On more proposed changes to Norwegian asylum and immigration policy [2]

[following the updated proposals, this post is a continuation of the original]

Prop. 90 L (2015-2016): Endringer i utlendingsloven mv. (instramninger II) / final info

Prop. 91 L (2015-2016): Endringar i utlendingslova (pågriping og fengsling i samband med 48-timarprosedyren) / final info

Press conference om endanger i utlendingsloven [05.04.2016]

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On past as prologue [5]

Leon Gordenker, Refugees in International Politics (1987) —

The misery of refugees thus dulls the glitter of unilateral, short-term campaigning by governments. The homeless, persecuted, hungry, confused people who turn up at border posts and distant airports signify the costs of conflict within and among societies and states. They are living monuments to war, disorder, long-term social collapse, government failure, prejudice and sheer malice. They pay directly for the militaristic swaggering of their leaders, for the intolerance of political and religious orthodoxy and for the short-term successes of mindless power-seekers (p. 6).

Even more fundamental limitations were inherent in the new regime as a result of both national policies and the nature of international politics. No government has ever shown itself eager to surrender authority over immigration. Some governments, such as those of the United States and the United Kingdom, have had to deal with immigration policies as leading issues in national political life. The experience with refugees and displaced persons after the Second World War demonstrated the expediency of resettlement as a means of coping with accumulations of refugees. But resettlement means that refugees become immigrants. Granting general rights to refugees or allowing a large number of people to formally become refugees could thus diminish national control over immigration policies. Therefore, governments approached refugee matters with some tentativeness and showed a clear resistance to handing over even minor decisions to an international agency [UNHCR]. As s a result the [Refugee] Convention enables a person outside his own country to enter a claim to a government for asylum but gives him no right to it. The rights of refugees are based in the first instance on protection from being sent into danger or persecution, either in their original homes or in a third country. Thus, the doctrine of non-refoulement to protect refugees may promote the granting of long-term asylum but does not ensure it. Governments acceding to the Convention maintain their authority over immigration and nationality (p. 30; emphasis added).

On past as prologue [4]

Jean-Pierre Hocke, “Beyond Humanitarianism: The Need for Political Will to Resolve Today’s Refugee Problem,” p. 40-1, in G. Loescher and L. Monahan (eds.), Refugees in International Relations (1989).

I am particularly concerned about the growing negative public opinion in the west vis-a-vis refugees and asylum-seekers from the Third World. Many governments in the West have responded to the recent influxes of refugees by adopting restrictive practices, a reaction that has tended to prove contagious. Humanitarian principles, so carefully nurtured in the West over the past few decades, are under threat. Basic standards of refugee protection are being lowered. Refugees are being used as political tools in domestic party politics. In this process the basic human values which served as the reference point for all humanitarian activities are being devalued. This erosion of values must be checked, and I am sure it can be done, provided states exercise their political judgement and will to do so, bearing in mind the immeasurably serious consequences of acting otherwise.

Given both the size and the complexity of the world refugee problem, it is time that the international community took a fresh look at the legal instruments available, and identified a political means to address the problem more effectively.

On creative solutions [2]

UDI’s Director, Frode Forfang, recently wrote a blog post about rethinking the international refugee regime (det internasjonale flyktningregimet) by – if I understand him correctly – doing away with asylum in favor of a European-based quota system —

La oss tenke oss et helt annet system. Et system der Europa hvert år tok imot opptil flere hundre tusen flyktninger på kvote og fordelte dem mellom landene. Antallet kunne variere fra år til år og tilpasses den aktuelle flyktningsituasjonen. I et Europa med rundt 500 millioner innbyggere, ville det vært en relativt overkommelig oppgave. En forutsetning for å skape folkelig og politisk vilje til noe slikt, er imidlertid at det eksisterende systemet der retten til å søke asyl er grunnlaget for det internasjonale flyktningregimet, opphører i sin nåværende form.

He ends by noting,

Å endre det internasjonale flyktningregimet er selvsagt ingen enkel sak. Retten til å søke asyl er en del av folkeretten. Også EU-retten regulerer dette. En endring må ha et humanitært grunnlag, og må blant annet kunne sikre flyktninger en akutt nødhavn. Men en ny ordning må også ta utgangspunkt i en erkjennelse av at dagens system verken ivaretar grunnleggende humanitære prinsipper eller statenes rett til å styre innvandringen. I mellomtiden står asylretten sterkt som det eneste alternativet vi har.

It unleashed a whole host of responses —

related: 07.01.2016: UDI-direktøren oppsummerte asylåret 2015 (UDI)

On informal polls

From TV2,

I en rundspørring TV 2 har utført blant nesten 1.000 asylsøkere på 19 asylmottak over hele landet, svarer 79 prosent av de spurte at de ser for seg en permanent fremtid i Norge.

TV 2 besøkte 19 akuttmottak for asylsøkere over hele landet der de delte ut et spørreskjema med ni spørsmål, på ni språk, for å få vite mer om asylsøkerne som er kommet til Norge.

984 voksne asylsøkere svarte på spørsmål om seg selv og fremtiden. Svarene viser tydelig at asylsøkerne ikke ønsker å reise hjem. Selv om forholdene i hjemlandet bedrer seg er det bare 15 prosent av de TV 2 snakket med som vil reise tilbake. Vel 5 prosent svarte at de ikke visste.

