RSDwatch states: ‘UNHCR is once again the world’s largest RSD adjudicator’

Michael Kagan has dissected and analysed the numbers on UNHCR refugee status determination and came up with not only interesting figures, but also a nice analogy with McDonalds…

The number of  people applying for individual refugee status determination at UNHCR offices around the world surged in 2013, with UNHCR receiving RSD applications for 195,376 people. The number of applicants had never approached this level before (Kagan has data going back to 1998). In previous years the number had hovered around 100,000, and had dipped below 50,000 in 2002. The number of applicants climbed in 2012 as well, to 110,698, up from 98,800 in 2011.

With the current surge, UNHCR is once again the world’s largest RSD adjudicator, exceeding Germany, the United States and South Africa in new applications. UNHCR now handles more than 20 percent of all individual RSD applications worldwide, compared to 11 percent in 2011.

Kagan has been following UNHCR’s RSD practices and procedures since 2005 at his weblog RSDwatch, which is part of a widening effort by grassroots refugee rights organizations to promote reform of the way UNHCR conducts refugee status determination. It has since become a portal for discussing the challenges involved in UNHCR RSD, and in collecting basic data about where and how UNHCR does so.

Read more about the figures and facts here

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Call for Abstracts for the panel ‘The role of EU Institutions in migration and asylum policies: liberal constraint?’

Scholars who investigate the role of EU institutions in migration and asylum policies are now invited to submit an abstract to be included in a panel proposal for the 2015 Council for European Studies conference which will take place 8-10 July 2015 in Paris, France.

For many years, European cooperation on asylum and migration policies raised concerns about the potentially restrictive impact of such cooperation on the rights of migrants and refugees. However, it has been observed that the shift of power from the member states to EU institutions such as the Court and the Commission has produced new liberal constraints on member states. As a result, it is argued, the European Union is no longer a venue to which member states with restrictive policy preferences can ‘escape’ to circumvent domestic constraints.

This argument raises questions about the role of EU institutions in asylum and migration policies. Can the policy impact of EU institutions such as the Court, the Commission, and the European Parliament in the field of migration  and asylum indeed be characterized as a ‘liberal constraint’? How can we explain the (liberal) policy preferences and positions adopted by different EU institutions? At which stages in the policy process (agenda-setting, decision-making, implementation) does this impact become apparent and through which channels does it shape national and EU policies? How about the role of EU agencies such as Frontex or the European Asylum Support Office (EASO)?

More information about the conference and the call for abstracts on the above-mentioned issues can be found here

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UNHCR announces 2014 Nansen Refugee Award winner

The 2014 winner of UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award is the Colombian women’s rights group, Red Mariposas de Alas Nuevas Construyendo Futuro – or Butterflies with New Wings Building a Future (Butterflies), whose members risk their lives to help survivors of forced displacement and sexual abuse. Based in the Pacific coastal city of Buenaventura, Butterflies, who are all volunteers, have so far helped over 1000 women and their families.

Colombia is second only to Syria in the number of internally displaced people globally. Nowhere in the country is the devastation of the five decade armed conflict felt as acutely as in Buenaventura. This industrial port city has some of the highest rates of violence and displacement due to escalating rivalries between illegal armed groups and women are often their targets. The groups violate women and children to demonstrate their power and strength and frequently torture, rape or kill to exact revenge. “These women are doing extraordinary work in the most challenging of contexts,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.” Each day they seek to heal the wounds of the women and children of Buenaventura and in doing so put their own lives at risk. Their bravery goes beyond words”.

More information can be found here.

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Membership of the International Association of Refugee Law Judges (IARLJ)

Exclusively for ESIL members, and especially interesting for members of the Interest Group on Migration and Refugee Law: the International Association of Refugee Law Judges (the IARLJ) is offering an Associate Membership of the organization. Members can join for twelve months at the considerably reduced fee of 15 euro!

The IARLJ often involves academics and other types of associate member in its workshops and conferences. It is open for Associate Members to join various IARLJ Working Parties. This summer the IARLJ launched a (secure) Judges Forum for judges anywhere in Europe who are members to discuss ideas / problems and there is provision for members, whether judges or Associate Members, inside or outside Europe, to use it. Under the new constitution of the IARLJ, the association now covers judges involved in immigration as well as asylum cases. In addition to the above, the IARLJ is frequently asked by Taiex and other bodies to find judges and academics to assist with training of judges in Europe.

If you like more information, you can contact the IARLJ Secretariat in the Netherlands at info [at] iarlj [dot] org.

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Report: on Israel’s treatment of Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers

Human Rights Watch has today published a 83 page report on the treatment by Israel of the Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers within its border. The title of the report, “Make Their Lives Miserable”, and the subtitle “Israel’s coercion of Eritrean and Sudanese Asylum Seekers to Leave Israel”, leaves nothing to the imagination. 

The report documents how Israel’s convoluted legal rules thwart Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers’ attempts to secure protection under Israeli and international law. Israeli authorities have labelled Eritreans and Sudanese a “threat”, branded them “infiltrators”, denied them access to fair and efficient asylum procedures, and used the resulting insecure legal status as a pretext to unlawfully detain or threaten to detain them indefinitely, coercing thousands into leaving. This obviously amounts to human rights violations and the violation of the non-refoulement principle. 

