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October 24, 2009 6:44 PM   Subscribe

The number of refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan seeking asylum in Europe continues to grow. Recently, despite criticism from the UN, deportations have begun. Most of those on a recent flight to Iraq were forced to return to the UK (the nationalities of some remains unclear, as does their fate). Furthermore, the move to deport has meant denying that Iraq and Afghanistan are each in a state of war.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 (23 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Shameful. What happened to the Pottery Barn Rule?
posted by Meatbomb at 6:58 PM on October 24, 2009


Related: Iraqis face tough times, starting over in America (AP, 10/10/09)
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 7:19 PM on October 24, 2009


Given the mix of links, I'm unsure of the thesis here. Iraqi refugees, in general, should meet the definition of refugee in the Refugee Convention? They don't. They don't even typically meet the definition under the CAT (as risk not faced generally by the population). Is it that they should meet these definitions? Take it up with your elected representatives, who actually have the power to sign, amend, and ratify international treaties, not "immigration officials". Is it that special programs should be created to bring in refugees outside of what you are legally obligated to do, especially in cases where you're partly responsible for the risk faced by these persons? Damn right you should.

But there's some atrocious reporting here, too.

European officials also face a deeper question over what constitutes a refugee these days. The international refugee rules were drafted during the Cold War in order to offer asylum to those who risked individual persecution for their political or religious beliefs. That now seems dated, with migrants fleeing everything from wars to famine and ecological disasters like droughts. Still, many immigration officials have stuck to the original definition.

This betrays an incredible ignorance of the debates that led to the current Convention. Other types of peril have always been in issue.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:53 PM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


That now seems dated, with migrants fleeing everything from wars to famine and ecological disasters like droughts

Yeah, it "seems dated" because now people are actually trying to use it. Turns out that promises made get re-evaluated when people actually call them in. Also, wasn't it the case that the laws were put in place because Jews fleeing the holocaust were turned away? That doesn't have much to do with the cold war.
posted by delmoi at 8:48 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


If people fleeing the hell that has become of Iraq are not considered refugees I'm not sure what to believe in. While people may not be trying to kill them because they are Iraqi, there are certainly a lot of people trying to kill them because they are IN Iraq.

I'm also somewhat puzzled as to why these refugees are fleeing to the ones who attacked their country in the first place.
posted by chemoboy at 8:56 PM on October 24, 2009


>: What happened to the Pottery Barn Rule?

I had to read up on this one, I was guessing it was "If the country doesn't have a Pottery Barn, its citizens are clearly undergoing persecution".
posted by dunkadunc at 8:56 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it "seems dated" because now people are actually trying to use it. Turns out that promises made get re-evaluated when people actually call them in.

Here we go. I can't even make sense of this statement.

The original commitments are being observed. Oddly enough, current governments are as reticent to expand protection to other kinds of "migrants" as governments were when they signed the Convention. There is movement to constrict protection in certain ways, but you aren't looking at one of the examples of this.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:45 PM on October 24, 2009


I should add, governments do -- as I mentioned -- enact special programs/classes to assist particular populations. That's nothing new. But there's no willingness to amend the commitments themselves. After all, they represent what must be done. Few governments are willing to constrain themselves in this way -- they take it case by case instead. Hell, I'm Canadian and saying this. If you're American, take a good hard look at how many treaties (with already watered down language) you've refused to sign, and how many more you've withdrawn from.

But, frankly, a refugee doesn't care if he or she gets protection under a treaty or some special program -- indignation doesn't make one better than the other.

I don't quite understand this U.K. ruling and I suspect some very poor reporting. "Safe" gets used in the context of safe country of origin designations, safe third countries (neither of which actually means "safe" for everyone), and lazy, axe-grinding media articles. I can't be sure, but this smells like the third.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:57 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Durn Bronzefist--I'm not sure anything you're saying is in the slightest bit relevant to the matter at hand. The FPP is mostly about recent efforts in Europe to deport Iraqi and Afghani refugees: it's a series of related current event links, and as such is not intended to have a "thesis." Besides, as far as I can tell Iraqi refugees do in fact meet the technical status of refugee devised by the UN, but it hardly matters, since:

in recent years a number of countries, including Germany, had started returning refugees, especially from Iraq, to their country of nationality, asserting that circumstances had sufficiently changed to justify them back.

the Convention itself is silent in regard to distributing the burden of accepting refugees, which is why, as a point of departure, neighboring states usually still are left with the main burden of dealing with refugee crises

neither the U.S., nor Iraq are even States Parties to the Refugee Convention,

no particular legal obligation to accept a certain number of refugees may be inferred from those international rules. Yet, it seems intuitively wrong that of all Iraqi citizens claiming asylum in 2007, half of those claims were made in a small country like Sweden, '[a]nd Sodertalje, a city of 83,000 people, took in more Iraqis than the United States and Canada combined.


It's worth noting that Syria and Jordan have taken in (out of no legal obligation, btw) the vast majority of the over 2 million Iraqis who fled the country b/c of the war.

