On safe zones

An interesting juxtaposition —

From J. Dana Stuster at Foreign Policy,

The United States and Turkey, working in concert with Syrian rebels, will create a “safe zone” in Syria, according to new reports. […]

The proposed area of the safe zone would extend along a 68-mile stretch of the Turkish border and would reach 40 miles into Syrian territory. The area is currently held by the Islamic State, but borders two regions of Syria currently held by Kurdish militias.

From Emma Haddad in The Refugee in International Society,

The response of the EU to the mass movements of persons that took place in Kosovo in 1999 was the first real experiment in external refugee policy in practice. Such large-scale movements had of course already occurred on the EU’s doorstep in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, and the international community responded with the creation of ‘safe areas’. Much has been written on the intervention that took place, but what is of interest here is the very concept of attempting to offer protection to the displaced populations on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, and what this experiment meant in normative terms. In fact, intervention can be seen as interference in the state-citizen-territory trinity for the sake of preserving the trinity. Without intervention, mass flows of refugees may have arrived in EU Member States. Seen from this perspective it had a very pluralist flavour. However, intervention also aimed to protect the displaced, thus bringing the solidarist element into the picture at the same time. The same happened when mass movements of Kosovar Albanians began to occur in 1999, and the international community pushed once again for protection in the region, with little use being made of the durable solution of resettlement. The use of ‘safe areas’ was therefore an early experiment in the externalisation of refugee protection policy (p. 178).

[…] By offering protection outside the territorial confines of EU international society, protection has in effect been decoupled from sovereignty. Current practices of controlling refugees in Europe are strategies that attempt to place refugees in areas of ‘protection’ that are no longer dependent on state borders. The borders of the EU Member States now extend further than ever, far from the state’s territorial jurisdiction and its physical borders, and the state attempts to exercise its sovereignty away from its territory. Protection has effectively been deterritorialised. This points once again to the arbitrary nature of international borders as physical symbols of sustaining political communities, suggesting instead that the contents of substantive sovereignty could, in theory, be divided from territory. With this decoupling of sovereignty and borders, the concept of international protection has been transformed. Refugee protection was traditionally something to be found far way from the source of persecution. It was the territory of the host country, the sovereign space within its territorial borders, that was the necessary element for offering asylum. Now protection has become something states believe they can guarantee close to a refugee’s home. With this change, the idea of protection in EU international society becomes something external to the EU. At the same time, and in clear contrast, security remains internal. A securitarian ethic is promulgated within the EU, while a protection ethic is spread outside the EU in countries or regions of origin. Or, to take this further, to maintain security inside protection is exported. This points to a tight link between the control agenda and the prevention agenda and, instead of having given way to the other, rather the two go hand in hand but occupy different spaces. In other words, the externalisation of protection clearly underlines the links between the desire to increase control and security inside and the fostering of a more liberal, humanitarian approach to the outside. Once again, the international society demonstrates itself to be a complex and overlapping space of both pluralism and solidarism. Note the dichotomy: flows of refugees into the EU are posited under a security ethos, while intra-EU movement of persons is found under a liberalisation ethos with internal borders having been abolished.* Accordingly, ‘security’ becomes a given: the state, or in this case the EU, is the given norm, the refugee the given other, and security the given threat that exists in the relationship between them. If refugee flows are kept in their regions of origins, not only will the EU remain safe and stable, but the safety of the refugees can be guaranteed via the promulgation of extra-territorial protection norms by EU Member States (p. 186-7).

* Dora Kostakopoulou, ‘The “Protective Union”: Change and Continuity in Migration Law and Policy in Post-Amsterdam Europe’, Journal of Common Market Studies 38, 3 (2000), 506.