No more “Polish death camps,” but was the new law the right way to do it?

By Reza Majd, on 21 February 2018

Written by: Dagmara Franczak

Disclaimer: This blog post solely reflects the opinion of the author and should not be taken to represent the general views of IPPR’s management team or those of fellow authors.

Auschwitz, it is Jewish custom to place stones on a grave.

Why now? Having seen the pattern of the Polish right-wing government passing controversial laws, we shouldn’t be surprised at the creation of yet another one. Knowing also the growing Euroscepticism of the ruling party and their belief that EU power lies in Berlin, their claim that Germany still owes Poland World War 2 reparations was already a move that could strain these two countries’ relationship; is this law another one? This time the EU is remaining silent, while Israel and USA are voicing strong oppositions towards a newly passed law. Once the law is brought into effect, anyone who refers to Auschwitz-Birkenau as “Polish death camps“ or publicly attributes responsibility or co-responsibility for Nazi crimes to the Polish nation will be liable for fines or prison sentences of up to three years. Legislation might not necessarily be the most effective way to talk about history, but how can we talk about history without causing any uproar in the international arena?

While I believe that something had to be done in order to remind the world that Poles were not the ones that set up these concentration camps, passing a law was not the way to do it. It backfired immediately and instead, the Polish government was accused of denying the Holocaust whatsoever. Polish diplomats, but also ordinary citizens, have for years been educating how the concentration camps were set up by the Nazis in Poland, not by the Poles, and now this newly passed law has squandered all of their work.

Poles, however, tend to only talk about the proud moments of their history from the Second World War – how the Poles protected the Jews and how they helped them escape. It took the Polish government more than 60 years, so that President Kwasniewski in 2001 could apologize for the crime that the Poles committed in Jedwabne (340 Polish Jews were locked in a barn and later set on fire by their fellow Polish neighbors). That’s why the second part of the new law is causing the biggest controversy as to Poles trying to rewrite history. There is a sentiment among the nation that there hasn’t been enough said about Poland’s difficult situation of being between two aggressors during the war, yet managing to continue resisting. Through dialogue we were able to stress years of Polish resistance against the Nazis. Now we might not be taken seriously anymore as we will be seen through the eyes of our legislation. However, the international community needs to remember that Poles died in these concentration camps too, and instead of only attacking the Polish government, it should acknowledge that there needs to be more dialogue taking place regarding their difficult history.

After concerns being raised that the new law censors freedom of speech and academic research, President Duda announced he would inquire with the country’s Constitutional Tribunal regarding whether the bill complies with Poland’s fundamental rights. Since the current government controls the Polish judiciary now, there is little hope that any changes will be made to the bill. There is also little hope that Poland will open its doors to diversity and multinational dialogue. The law also confirms that the rise of nationalism and support for the right-wing is still alive and well. Having openly refused to accept any refugees, because they are not white Catholics, now it appears that the government almost wants to seem anti-Semitic. As a Pole having lived abroad for the past few years, I have found myself having to defend my country and my country’s history many times, and this law will not affect my efforts of continuing to have difficult conversations.

P.S. If you have any questions regarding the newly passed law, or want to chat about it, feel free to get in touch! You can email me at dagmara.franczak.17@ucl.ac.uk.

 

Sources:

 Rettman, Andrew . “Polish Holocaust law threatens US and EU ties.” EUobserver, 77 Feb. 2018, euobserver.com/foreign/140888.

Santora, Marc. “Poland’s ‘Death Camp’ Law Tears at Shared Bonds of Suffering With Jews.” The New York Times, 6 Feb. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/02/06/world/europe/poland-death-camp-law.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fworld.

 

International Public Policy Journal Weekly Briefing

By Reza Majd, on 19 February 2018

Compiled by: Nicole Watson and Tommaso Bernabo

 

Week in review

 

Corruption Charges Suggested for Netanyahu

The charges, which would be the first against a sitting prime minister, raised immediate doubts about his ability to stay in power (NY Times).

