Last year the Court of Justice of the European Union issued two judgments on the Syrian refugee crisis. Both cases concerned Europe’s externalization of migration policy – i.e. the legal and practical measures taken to enforce refugee exclusion outside or at the borders of the territories of EU member states. These policies have been labeled as the politics of non-entrée by Hathaway & Gammeltoft-Hansen. In the judgments, the Court decided that it was not competent to rule on the cases because it had no jurisdiction. As I have argued more extensively in an article published open access in the Journal of Refugee Studies, the result of this is that law is not only an instrument for excluding people from European territory. The exclusion now runs through law itself. Although European fundamental human rights law is still formally neutral, the exclusion of non-Europeans is becoming a core element of European law.
High Commissioner Grandi ended the Dialogue with a powerful and informative set of remarks. Mr. Grandi repeatedly emphasized the contribution of hosting states in responding to refugee situations. Thus he began by describing the continuing South Sudanese displacement crisis (about to enter its fifth year), mentioning the six neighboring states that have taken in two million refugees and implicitly contrasting their efforts with the contributions of donor states (only 1/3 of the appeal for funds had been met, and of the 90,000 refugees UNHCR has said need resettlement it is likely that less than 2% will actually be resettled this year). The High Commissioner stated that thinking about responsibility-sharing must begin with recognition that hosting states “pay the highest price” (particularly municipalities). Hosting states, he said, “have been waiting a very long time for things to change.”
I am “blogging” (never thought I would use that word) from the High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges in Geneva, which is devoted this year to the Global Compact on Refugees. High Commissioner Grandi gave a lengthy opening statement [see the UNHCR story on the speech]. The HC stated that the next step in the process, following the two day Dialogue, would be the writing of a “zero draft” of the Compact, which would be shared with states prior to the consultation stage set to begin in mid-February.
A bit of shameless self-promotion. The Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility has recently launched a project on a Global Broadband Plan for Refugees, aimed at expanding connectivity for refugees and refugee-hosting communities. The initiative is supported by Tent.org, USA for UNHCR and the World Bank. We are working with UNHCR to identify CRRF pilot countries in which to begin the project. Read more about the project at https://www.broadband4refugees.org/. Read the brief, subscribe for updates, and find more information on our partnerships and objectives.
UNHCR's consultations on the Global Compact on Refugees are well underway. I am sharing below a copy of a statement I submitted for the October 17 Thematic Discussion, which included a panel discussion on "how can we support States to receive large numbers of refugees in a safe and dignified manner." I would invite and welcome (1) comments on the proposals for a Global Action Platform for Displaced Persons and enhanced mobility for refugees, and (2) other submissions, ideas, etc for the Consultations and Compact. UNHCR appears genuinely interested in innovative strategies and ideas, and it behooves the academic and policy communities to respond with realistic proposals that materially advance reform of the international refugee regime while remaining within the scope of the GCR.
On 3 October 2017, the European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously against Spain in N.D. and N.T. v. Spain, stating that the country had violated the prohibition of collective expulsion (Article 4 of Protocol No.4) and the right to an effective remedy (Article 13) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The judgment was issued by the Chamber (first instance) and therefore, is open to appeal to the Grand Chamber, during the three-month period following its delivery.
Officials see them as cruel exploiters of human misery: criminals, traffickers, predators. Indeed, many policymakers seem to suggest that if only we crack down on smugglers, refugee crises would be solved. Popular culture—including through Oscar-nominated documentaries—glorifies Greek and Italian Coast Guards and other anti-smuggler agents as saviors from the machinations of evil smugglers. Syrian migrants have a different view.
The association of violent criminality with immigration crops up time and time again across the popular and political press. Last Monday’s coverage on the New York Times Daily, which focused on the bind sheriffs face when asked by ICE to impose detainers on “illegal immigrants,” unfortunately takes up this characterization.