Friday, March 31, 2006


Wow, over a month since I last posted. Anyway, I'm merely cross-posting a comment I made over at MM about the Rahman case. Fi pointed out that he may not fulfill the strict Convention requirements and I tend to agree.

The spirit of the Convention is that displaced persons will be granted asylum until the international community can resolve the strife in the refugee's own country. The refugee can then be safely returned.

What's happened since the time when that was drawn up (immediately post WWII) is that the international community has been either unable or unwilling to resolve these regional and internal conflicts. This has resulted in a continuous stream of persons who have legitimate fear of persecution. Furthermore, as the situation they leave doesn't get resolved, or takes far too long to resolve, it becomes necessary to allow them naturalise in the host country. This then provokes tension between the strict requirements of the Convention - which effectively keeps the refugee in a sort of limbo - and their human rights. Vindicating the latter raises concerns among host populations that immigration is going too far (I heard such an argument on British radio this morning).

I argued in a debate over four years ago (which Fi may well have judged) that the 'problem' with refugee law is the international community's continuing failure to better the lot of the developing world and resolve regional conflicts.

Which brings me to the current case: Afghanistan. The individual is fleeing religious persecution, and yet it is not persecution that the international community can easily relieve, as it deals with the domestic laws of a country (one which the int. community has messed around enough recently). That situation itself takes the case outside the four corners of the Convention.

I'm glad he's been granted asylum, and is safe, but I think he falls within a new category of 'asylum seeker': one who leaves their state for want of a better life - not socio-economically, but in human terms. Thus, they are 'humanitarian migrants'.

I'm not entirely au fait with refugee law, but I do believe there's a strong argument to recognise the limitations of the Convention to deal with persons such as this man. Perhaps clarity about the reasons that people are migrating, and a renewed commitment to hosting such persons for the third millennium might allow us transcend the Convention which was really about what to do with a bunch of Belgians lost in Germany in the middle of the (thankfully non-existent) Third World War.

Easter's coming, maybe I'll rediscover my inner blogger.


Blogger Mark Dowling said...

No Cian. Rahman left so he would have "a life at all", not "a better life". This is not a case where the behaviour attracts the death penalty if the prosecutors could be bothered prosecuting - they actually went and prosecuted! Furthermore, the activity which led to the death sentence is one protected by the UDHR (Article 18) of which Afghanistan was one of the first 48 signatories in 1948. We're not talking about Singapore offing Aussie drug dealers here.

The naturalisation of refugees by virtue of perceived insolubility of the situation is a non-issue. To say that because the spirit of the Convention means if a situation is not foreseeably resolvable people are refugees is probably more a spirit of the times - Nazism had been defeated and people didn't want to think similar persecution would go unchecked in the future. We know better now of course.

Whether it be Cubans fleeing Castro or Vietnamese boat people or Hungarians fleeing the '56 invasion we have never really had a problem with such "intractable" situations before.

The issue which actually annoys people and erodes popular perceptions of the Convention process is those doing an end-run around economic migrancy using asylum and the appeals process thereto, like Olukunle Elukanlo is doing.

5:23 p.m.  
Blogger London Denizen said...

Rahman's an extreme case of what I'm talking about.

What about the many refugees who haven't had a sentence imposed by a court who may suffer the same fate? The people that Fi referred to?

Those people are seeking "a better life", and they are entitled to it. But who is to give it to them and how? At what point does seeking "a better life" become "a life at all"?

We can all agree on Rahman, but what about the other cases?

7:23 p.m.  
Blogger Mark Dowling said...


That is a matter for national governments to adhere to the spirit as well as the law of the Convention. It is a matter for them to implement a fair process. It is a matter for lobby groups not to seek to derail that process because they pity the personal status of those who do NOT fit Convention criteria.

The treaties are fine. It is the adherence to them which is broken, and no changes will fix that since the major powers reject treaties which have enforceable consequences - particularly the United States as we see with their weaseling around the Geneva Conventions, among others. Therefore it is for the people to demand compliance of their own governments.

8:03 p.m.  
Blogger London Denizen said...

If that's the case then no-one should ever rock the boat: it's the least democratic argument I've ever heard.

The EU has transferred refugee & immigration issues into the first (Community) pillar. They're dealing with the issues more and more at Union level. I'm a citizen and resident in that democracy and I've every right to express a view on how we deal with any issues there.

Furthermore, the Conventions aren't 'fine', they exist in an era completely different from that in which they were envisaged. If you want an idea of how different things are today, compare the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights to the ECHR. Things move on.

Finally, I never argued for an enforceable Convention, stop playing with straw men.

9:54 a.m.  

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