Jacob Zuma resigns as South Africa’s president on eve of no-confidence vote

Zuma, 75, steps down after days of defying ANC orders to leave office, and tells South Africa: ‘I fear no motion of no confidence or impeachment’ (The Guardian).

As Iran Ridicules US ‘Haggling’, India Supports Full Implementation of Nuclear Deal

India and Iran signed nine agreements during President Rouhani’s visit, including a pact with an Indian company to take over operations at Chabahar for the next 18 months (The Wire).

Ethiopia declares state of emergency after PM quits

The state of emergency declaration comes a day after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned amid social unrest (Al Jazeera).

Brazilian army to take control of security in Rio as violence rises

President Temer’s plan, which aims to curb street crime and gang violence, would put military general in charge (The Guardian).

Afghan provincial governor defies president’s order to step down

Leader of Samangan province is second governor to defy Ghani, exposing his weakness (The Guardian).

Gambia suspends death penalty in step towards abolition

President Adama Barrow announces that he wants to abolish executions in his country (The Guardian).

In Colombia Border Town, Desperate Venezuelans Sell Hair to Survive

Fleeing crime and economic crisis, more than half a million Venezuelans have entered Colombia, with many homeless, begging for food and suffering abuse (NY Times).

Hamas: efforts underway to prevent war

Despite saying that the group doesn’t want another conflict, Politburo member Mahmoud al-Zahar said Hamas is “preparing well” for war (The Jerusalem Post).

 

Events this week:

Visible Hands: Government Regulation and International Business Responsibility (link)

When: 19th February, 6.15pm

Where: UCL Bedford Way LG04, 26 Bedford Way, London, WC1H 0DS

 

The Intellectual Case for Brexit (link)

When: 22nd February, 6.15pm

Where: JZ Young Lecture Theatre, Anatomy Building, Gower St, London, WC1E 6XA

Australia’s border protection regime should shut down with Manus Island

By Reza Majd, on 16 February 2018

Written by: Yasi Qureshi

Disclaimer: This blog post solely reflects the opinion of the author and should not be taken to represent the general views of IPPR’s management team or those of fellow authors.

[1]

 

As Australia embarks on the closure of the Manus Island detention centre, the protection and safeguarding of refugees seeking asylum should be an imperative priority for the state in moving forward. This would require a fundamental revision of its border control regime that currently breaches international law, particularly with regards to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.

 

A brief overview

In 1976, the arrival of a boat in Darwin, Australia carrying asylum seekers fleeing violence and terror afflicted upon them from the Vietnam War is commonly referenced as the first case of boat arrivals seeking refuge in the modern state.

The steady increase of migrants through the 1970’s and 1980’s from neighbouring Asian countries raised public concerns about immigration from boat arrivals; according to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres the scale of hysteria associated with this form of arrival is a psychological paranoia that is not grounded in reasonable concern for border control.[2]

In 1992, the Keating government responded to public anxieties with an amendment of the Migration Act to include mandatory detention of boat arrivals in an immigration detention centre (IDC) located in Hedland, Australia. Further development in 1994 removed legal barriers to indefinite detentions.

In the early 2000s, the outbreak of violence across the Middle East heightened the issue of boat arrivals yet again, fuelled by the ‘Tampa Affair’ in 2001 when the Howard government turned away a sinking ship carrying over 400 asylum seekers. This led to the formation of the Pacific Solution (enacted 2001-2007): this law excised large territories from the Australian migration zone, and involved the official interception of asylum seekers from reaching the mainland. The migrants were redirected to IDCs in Manus Island (PNG), Nauru Island and Christmas Island. The law also imposed a lifetime ban on asylum seekers in excised zones from applications for refugee status in Australia.

In 2004, the Al-Kateb v Godwin case determined that the detention of a stateless person in Australia was lawful. There was a brief interim regarding the implementation of detention related policies towards boat arrivals between 2008-2012. The Operation Sovereign Borders in 2013 resumed affairs however, granting the navy primary control of asylum operations. In 2015, the government implemented the Border Force Act that penalises border force employees for disclosing “protected information”. This act has been criticised for fostering secrecy around detainee conditions.

