What the Refugee Crisis tells us about Western human rights values! (Part I)

10/11/2015


Just three years ago, the European Union basked in the glory of a Nobel Peace Prize and boasted of being a tight-knit community bound by “European values” of democracy, diversity and dignity.
By its own measure, the 28-nation club is now looking decidedly less European and even less a union these days as it grapples with the continent’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II.  Overwhelmed by the prospect of granting refugee status to tens of thousands of West Asian Muslims, most European countries have reacted by simple throwing their moral compass away.

Migrants and refugees streaming into Europe from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia have presented European leaders and policymakers with their greatest challenge since the debt crisis. The International Organization for Migration calls Europe the most dangerous destination for irregular migration in the world, and the Mediterranean the world's most dangerous border crossing. Yet despite the escalating human toll, the European Union's collective response to its current migrant influx has been ad hoc and, critics charge, more focused on securing the bloc's borders than on protecting the rights of migrants and refugees. However, with nationalist parties ascendant in many member states, and concerns about Islamic terrorism looming large across the continent, it remains unclear if the bloc or its member states are capable of implementing lasting asylum and immigration reforms. 

The manner in which most countries of the Global North have responded to thousands of Muslim refugees fleeing conflict hot-spots in the Middle East raises deep questions about their liberal and democratic credentials. Much of Europe but also Australia and North America’s response to the refugee crisis is discriminatory and borders on unstated racism. It is a response that exposes their inability to be comfortable with idea of a multi-racial, multi-religious democracy.
Since the end of World War II, these countries owned the human rights narrative as a proprietary feudal asset. They lectured the Global South on human rights. They used it as a tool of their foreign and economic policy. They spoke passionately about the universalisation of human rights. But in 2015, as refugees from West Asia stream into Europe, all these fine principles have been cast aside.
The Western media has conveniently supported the narrative of their governments by calling the refugee crisis “a migrant crisis” – terminology that, as Al Jazeera rightly noted, “dehumanises and distances” the plight of people fleeing from violence. But why is the debate over words so desperately important? Because European countries want to escape all accountability under international law.
What’s the difference between a migrant and refugee?
Distinguishing migrants from asylum seekers and refugees is not always a clear-cut process, yet it is a crucial designation because these groups are entitled to different levels of assistance and protection under international law.
An asylum seeker is defined as a person fleeing persecution or conflict, and therefore seeking international protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention on the Status of Refugees; a refugee is an asylum seeker whose claim has been approved. However, the UN considers migrants fleeing war or persecution to be refugees, even before they officially receive asylum. (Syrian and Eritrean nationals, for example, enjoy prima facie refugee status.). A refugee is a person who is outside the country of his nationality and cannot return to it for ‘fear of persecution’ on grounds of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. This ‘fear’ must be ‘well-founded’ for the grant of refugee status by international organisations like the UN. If the “fear of persecution” is unfounded then a person who is seeking refugee status can be deported.
There is a civil war raging in large tracts of Syria, Iraq and Libya. So under the UN definition, all people ‘fleeing’ conflict hot-spots in West Asia and North Africa are doing so ‘owing to well-founded fear of persecution’ and thus should be given refugee status. Especially since Western countries cannot escape responsibility for engineering these bloody civil wars through their regime change geo-politics.
 An economic migrant, by contrast, is person whose primary motivation for leaving his or her home country is economic gain. The term "migrant" is seen as an umbrella term for all three groups. (Said another way: all refugees are migrants, but not all migrants are refugees.)
Europe is currently witnessing a mixed-migration phenomenon, in which economic migrants and asylum seekers travel together. In reality, these groups can and do overlap, and this gray area is frequently exacerbated by the inconsistent methods with which asylum applications are often processed across the EU's twenty-eight member states.
Stunned by the scale of the refugee influx and shocked by the prospect of granting refugee status to tens of thousands of West Asian Muslims, European countries – most of whom are narrowly focused on ensuring social cohesion – would rather call this a “migrant crisis” and stick to their Fortress Europe immigration policies. Europe wants to keep Muslim refugees out. They have done this simply by throwing their moral compass away./. (To be continued)
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All comments [ 17 ]


LawrenceSamuels 10/11/15 21:30

European Union states "must share the responsibility for refugees seeking asylum, failing them will betray the bloc's values.

Love Peace 10/11/15 21:31

The UN human-rights commissioner has accused some European countries of a systematic violation of the human rights of migrants and refugees in order to deter them from coming to the countries.

yobro yobro 10/11/15 21:32

It would be a disaster for Europe to go down that way!

John Smith 10/11/15 21:34

Not some Love Peace, almost any European country is perfectly capable of saying, "Screw you, we're closing the borders".

Only Solidar 10/11/15 21:35

According to credible reports from various sources, the violations of the human rights of migrants are neither isolated nor coincidental, but systematic.

Jane smartnic 10/11/15 21:36

It would also harm European trade and tourism, just as China's economic slowdown is hitting the global economy.

Deck Hero14 10/11/15 21:38

Offering protection to people fleeing systemic human rights violations is not an act of charity. It is a human rights imperative, a matter of legal and moral obligation. And, Western countries are going against their core values.

Gentle Moon 10/11/15 21:42

The refugee crisis is forcing Europe to consider whether it can live up to its own, self-proclaimed values. Unfortunately, the answer is likely to be "no".

MaskOf Zero 10/11/15 21:44

European countries have turned their backs on their moral compass.

Pack Cassiopian 10/11/15 21:48

Refugees have right to seek and to enjoy asylum. It's a cornerstone of civilized world's human rights regime that is now not protected by European governments. So pathetic!

Thompson Catherine 11/11/15 05:25

many people want to immigrate to the Europe with their hope of better life, but the reality is not they thought

Funny Day 11/11/15 05:29

they have to face many difficulties and challenges in the foreign land where they thought as a promised-land

Williams Melanie 11/11/15 05:40

it's awful to witness the tragic death of the refugees on the sea, including children

Anthony Jones 11/11/15 05:45

the refugees knew the adventure that they would have to face, but they had no other way

Davis Caroline 11/11/15 05:47

that's right, they were pushed into the deep end

Elizabeth Green 11/11/15 05:53

the refugee crisis is the most serious challenge to the EU at present. that issue is threating to it's unity

Jack Walker 11/11/15 05:58

If European countries refuse the refugees, they will be criticized for the inhumane

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