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]


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 past as prologue [3]

From: Gil Loescher, “Refugees as grounds for international action” p. 36-37 in Edward Newman and Joanne van Selm (eds.) Refugees and Forced Displacement: International Security, Human Vulnerability, and the State (2003) —
There has been increasing recognition that massive refugee flows do in fact constitute a threat to international peace and security, and that they therefore invoke the enforcement powers of the United Nations. As a threat to peace and security, the imposition of refugees on other states falls under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and therefore legitimizes enforcement action not subject to limits of purely humanitarian action. This link has been recognized for at least the past 15 years. As early as 1986, the report of a Group of Governmental Experts on International Cooperation to Avert New Flows of Refugees recognized the “great political, economic and social burdens [of massive flows of refugees] upon the international community as a whole, with dire effects on developing countries, particularly those with limited resources of their own.” Accordingly, it recommended intervention by the international community through the good offices of the Secretary-General, refugee prevention actions by appropriate UN bodies (including the Security Council), and better use of aid programmes to deter massive displacements. The report was subsequently endorsed by the UN General Assembly, which explicitly defined such flows as a threat to peace and security, thus opening the door to action by the Security Council under Chapter VII several years later. It should be pointed out that Article 2(7) of the UN Charter, protecting the domestic jurisdiction of member states, specifically exempts from this protection enforcement actions taken under Chapter VII. In short, a country that forces its people to flee or to take actions that compel them to leave in a manner that threatens regional peace and security has in effect internationalized internal affairs, and provides a cogent justification for policy makers elsewhere to act directly upon the source of the threat.

This argument was also made over six decades ago by James G. McDonald, the League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, when he resigned in frustration at the lack of international action to halt the persecution in Germany, which was causing refugee flows to neighbouring countries. In his dramatic letter of resignation of 27 December 1935, McDonald write that “it will not be enough to continue the activities on the behalf of those who flee from the Reich. Efforts must be made to remove or mitigate the causes which create German refugees.” Such efforts, declared McDonald, fell under the League’s authority to deal with any matter affecting the peace of the world, since “the protection of the individual from racial or religious intolerance is a vital condition of international peace and security.” The argument is also made by contemporary analysts of refugee issues: “When there is aggression by a state against its own minority such that the domestic issue becomes an international one and is perceived to threaten peace and security because the minority begin a mass flight, then defensive military intervention is justified.” Others point out that, if refugee flows constitute an “internationally wrongful act” or “international crime” under the principles of state responsibility, this is also a violation of the Charter and therefore responses to it are not intervention in a state’s domestic affairs.

[notes 13-16 not transcribed]

On implementing EU-Turkey agreement

On China hosting refugees

Over at Foreign Policy, Liang Pan just posted a great overview on why China isn’t hosting Syrian refugees

China almost certainly will not adopt a refugee resettlement plan that will help relieve the heavy burden faced by the other developing countries in the region currently overwhelmed by the influx. China lacks the institutions conducive to supporting immigration on a mass scale. Although it ratified the UN’s Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1982, the country still lacks related national institutions. It was only in 2012 that China adopted a revised Entry-Exit Administration Law that allows public security authorities to issue identity certificates to refugees and refugee status applicants. According to an August 2015 UNHCR fact sheet, the Chinese government does not provide assistance to refugees in China.

Then there’s the Chinese “green card,” which provides only a “narrow path to residency,” according to a memo by Melissa Lefkowitz, a program officer at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute at the New York University School of Law. China’s official statistics show that, as of 2013, only 7,300 among 600,000-plus foreigners living in China had permanent residence. (In 2013 alone, almost a million people became permanent residents in the United States.) Naturalization is extremely rare.

Issues of political ideology, public support, religion, economics and culture are discussed further in the piece. [Links in original text]

On conferences: The European refugee situation and the role of civil society

Norsk Folkehjelp hosted a conference on The European Refugee Situation and the Role of Civil Society on 8 December.

The presentations themselves were interesting, but the most memorable point was a brief exchange during a question from the audience: After Vigdis Vevstad’s presentation situating the current legal (and, to some degree, political) situation, a woman (who sadly didn’t introduce herself) expressed great surprise at the recent changes to the Norwegian immigration law: at how quickly, and quietly from all corners of society!, the changes were adopted. They went as far as to guess that this was the quickest change in Norwegian law since WWII. Whether true or not, I’m certainly curious to dig a bit deeper there.

On countering rape

Elisabeth Jean Wood and Dara Kay Cohen published an op-ed in the NYT on how to counter rape during war,

Last year, at a global conference on sexual violence during war, many speakers agreed that the best way to deter such crimes was prosecution, and they called for more of it. But prosecutions are not enough. We must work to reduce sexual violence by armed groups during wars — not just act afterward.

First, we have to better understand it. Although rape during war is an ancient crime, it’s only in the last decade that social scientists have begun to study the patterns in which soldiers and rebels rape. The findings may be surprising: It’s not more likely to occur in particular regions, countries with greater gender inequality or during ethnic conflict; men may be victims, and women can be perpetrators.

But while rape is tragically common in war zones, it’s not an inevitable part of war. In fact, we have found that a significant percentage of both armies and rebel groups in recent civil wars were, surprisingly, not reported to have raped civilians. That’s because commanders have options: They can choose to order, tolerate or prohibit rape. A deeper understanding of their behavior offers the hope of mitigating the problem.

(links and italics in original text)

I found it difficult to read this and not immediately jump back to the dialogue I observed 9 September 2015 at PRIO, with FOKUS, on Bosnia 20 years after the war — the point was repeatedly made that sexual violence in conflict must be studied proactively and be reduced during wars (not just prosecuted afterwards, if at all).