The Australian government has sought out negotiations with Malaysia, Indonesia, and Cambodia for refugee settlement programmes. It is the U.S deal that has received dominant coverage: arranged during the Obama administration, it has since been described as both “dumb” and “the worst deal ever” by President Trump. Despite this sentiment, it appears that both U.S. and Australian governments remain committed to it. The deal will involve the resettlement of 1,250 refugees from the offshore processing centres to the U.S.

 

The current challenges

In late 2017, the Australian government proceeded with the closure of the Manus Island detention centre. The Offshore Processing Centre (OPC) located in Papua New Guinea was scheduled to close in October, following a 2016 PNG Supreme Court ruling that declared the detention of asylum seekers as illegal and a now-settled $70 million class action for human rights abuses brought against the government and private contractors.

The plethora of allegations surrounding the treatment of asylum seekers in both OPCs include poor living conditions, accounts of sexual assault and reports of physical violence documented by Human Rights Watch. [3]

Furthermore, the mandatory detention of ‘boat people’, child detention and the absence of legislative measures to prevent indefinite detention have been condemned as examples of violations of international law. This is particularly important because Australia’s stringent border protection regime essentially compromises its obligations to refugees and children as a signatory of both the 1951 Refugee Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The initiation of closure of the Manus Island OPC last year has a failed to signal a resolution, as events have instead exacerbated to what the UN has recently described as “a humanitarian emergency.”[4]

The government set out to resettle detainees offshore but they have refused to leave the centre, citing fear of attack from locals and criticism towards the prospect of further detention on another site, prompting a punitive response from authorities who have consequently terminated water and electricity supplies. Moreover, the Nauru island offshore processing centre remains open and thus far the Australian government has not yet indicated any intention for legislative reform of the Migration Act to ensure necessary protection for refugees seeking asylum.

Additionally, despite perceived progress made by the U.S. deal and Manus Island OPC shut down, border control remains a key dilemma for the country. This is because the US deal only resettles existing detainees and the Nauru Centre is still open. Australia’s ongoing approach from here is critical; currently, however, the government remains committed to the hostile policies that created existing problems rather than devising a strategy that manages border control in line with international law.

 

Why is this important?

A succession of deterrence policies has been legitimised by both conservative and liberal governments to achieve the following goals: to prevent migrants from attempting a precarious journey, to punish ‘queue-jumpers’ and to combat to illegal immigration.

Nonetheless, official figures state that between 70-90% of the applications from asylum seekers detained in the OPCs are approved for refugee status, thus rendering concerns of illegal immigration unpersuasive. Moreover, the 1951 Refugee Convention explicitly prohibits the rejection of an asylum seeker for failure to provide visa documentation and the prejudicing of asylum seekers for their mode of arrival. Hence the Australian government’s approach to refugee safety and ‘queue jumping’ is inconsistent with international law.

It is important to highlight that while Australia accepted only 0.10% of the global total of refugees in 2015, it has generally been commended by the UN for the repatriation of asylum seekers who arrive by air and with valid documentation. The disparity in approach towards asylum seekers by mode of arrival is not reflected in the numbers however, according to official figures in 2015 the state granted asylum to 2,377[2] refugees, and there are currently 1,852 asylum seekers [1] held in detention facilities. It should also be noted that border protection policies have cost the government almost $14 billion dollars in total.

Furthermore, when comparing asylum figures in Australia with the 24.5 million total population, important questions arise on government effectiveness and the allocation of vast sums of public money towards an issue that remains unresolved. For example, it is important to ask why there is such enmity toward boat arrivals. And why is this policy implemented, considering the high percentage rate of approval among asylum seekers in OPCs?

Referring to Antonio Guterres, there are clearly a variety of complex psychological factors that shape national discourse towards boat arrivals and these have clouded balanced judgment. Fears around border control have commanded the allocation of public money and resources but more importantly they have abused the rights of asylum seekers who, in fleeing peril from their own homelands, continue to suffer at the hands of such policies.