Furthermore, in April 2008: The United Nations last night accused the government of holding a 'sword of Damocles' over the heads of Iraqi refugees in Britain after it emerged that the Home Office had won a landmark test case giving it the power to return refugees to war-torn parts of their home country, including Basra and Baghdad. [...]The UK has been returning Iraqis to the north of their country for some time. But the test case is considered pivotal in legal circles in defining what protection should be given to refugees fleeing war zones. Neither the Refugee Convention nor the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees refugees from war zones the right to remain in the UK, whereas the council directive was considered to offer them a much higher level of protection. But following the tribunal's decision, the government now has the power to remove anyone to any part of Iraq.

more info here
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 9:57 PM on October 24, 2009


HP: I'm not sure what to tell you. Your UNHCR link did shed some light on the legal arguments in play, but nothing you saw fit to quote has anything to do with what makes a refugee in anything other than a colloquial sense.

From your links, I gather the legal argument is:
i) claimants are saying that they are particularly at risk (i.e., moreso than anyone else in a war zone) for assisting U.S. forces. So far so good. This arguably brings them under the definition of a Convention refugee
ii) The U.K. has argued that parts of Iraq are now safe -- they have what is termed an "Internal Flight Alternative". This doesn't necessarily mean an absence of risk, but that the government is able and willing to protect them (again, at least from any additional risk they face connected to the Convention ground).
iii) Thus, it's argued, cessation of refugee status applies.

This is where it gets a bit hand-wavy. Hathaway's view is that cessation only applies when relations between the refugee and the fled state are normalized. That's a pretty poor fit with present day Iraq and Afghanistan. To the extent that the Iraqi authorities can offer sufficient protection in any area to offset the "additional" risk to these persons... I just don't know.

One important note, though, on a line you quoted:

the Convention itself is silent in regard to distributing the burden of accepting refugees, which is why, as a point of departure, neighboring states usually still are left with the main burden of dealing with refugee crises

This is more than just a statement of any government's policy. It is now a settled issue that refugee protection, as surrogate protection, does not permit claimants to "asylum shop". That is, they must claim protection in the first safe country they reach. Having done so, if protection is gained, they may of course apply elsewhere as part of a regularized (non-refugee) immigration stream. The effect of this is that much of Europe is now covered by safe third country agreements and its ilk, like the multilat Dublin II, so border states taking refugees is not simply a matter of fact; in many cases it is the law (as it applies to asylum, not resettlement).

It's worth noting, however, that protection is not only available under the Convention. For example, if you claim in Germany, you may be found to not meet the Convention definition, but conditions in your home country may be so dire that "withholding" status is granted. The U.S. has a similar kind of status. So does Canada. I'm less clear on other European countries but I wouldn't be surprised if this kind of two-tier protection is fairly common in Europe. But in any case, again, that is all in regard to asylum. More should definitely be done to resettle Iraqis, especially by parties to this disaster. That is, of course a moral argument, not a legal one.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:07 AM on October 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, HP, I'm still trying to make sense of that Guardian quote.

But following the tribunal's decision, the government now has the power to remove anyone to any part of Iraq. 'We are pleased that the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal has agreed with our view and found that conditions in Iraq are such that an ordinary individual Iraqi civilian is not at serious risk from indiscriminate violence,' a spokesman for the Home Office said.

I can only suppose that this is media-speak, both on the part of the Guardian and on the part of the Home Office. Indiscriminate violence does not a refugee make. But the idea that Iraq, especially as a whole, is safe (or at least indiscriminately unsafe) to make a case for cessation... I take it a written judgment is not yet ready? If it is, do you have a link?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:24 AM on October 25, 2009


Durn Bronzefist--The game is rigged against these refugees anyway. Since the linked April 2008 Guardian article states that neither the [U.N.] Refugee Convention nor the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees refugees from war zones the right to remain in the UK; since the other links in both the FPP and my post above make clear that certain European countries (among them, the UK, Germany and France) are waging a systematic legal battle in their own courts and at the E.U. to deny these Iraqis and Afghanis refugee status (and being criticized by both the U.N. and Refugee Rights advocacy groups for doing so); and since the U.S. does not appear to have signed on to the U.N. Refugee Convention--then it follows that the legal arguments (either for or against) regarding refugee status are totally beside the point.

