discriminate” on the basis of economic worth. In the next post, Nikolaos Sitaropoulos counters this argument by saying that it “confuses differential with discriminatory treatment”. With reference to the case law of the Strasbourg Court, he shows that human rights provide a “protective layer” against discriminatory treatment. Concluding the blog symposium is Francesca Pizzutelli, who takes the potential for protection even further. She discusses “three types of limitations on state sovereignty with respect to migration”.

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Filed under: EJIL Analysis, Migration
 

Protecting Europe or Irregular Migrants? The (Mis)use of Force in the Mediterranean

Published on May 15, 2015        Author: 

On Monday 11 May Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, officially briefed the UN Security Council on the current crisis in Europe. The crisis relates to the sharp increase of fatalities of individuals trying to cross the Mediterranean in order to reach European shores. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports 1.800 deaths since the beginning of 2015, more than 800 of them during a single incident in April. Deaths in the Mediterranean are an annually recurring tragedy triggering public outcry in spring that dwindles down as less individuals attempt the journey due to the harsher conditions at sea during the colder months. However, 2015 is likely to become the deadliest year. According to Peter Sutherland, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration, these numbers represent a 20-fold increase over the same period last year. The surge in fatalities is largely attributed to the discontinuation of the search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum by the Italian navy and its replacement by the smaller scale operation Triton. The latter is coordinated by the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex) and focuses on border control and surveillance rather than search and rescue (see also here).

To be sure, this demands action. An ‘exceptional and coordinated response’ is required to deal with the ‘unprecedented situation’, Ms Mogherini told the Security Council. On 23 April the European leaders came together for an emergency summit to devise a plan of action to respond to the tragedy. The action plan, presented to the Security Council on Monday, promises a strengthened European presence at sea, announces increased efforts to prevent irregular migration and declares the fight against human traffickers a priority. To crack down on human traffickers Europe pledges to undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers. This course of action is not without obstacles. The vessels in question, prior to their use, are mostly situated in Libya, but surely outside Europe. Quite inconspicuous at first sight, Europe’s proposal therefore requires using military force on the territory of another state and touches upon a bedrock rule of international law: the prohibition of the use of force. Read the rest of this entry…

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Are Human Rights Hurting Migrants at Sea?

Published on April 24, 2015        Author: 

Every year hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants, including asylum seekers and refugees, cross the Mediterranean Sea to enter Europe. More than 200.000 are thought to have crossed in 2014, reaching the coasts of Italy, Greece, Spain, Malta and Cyprus.

The reasons for the crossing are obvious. Some migrants flee conflict and persecution; others simply seek a better life in Europe. Regardless of motivations, crossing is not without perils. The UNHCR estimates that 3.500 lives were lost in 2014 while more than two thousand people have died since 1 January 2015.

After more than 300 migrants drowned near the island of Lampedusa in 2013, the Italian Government established the so-called Operation Mare Nostrum. Mare Nostrum was a humanitarian success. The International Organization for Migration applauded the “heroic work of Italy’s maritime forces”, which rescued some 100.000 people between 2013 and 2014. Despite widespread praise, Mare Nostrum ended in October 2014.

In its place, the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (known by the more palatable name Frontex) established operation Triton. Read the rest of this entry…

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