A key issue is that the Australian government’s enthusiasm for international treaties is not reflected domestically. While the government is a keen signatory of conventions, particularly on human rights, international law has not been implemented into national legislation. Doing this would ensure that border control regimes uphold the protection and rights for both child and adult refugees.

 

References

Anthony, J. (n.d.). Australian Migration History. [online] Sutori. Available at: https://www.sutori.com/story/australian-migration-history.

Australian Human Rights Commission. (n.d.). Immigration detention statistics. Available at: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/immigration-detention-statistics

BBC. (2017). Australia asylum: Why is it controversial?. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-28189608.

Cochrane, L. (2017). Australia remains committed to refugee resettlement in Cambodia despite ‘concern for democracy’. [online] ABC News. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-06/australia-remains-committed-to-refugee-resettlement-in-cambodia/9228838.

Doherty, B. (2017). Australia’s indefinite detention of refugees illegal, UN rules. [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/may/18/australias-indefinite-detention-of-refugees-illegal-un-rules

Human Rights Watch. (2017). Profiles of Misery on Manus Island. Available at:https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/photo-essay/2017/11/03/profiles-misery-manus-island

Needham, K. (2012). Refugee obsession ‘out of proportion’. [online] The Sunday Morning Herald. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/refugee-obsession-out-of-proportion-20120214-1t49w.html.

Orner, E. (2017). Why Australia’s detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island are still open. [online] Al Jazeera. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/asia/2017/08/australia-detention-centres-nauru-manus-island-open-170813142449181.html.

Phippen, J. (2018). Australia’s Controversial Migration Policy. [online] The Atlantic. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/04/australia-immigration/480189/.

Polakow-Suransky, S. (2017). How Europe’s far right fell in love with Australia’s immigration policy. [online] Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/12/how-europes-far-right-fell-in-love-with-australias-immigration-policy.

Refugee Council. (2016). UNHCR Global Trends 2015 – How Australia compares with the world. [online] Available at: https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/getfacts/statistics/unchr2015/.

Switzer, T. (2016). Australia’s tough border policies are necessary. [online] The Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/australias-tough-border-policies-are-necessary/2016/08/22/61d94f3e-6710-11e6-96c0-37533479f3f5_story.html?utm_term=.35ecb590eec5.

The Economist. (2016). Bashing the boat people. [online] Available at: https://www.economist.com/news/asia/21709598-government-searches-ways-treat-refugees-even-more-harshly-bashing-boat-people

UNHCR. (2017). UNHCR Urges Australia to Stop Unfolding Humanitarian Emergency. [online] Available at: http://www.unhcr.org/uk/news/press/2017/11/59e6b5c77/unhcr-urges-australia-to-stop-unfolding-humanitarian-emergency.html.

[1] https://www.sutori.com/item/untitled-3714-6576

[2] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/refugee-obsession-out-of-proportion-20120214-1t49w.html

[3] https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/photo-essay/2017/11/03/profiles-misery-manus-island

[4] http://www.unhcr.org/uk/news/press/2017/11/59e6b5c77/unhcr-urges-australia-to-stop-unfolding-humanitarian-emergency.html

The Refugee Within: What is Left to Rethink?

By Reza Majd, on 15 February 2018

The Refugee Within: What is Left to Rethink?

Written by: Alejandro Nicolás Briones Sosa

Disclaimer: This blog post solely reflects the opinion of the author and should not be taken to represent the general views of IPPR’s management team or those of fellow authors.

Photo source

     Everything is about definitions. We understand conversations, provide arguments in debates, issue rulings, describe phenomena, deliver judgments, among many other things based on the meanings that language provides to the events that surround us. Although we may dig into how different realities are shaped and affected by meanings (see Dummett 1991), there is one particular area in international relations and political science that has a similar debate embedded in its ontological nature: what it means to be a refugee. For an overarching analysis, three elements are of particular interest: a positivist approach that provides a formal legal framework for refugees, a systemic approach that evaluates the processes in which individuals become – or do not become – refugees, and the sociological approach through which we can observe the socially and politically constructed cleavages that encapsulate specific groups of people under the word refugee. Perhaps this categorisation leaves intersectional nuances undermined, but the substantial behaviours to be discussed hereafter are constantly kept under the relativeness and faltering conditionality inherent to the meaning of being a refugee. Such relativeness is what matters the most when we deepen into the conceptualisation of the term refugee, as it seems to be bounded to contexts, preferences, and interests of different structures.