[…]

Undersøkelsen fra TV 2 er ikke statistisk representativ. Konklusjonene baserer seg på svarene som 984 voksne asylsøkere har gitt. Det har kommet vel 30.000 asylsøkere til Norge i år.

On panel discussions: The Migrant and Refugee Crisis @ Oxford Martin School

Interesting set up, really interesting result: The Oxford Martin School hosted a panel to discuss the migrant and refugee crisis + responses and solutions.

In her six minutes to address the panel, Bridget Anderson brought up issues around victimhood, agency and morals [@35:20] —

On September the 7th in response to the so-called ‘refugee crisis in Europe ‘, David Cameron announced the extension of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Protections scheme to operate alongside the regular asylum claim system. The UK won’t accept for resettlement people who have reached Europe or its borders, but it will accept 4000 people a year from the refugee camps bordering Syria. People who are identified as being victims of sexual violence, the elderly, the disabled, orphaned children, and so on.

So this is what a genuine refugee looks like: living in a camp, helpless, a broken body, a broken mind, a broken heart, and no control over their lives. But one of the challenges of the refugee crisis – let’s call it that for now, though I appreciate what Julien [Brachet] has said – lies in the refusal to be that deserving refugee who waits to be rescued from the camp. People are making choices to move, albeit within very constrained limitations. The reassertion of vulnerability as a sign of deservingness equates refugee with a very particular kind of victimhood that making decisions delegitimizes people’s status as victims, and therefore as a refugee. Choosing to move from Turkey, Jordan, or Lebanon, especially if you can afford to pay people to help you move suggests that you’re not somehow genuinely in need. Now of course, you all know that in practice refugees are not only helpless victims, but the broader truth is that .this determined.. focus on those who are believed to be the so-called ‘most vulnerable’ reveals that .all of our. models inevitably exclude as they include. The most vulnerable would in all likelihood not include the family of Aylan Kurdi. Even if we widen criteria to include all Syrians, we exclude all people from Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Iraq. If we widen inclusion to encompass all refugees, we exclude those attempting to cross the Mediterranean in rickety boats in order to build more sustainable lives. And this is a profound challenge to European claims to respect the moral equality of persons because we are living in a world of increasingly grotesque inequality both in terms of security and economic opportunity.

We don’t have to only think about the horrors of Syria and Iraq. Research by the World Bank has demonstrated that while in the 19th century, what determined your place in the noble hierarchy of income was basically whether you were a worker or a boss, a master or a servant. And today, this is much less important than in the state in which you live. And lets not forget that this inequality is not a natural state of affairs but has historical roots, both recent – and we heard about the disasterous foreign policy, but also as Colin [Bundy] talked about, colonialism and imperialism. Indeed, perhaps, rather than a refugee crisis confronting Europe, what we are seeing is a European crisis confronting refugees. Like the apocryphal story that  the Haitian slave revolution greeted the repressive French army by singing La Marseillaise, so some of the people walking along the motorways of Hungary and Austria are carrying the European flag. ‘We share your respect for justice, freedom, and human rights, and here we are, we belong.’

This is where the potential power of where the refugees are welcome lies. Probably like many people in this room, I went to the demonstration in Oxford that was actually just outside this very building. It was an expression of humanitarian impulse, but more than that, it was an assertion that we, the residents of Oxford in this case, but also other cities, have the moral authority to include. It shifts the ‘we’. ‘You’ might not welcome refugees, but we do. In this, it is a welcome contrast of the rejection of asylum-seekers and the demonization of non-citizens that has marked both the British and the European scene for many years. But who is the refugee we are welcoming – and to pick up on something that Cathryn [Costello] has said – does this refugee have to be a person who has the victim in premature or is it someone that we, the residents, has a genuine claim? The two are not necessarily the same. If we are welcoming the person on the road in Austria or risking the Channel tunnel in Calais, the emotional impulse must engage with the bureaucratic and legal process and move from the terrain from the moral to the political. For if refugees really are welcome, then something must be done at the European level about the Dublin system. But also at the national level. In Britain, each refugee welcomed counts against the net migration target, which is the critical measure of the government’s immigration policy’s success or failure. and if refugees really are welcome, there are plenty already in the UK and Oxford who are destitute and homeless. For we live in a country that has declared a hostile environment for unwanted migrants, including people who have been refused asylum but who cannot be returned because, despite the rejection of their asylum claims, it is acknowledged that their country of citizenship is too dangerous.

Furthermore, every refugee welcomed needs a place to live. Unfortunately, in the UK, homelessness and hunger are not confined to refugees. If the environment is to be truly welcoming for refugees, it is critical that they are not positioned as competitors for scarce resources – that is, welcoming refugees cannot be treated as an isolated social issue, and this makes it intensely political. ‘Refugees are welcome’ is indeed a very bold statement.

On humanitarian visas

Sam Cowie at IRIN discusses Brazil’s use of humanitarian visas —

Until recently, Haitians escaping their homeland after the utter devastation of the 2010 earthquake took hazardous overland routes through South America in the hope of finding a better life in Brazil, often putting their lives in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers. Now, it’s simple: they walk into an office in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince and apply for a humanitarian visa. No need for smugglers or sneaking across borders.

Brazil has introduced a similar system for Syrian refugees who can apply for special visas at Brazilian consulates in the Middle East. The visas facilitate their travel to Brazil. After arriving, they can register asylum claims. So far, 8,000 Syrians have been granted the visas.