Of course it's a moral issue: we owe these people more than this (read how the 10 Iraqis recently deported--out of 40 on that one flight--were given $100 and told "best of luck"), and if civilians and UK/US soldiers are still dying in Iraq and Afghanistan (which they are)--while the UK courts want to insist there is no "war zone" in these countries--then perhaps the term rank hypocrisy might be applied? Meanwhile, calls for exiting Afghanistan will continue unabated.

posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 12:27 AM on October 25, 2009


HP -- the U.S. signed the Protocol. The Protocol uses the same definition of refugee as the Convention, just without the geographical and temporal limitations inherent in the older instrument. Then the U.S. went ahead and domestically implemented it (as required for domestic legal impact in both Canada and the U.S.). My computer is failing spectacularly at the internet at the moment, but see, for example, here (third para). But it wasn't my intent to try to make this post about the U.S. (note: I'm not from there). My knowledge of the war, as you term it, being fought in courtrooms in Europe has largely been of the virtual wall to claims created by the stc agreements. Again, if you have links to any judgments you think are noteworthy, I would be definitely interested in reading them. The Guardian statement you quoted, though, as far as it appears to state that war zones cannot produce Convention refugees, is full of shit. That is directly contradicted by the U.N. Handbook on the Convention. So bold all you like, it is definitely not beside the point.

To the extent that your post is about the moral argument, we'll have to, uh, agree to agree (since I don't think we disagree).

posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:02 AM on October 25, 2009


Whatever. The UNHCR is explicitly against what the E.U. and U.K. are doing: i.e. the UNHCR is explicitly condemning the return of Iraqi and Afghan refugees to their countries. But it doesn't really matter anyway b/c you and I both know that the U.N. was not able to stop the Iraq war in the first place. So if they could not stop the war, which was illegal, then how are they going to stop the E.U. from deporting Iraqis and Afghans back to their countries? Maybe you're just naive about how much power the U.N. has, b/c they have none. Or maybe you just enjoy derailing thread with pedantic legal arguments that have little bearing on what actually happens.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 1:17 AM on October 25, 2009


The UNHCR is explicitly against what the E.U. and U.K. are doing: i.e. the UNHCR is explicitly condemning the return of Iraqi and Afghan refugees to their countries.

God I hate sounding like a conservative but if these refugees are genuine why do they not just claim asylum at the first safe port of call?

Because they want to get into a rich Western nation not a poor second world wannabe nation like Turkey or Bulgaria.

That being said, forcing border countries shoulder the burden of a western caused conflict is deplorable and only highlights the failure of the west to clean up its own messes.
posted by Talez at 4:22 AM on October 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Because they want to get into a rich Western nation not a poor second world wannabe nation like Turkey or Bulgaria."

Or they want to get as far away from the conflict as possible; these things have the tendency to overflow the borders of the original conflict. Imagine the poor Afghani with relatives in Iraq who fled there just in time for the US to step things up.
posted by Mitheral at 7:02 AM on October 25, 2009




why do they not just claim asylum at the first safe port of call?

Why, in fact, were claims not denied for that reason, and these people returned, not to Iraq, but to the first participating state that they crossed through? There are more questions than answers here. HP, I wasn't sure why you were citing a "landmark" legal judgment that you apparently don't actually care about, except that this is all to say "this sucks and something should change". On that at least we agree.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:05 AM on October 25, 2009




HP - The courts, as I understand it, have not stated that there is no war, only that there are areas of Iraq that the refugees can be returned to that are safe enough that they face no extra threat due to their particular positions and are thus no longer "refugees."

Asylum cases are so heartbreaking. It seems at every turn there's someone looking for an excuse to say "No, you're not being persecuted hard enough or for the right reason." And then they send these people to their fates.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 7:08 PM on October 25, 2009


The courts, as I understand it, have not stated that there is no war

Point taken, but you should probably take up your quibble with whoever writes the headlines for the UK Independent.

If one clicks the last link of the FPP one reads the following headline: Immigration judges: 'Afghanistan is not in a state of war'. I am just the messenger.

But yeah the article itself seems to support your assertion:

Three judges of the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal ruled on Wednesday that the level of "indiscriminate violence" was not enough to permit Afghans to claim general humanitarian protection in the United Kingdom.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 7:25 PM on October 25, 2009


I mostly think that Terry Gross is neither here nor there as an interviewer. At this point in her career, she's every bit the off-beat celebrity that many of her subjects are. I think she does better with unknowns, but that's just, like, my opinion, man.

That said, I end up getting more out of the interviews that are awkward and uncomfortable than the ones where she's ends up sitting on the subject's lap. For an example of that, look up this past summer's interview with John Doe. Doe is one of my all time favorite people on the planet, but she gushed so ostentatiously, I was embarrassed for all three of us. It was borderline disgusting.

In the Gene Simmons interview, I think we all learned A LOT about Gene Simmons. Whatever reaction he did or didn't have to her, he came across as the contemptible pig that he is, and less like the rock star God he seems to think he is.

In this week's interview with Morgan, she started off being edgy and defensive, which seemed to magnify Tracy's weirdness. It wasn't comfortable to listen to, but it was certainly gripping radio. Again, I'd be hard pressed to call that Gross's talent, but as a mere instrument to prode and poke interview subjects, whatever she brought, or whoever she is did help us learn a bit more about Tracy Morgan.
posted by psmealey at 2:54 PM on October 29, 2009


Uh. How did that happen? Sorry folks.
posted by psmealey at 2:56 PM on October 29, 2009


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