EU Moves Toward Agreement on Sharing Responsibility for Migrants and Refugees
Source: Human Rights Watch
July 25, 2019
After a year of disputes and ad hoc solutions to resolve stand-offs that have stranded people on rescue ships for weeks off European coasts, there finally appears to be progress towards a European Union-coordinated approach to receiving migrants arriving by sea. But the tragic deaths of at least 150 people in a shipwreck off the Libyan coast today underscores the need for EU governments to do much more.
At a meeting of EU interior and foreign ministers, convened by French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris this week, 14 EU countries endorsed “in principle” a France-Germany proposal for a “temporary solidarity mechanism” for swift disembarkation at the closest safe port and relocation of people rescued in the Mediterranean. Eight countries – Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxemburg, and Portugal – said they intended to move forward with a new system. With many details lacking about implementation of such a mechanism, a follow up meeting announced for September in Malta will hopefully provide more clarity.
Building consensus will not be easy. France, Germany, and others say only certain asylum seekers should be relocated, while those not in need of international protection should remain in the country where they are disembarked. Italy – whose interior minister Matteo Salvini pointedly refused to participate in the meeting and dismissed its outcome – and Malta argue everyone should be relocated. Resolving this will require decisions on how to fairly carry out any preliminary assessments upon disembarkation and how to genuinely share responsibility among EU countries for people arriving irregularly.
Participants at the Paris meeting also addressed the dire situation in Libya, reportedly endorsing a call to Libyan authorities to “put an end to their policy of systematic detention” of refugees and migrants. Macron emphasized that appeal in his public remarks. This is vital, as is the stated commitment to increase and accelerate resettlement in EU countries of refugees evacuated out of Libya.
In the same breath, however, EU governments – including France – continue to insist on supporting the Libyan Coast Guard and demanding all ship captains obey its instructions. If EU governments are serious about taking a rights-respecting course, they should swiftly enact policies supporting European rescue at sea, safe disembarkation, and protection upon arrival at EU ports, and ensure that no one should be returned to Libya, given the serious risks to their lives and rights.
Refugee rights groups file lawsuit against new asylum rule
July 17, 2019
The American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of refugee resettlement organizations and civil rights centers in California against Attorney General William Barr and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan arguing that a new rule barring non-citizens who transit through another country on their way to the US from seeking asylum violates the Administrative Procedure Act(APA) and the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
The new rule was immediately issued—both created and set to go into effect on Tuesday—which the suit argues is a violation of the required procedural steps of the APA.
The complaint also cites the INA as its basis for relief—specifically, where it declares that a non-citizen is ineligible for asylum in the US only if she “was firmly resettled in another country prior to arriving in the United States.”
“As part of our nation’s commitment to the protection of people fleeing persecution and consistent with our international obligations, it is longstanding federal law that merely transiting through a third country is not a basis to categorically deny asylum to refugees who arrive at our shores,” the complaint states.
Ethiopia legislature grants refugees new rights
January 18, 2019
Ethiopia’s House of Peoples’ Representatives passed a law on Thursday that will grant expansive rights to the nation’s refugee population.
These rights include the right to “obtain work permits, access primary education, obtain drivers’ licenses, legally register life events such as births and marriages and open up access to national financial services, such as banking.”
Ethiopia hosts approximately 900,000 refugees, Africa’s second-largest refugee population (after Uganda). These refugees have been largely confined to 26 refugee camps across the nation. The new law allows the refugees to leave the camps to seek housing and employment. Ethiopia has been working to create more jobs for citizens and refugees through its Jobs Compact, an investment effort through the World Bank to encourage Ethiopia’s development.
The UNHCR praised the new law in a statement: “By allowing refugees the opportunity to be better integrated into society, Ethiopia is not only upholding its international refugee law obligations, but is serving as a model for other refugee hosting nations around the world.”