The report can be found here

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New book! On asylum policies in Australia

New book publiced by a member of the Interest Group
by Jane McAdam

Our IG-member Jane McAdam has written a book, together with Fiona Chong, on asylum policies in Australia: ‘Refugees. Why Seeking Asylum is Legal and Why Australia’s Policies Are Not’. 

Stopping the boats, blocking queue-jumpers and proving who is a ‘real’ refugee have become national obsessions. Misconceptions about refugees and asylum seekers seem to be increasing and governments and media continue to exploit anxieties in the community. This clear-headed book rejects spin and panic to explain what Australia’s obligations are and who the refugees and asylum-seekers are.

It shows that there is a gap between the rhetoric and the legislated rights of refugees, who have been resettled from camps abroad, and asylum seekers, who arrive by boat. It explains the difference between asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. It shows why our asylum-seeker policies, developed over decades, are at odds with the legal obligations we have signed up to. And using real-life examples, it reminds us that we’re talking about real people and their children.
You can order the book here
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New publications on immigration, asylum and refugee law

Three new titles have been published recently in the area of immigration, asylum and refugee law.

EU Asylum Procedures and the Right to an Effective Remedy
by Marcelle Reneman

This book examines the meaning of the EU right to an effective remedy in terms of the legality and interpretation of the Procedures Directive (which provides for important procedural guarantees for asylum applicants, but also leaves much discretion to the EU Member States to design their own asylum procedures) in regard to several key aspects of asylum procedure: the right to remain on the territory of the Member State, the right to be heard, the standard and burden of proof and evidentiary assessment, judicial review and the use of secret evidence. Click here for more information.

The Reception of Asylum Seekers under International Law
by Lieneke Slingenberg

This book critically examines the outcomes of the negotiation process on the minimum conditions for the reception of asylum seekers – Directive 2003/9/EC and Directive 2013/33/EU – in relation to international refugee law, international social security law and international human rights law. It presents a comprehensive analysis of state obligations that stem from these different fields of law with regard to asylum seekers’ access to the labour market and social security benefits and compares them to the minimum standards developed in the European Union. In addition, this book particularly examines how the instrumental use of social policy relates to international law. Click here for more information.

Statelessness – The Enigma of the International Community
by William E. Conklin

In this book, Conklin critically evaluates traditional efforts to recognize and reduce statelessness. The increasingly widespread problem of statelessness has profound legal, social, economic and psychological consequences but also gives rise to the paradox of an international community that claims universal standards for all natural persons while allowing its member states to allow statelessness to occur. The problem, Conklin argues, rests in the obligatory nature of law, domestic or international. By closely analysing a broad spectrum of court and tribunal judgments from many jurisdictions, Conklin explains how confusion has arisen between two discourses, the one discourse inside the other, as to the nature of the international community. Click here for more information.

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Remembering the forgotten: International legal regime protecting stateless persons

publication by a member of the Interest Group
by Tamás Molnár

Statelessness and protection of stateless persons under public international law has not traditionally been in the forefront of academic legal research. Tamás Molnár has just published a paper in the US China Law Review (Vol. 11, No. 7) that aims to draw a picture on the legal status of stateless persons under public international law,  shedding light onto the rather sporadic but noteworthy legal developments after the adoption of the core global instrument in this field, the 1954 New York Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons. It explores both the current legal framework on the universal and regional level (de lege lata) and new tendencies in legal developments (de lege ferenda).

The paper concludes that public international law created a new legal category, an abstract and autonomous de iure stateless status, with its own terminology and dogmatics. All this with a view to establish a coherent, logically closed legal architecture and to offer a self-standing protection status for those having been denied the basic right of belonging to a State. Nevertheless, there are still serious gaps and shortcomings in the relevant international legal framework as well as the existing norms that face also limited effectiveness.

The paper can be downloaded here.

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Bulgaria builds anti-refugee fence; refoulement, according to scholars


Overwhelmed by an influx of mostly Syrian immigrants, Bulgaria has taken steps to secure its EU border – including building a 30-kilometre barbed-wire fence, standing three meters high and fortified with razor wire coils. The fence was completed this week and covers the least visible section of Bulgaria’s 275-kilometre border with Turkey. It aims to stem a flow of refugees that saw more than 11,000 people enter the country illegally last year – 10 times the annual figure before the Syrian conflict.

However, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and UNHCR have all condemned the rejection of asylum seekers, stating that all EU States must “ensure access to their territory [and] fair and efficient asylum procedures”. The fence has also been attacked by prominent international refugee scholar James Hathaway, who stated in a tweet that the fence, given the intent with which it was build, is tantamount to illegal refoulement.

Read more here and here.

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Migrants’ voting at the local level is a human right

publication by a member of the Interest Group
by Nikolaos Sitaropoulos

According to a recent study, only 15 of the 28 EU member states allow categories of resident migrants (‘third country nationals’) to participate in local elections. Four of these states only allow migrants to vote but not to stand for election. The results of the latest European Parliament elections, which were characterised by a boost of extreme, anti-migrant parties, have made it even more difficult to publicly debate issues relating to migrants’ human rights, including voting, even if these rights are enshrined in European law.

Although states’ reluctance to recognise migrants’ voting rights in their host countries is exemplified in the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, which only provides for migrants’ rights to participate in public affairs, vote, and run for office in their state of origin, Mr Sitaropoulos argues that migrants’ effective integration into European host states is not really possible if they are excluded from the most important process of a state’s democracy, that is, elections.

Read the entire blog here.


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