Positivism set the starting point to address refugees from a normative-legal perspective. After World War II, the international community created special agencies and international organisations to provide assistance to displaced persons mainly in European countries. Most of the applied mechanisms were temporary, as the need for aid was reactive to effervescent conflicts around the world. This process of construction reached its climax when the United Nations (UN) established the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) under General Assembly resolution 428 (V) in 1950. A year after, under the urgency to set clear definitions and protection mechanisms for refugees, UNHCR adopted the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The definition for refugees in the convention[1] came out from a diplomatic lobbying, where UN Member States reached consensus in the broad terms a refugee was described.

With the guidelines proposed, this positivist mechanism to address the realities of refugees was useful from a political perspective, as it gave national governments the foundations for their respective refugee laws. Yet, it seems that such foundations remained purely political and in great extent, economic. There is broad literature on the effects of humanitarian law in specific cases of refugees, yet very few is said about discussions and pressures that states have towards the UNHCR – and vice versa – negotiated under the table. Sovereignty of states is possibly the most contested argument for the effective implementation of the UNHCR mandate at a national level as no binding resolutions can be produced towards any country. As Loescher argues, the very fact that UN member states meet on a yearly basis to discuss refugees’ matters leads to an issue of relativeness. On one hand, outcomes from this annual meeting are simple recommendations on what states could do to hinder refugee crises; on the other, it is left at the discretion of each country to determine which citizens can be framed under the definition of a refugee so that their respective refugee laws could be applied. For William Maley, when he talks about “Refugee Diplomacy”, the constraints of the international system to assist refugees are rent by bilateral meetings of government representatives and the UNHCR. The office depends on voluntary aid from member states, and their projects are linked to the support they have from national governments to provide direct aid to refugees. In other words, states have leverage in negotiations not only on the extent to which the UNHCR can actively help refugees, but also on the political impacts that the UNHCR recommendations can have over states’ interests.

In a systematic approach, the complexities on defining a refugee are burdened by, once again, the impossibility to clearly identify who is – or not – a refugee, different notions of human mobility in areas in conflict, and the multiple actors involved in providing support to refugees. Raimo Väyrynen analyses these last two conditions in the evolving impacts that conflicts have towards citizens. One of them, strongly interrelated to the definition issue, is the existence of other situations that dimly distinguishes from refugees, for instance, displaced people forced to flee because their welfare cannot be granted in their country of origin, are politically persecuted, or are physically or psychologically violated. As a result, there is more relativeness on providing aid, and therefore, a stronger reluctance of governments to act accordingly. It seems that Arthur Stein’s argument on refugee crises is latent in the sense that interests are similar to a gambling game incentivised by a bargain of less costs and more benefits for the state. It aggravates the issue when the frames of action at the international level overlaps or contradicts national laws, which principles are more aligned to national interests, and therefore, its priorities.

The complexity to address refugee crises also come with the increasing number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), private donors, individual contributors, and UNHCR associations. With a very sensitive identification of fled populations from their country of origin, it is difficult to align efforts while responding to legal frameworks at both national and international levels. NGOs play a particular role in bringing more attention to those populations which refugee law – for the lack of definitions – inevitably ignores. Nevertheless, their impact in coordination at an international systemic level is more substantial. The UN welcomes contributions of NGOs in their sessions to address UNHCR mechanisms of action for refugees. Their pressures in the international system have gained more ground during the last decade as NGOs generally work with more direct inputs from civil society – an added value for UN decisions. Yet, it broadens the scope under which international law for refugees should act, which irretrievably, challenges the approaches that UNHCR currently has, both at their definition of priorities and at the interpretation of their mandate. This is possibly one of the most relevant reasons for which updating current frameworks – legal and operational – represents more time spent in negotiations than in prompt reforms. Even though the principle of pacta sunt servanda is embedded in the humanitarian approach of refugee aid, it is still bounded to the soft law nature of the overall international refugee framework and its (in)efficiency nuances.

It is possible to notice at this point that this discussion barely considers an insider perspective of what it is to be a refugee. The sociological aspect of this topic takes us beyond to the common entitlement of a refugee as a political subject. Instead, the discussion involves individual perceptions and social constructs that together, bring a definition of a refugee. Why do people flee from their countries? What is missing in them that seek for a refuge? Are the struggles inevitable or are they unconsciously-manufactured results of failed institutions? The absent acknowledgment of these questionings is in great extent because the popular discourse of refugees is considered a threat to the objectivity of legal frameworks. It is even more chaotic when we dive into the introspection processes that reframes identities into the generic view of a refugee.

“We don’t like to be called refugees” is the vivid feeling of Hannah Arendt, who fled from Germany in 1943. Arendt’s understanding of a refugee is not different from what it is today: groups of people forced to leave their countries and leave their hopes in emergency response operations for refugees from both the international community and national governments – one more than the other. Here, it is more convoluted to reach a consensual definition of what means to be identified as a refugee because it is founded on the very core of the subjective world that the positivist approach does not want to touch, and that may be the most relevant. The word identified also showcases a distinctive set of lenses around the connotations of a refugee: it is about identities, risks and personal fights; about being fastened to the rights and wrongs of the state; about seeking a brighter future because it is too dark if they turn back. It is also about cultural surveillance and cultural engagement, about rivalry but also reconcilement; it is about learning, interpreting, understanding, (re) thinking and (re) doing; it is about other personal fights – this time more shaped by the otherness.

Perhaps national and international aid for these populations should not start with a purely political and economic assessment with the burdens and fear of possible negative costs for the state but ground their assistance purposes to that unseen world – the understanding of a refugee from within. Why not put the welfare of the individual first? Why not as both means and ends? Only if a deep overcoming of such limitations occur, perhaps less people would feel obliged to pursue completely different lives, or at least be safe enough to say, as Motha did: “I was on a road with a stranger, but the ever-present sense of estrangement dissipated. This was the pleasure of exile – no illusion or dogma, just the simple sense that the only ‘home’ I wanted and needed that night was in that car with this man.”

 

Bibliography:

Arendt, H. (1994). We refugees, in Marc Robinson (ed.), Altogether elsewhere: Writers on exile. London: Faber and Faber.

Dummett, M. (1991). The Logical Basis of Metaphysics. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Loescher, G. (2001). The UNHCR and World Politics: A Perilous Path. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Maley, W. (2013). Refugee Diplomacy, in Andrew Cooper et. al. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Motha, S. (2016). The Redundant Refugee. Law Critique, 27 (1), pp. 17-21.

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (2010). Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. Retrieved from: http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10.pdf

Stein, A. (1990). Why Nations Cooperate. Circumstance and Choice in International Relations. New York: Cornell University Press.

Väyrynen, R. (2001). Funding Dilemmas in Refugee Assistance: Political Interests and Institutional Reforms in UNHCR. The International Migration Review, 35(1), pp. 143-167.

[1] The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defines refugee as “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion” (UNHCR 2010).

 

The refugee month here at IPPR

By Reza Majd, on 12 February 2018

Written by: Tommaso Bernabo

Disclaimer: This blog post solely reflects the opinion of the author and should not be taken to represent the general views of IPPR’s management team or those of fellow authors

Image Source

Mohad, a fisherman from Somalia, was forced to leave his country in 2008 due to the threats he received from local militiamen. Before crossing the Sahara Desert on foot and the Mediterranean Sea on a tiny boat, he promised his wife and infant kids that, once safe, he would bring them to Europe. After a perilous journey, he was accorded refugee status in Malta, only to find out that the Maltese authorities do not allow for family reunification. Eventually, he was given the option to relocate to Poland, where he was allowed to rejoice with his family. Five and a half years had passed from the day he made that promise (source: UNHCR).

Mohad’s story is just one among other 65.6 million stories of forcibly displaced people around the world. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in 2018 22.5 million people qualify for the status of refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention, whilst another 10 million individuals are stateless, as in the case of the Rohingya people. Asylum-seekers are one of the most heated public debates in much of the European Union, where a quasi-Manichean fight takes place between those who want to welcome refugees and those who would rather close their country’s borders. Given the magnitude of the issue as well as its importance for the public opinion (in spite of the fact that no European Union Member state is among the top 5 hosting countries), here at IPPR we decided to spend the next month discussing forced migration.

In the press, terms such as refugee, asylum-seeker, stateless people, migrants, are used pretty much interchangeably, resulting in much confusion and lack of clarity. Thus, the first broad topic area we will explore concerns definitional issues – who is a refugee? – as well as a closer look at the international legal system and its provisions. The hope is that much-needed clarity will positively inform subsequent discussions of states’ duties and responsibilities to refugees, the second broad area we shall tackle. Arthur Helton, in The Price of Indifference, argues that refugeehood is the simultaneous product of the worst aspects of humanity – war, violence, deprivation – as well as of its best – the willingness of many to help and assist the oppressed. Whilst surely correct in pointing out the generosity of many, we contend that welcoming refugees is not just a positive act of benevolence, but an obligation to which all states ought to conform and to which substantive duties are attached. Finally, we will be looking at issues of integration and culture: what is the impact that refugees can have on the societies they move to, and how do we ensure a smooth transition into their host countries?

Being an academic blog run by students, we hope that we can contribute to the public debate by adding some clarity to a somewhat confused public debate and by offering some fresh perspectives on the significance of a phenomenon that impacts our societies and communities, but most importantly individuals like Mohad, whose lives we have a duty to protect.

 

 

International Public Policy Journal Weekly Briefing

By Reza Majd, on 12 February 2018

Week in review

Germany’s CDU and SDP parties reach coalition deal

SPD party is expected to fill finance, foreign and labour ministries under agreement (Guardian)

 ‘They exaggerated figures’: Ugandan aid officials suspended over alleged fraud

Refugee commissioner and three senior officials debarred pending investigation as Britain, US and EU threaten to withdraw funding. (Guardian)

Justice at last for Chadian dictator’s victims

Human rights groups believe the African Union’s adoption of a trust fund for victims of former Chadian dictator, HisseÌne HabreÌ, is a major step towards justice. (All Africa)

 Will North Korea win the gold medal for deceit?

South Korea could be rushing headlong into a premature détente with its dangerous neighbour to the north. (NY Times)

 Government threatens to withdraw funding as Oxfam faces fresh allegations over workers using prostitutes in Chad

UK government issues warning to aid charities that funding will be withdrawn if safeguarding policies are violated after allegations of Oxfam sexual misconduct emerge. (Telegraph)

A lottery’: asylum system is unjust, say Home Office whistle-blowers

Three former staffers describe ‘cut and paste’ decisions and rushed, biased interviews with asylum seekers. (Guardian)

Hassan Rouhani proposes referendum to heal Iran’s divisions

Iranian president issues call for unity in speech to mark 39th anniversary of Islamic revolution. (Guardian)

Israel’s clash with Iran and Syria: 5 Takeaways
What are some of the lessons from a skirmish in which Israel lost a jet? One is that as the Syrian civil war winds down, a new conflict is emerging. (NY Times)
Egypt launches massive operation targeting Islamic militants in Sinai

Abdel Fattah al-Sissi orders military to ‘clear Egypt’s territory of terrorist element’. (Guardian)

 

 

 

Events this week:

The World in 2018 with Daniel Franklin

When: 12thth February, 6.15pm

Where: Gordon Street E28, Harrie Massey Lecture Theatre