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A less disastrous policy on the war in Yemen (2016)

From: Constant: 8 x la guerre (1951)

Since 2015 an armed conflict takes place in Yemen. One of the warring parties is supported by an international coalition headed by Saudi Arabia, which is provided with arms by the US and European states. Violations of international humanitarian law (including bombing hospitals) have become routine. Out of a 24 million population, 14 million people are now reliant on food aid, and 3 million people are internally displaced. Over 180.000 people have fled the country. The number of refugees that has left the country is low because Yemen is surrounded by other conflict zones (Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan) and by Saudi Arabia, which blocks the escape routes in the desert by military means. Just like with other refugee situations, the UN reports that only half of the funds needed for supporting displaced persons and refugees is raised by the international community.

There are hardly Yemenite refugees who succeed in reaching Europe – over the past five years 3.845 people from Yemen applied for asylum in the entire European Union, 150 of which in the Netherlands. This is a very limited group of people. When the armed conflict in Yemen broke out in 2015, the Dutch state secretary of justice decided to suspend decision making in Yemenite asylum cases, by declaring a so-called moratorium. European and Dutch law allows for this so as to enable the authorities to gather information and formulate policy in situations which are volatile and changing – as was the case in Yemen in 2015.

The Dutch moratorium for Yemenite asylum cases expired in August 2016. According to law, the authorities should now resume taking decisions in Yemenite asylum cases. However, in October the state secretary for justice reported to parliament that he is working on new policy. The idea of the moratorium is that the authorities will use the period of the moratorium to formulate policy. Instead, the moratorium has been used to wait with making new policy until after it has expired.

If the state secretary of justice would have taken decisions in Yemenite asylum cases, he would have granted asylum. The situation in Yemen leaves no other options. During a moratorium, asylum seekers have to remain in asylum reception centres. These are fit for sheltering people for a few months. Not for the 18 to 24 months that Yemenite asylum seekers have been forced to remain there, while the inaction of the Dutch authorities forced them to do nothing but wait.

This makes Yemen a miniature of failing European policies:
1. By supporting and arming Saudi Arabia, the conflict is made worse;
2. The resulting humanitarian emergency is addressed only partly by insufficient funding;
3. And even the few refugees who succeeded in reaching Europe are left in a dead-end situation for an indefinite period.

Because this is a relatively small problem, Yemen could serve as a try-out for a less disastrous policy on three fronts. The Dutch authorities themselves can grant asylum to Yemenite refugees, for the sound reason that they qualify for it. Together with other European countries, the funds could be collected for supporting internally displaced persons and refugees in the region. And by ending arms supplies to the warring parties Europe could stop making the war worse than it already is.

Dutch version published in Trouw, 21 November 2016

Fact Check: Did ‘Wir Schaffen Das’ Lead to Uncontrolled Mass Migration? (2016)

From: Constant: 8 x la guerre (1951)

From: Constant: 8 x la guerre (1951)

It is widely assumed that the German ‘decision to suspend Dublin and open the borders,’ epitomized by Angela Merkel’s ‘Wir schaffen das’, led to ‘uncontrolled mass migration’ in the summer and fall of 2015. This belief is not only held by media and politicians, but also by prominent academics like Ruud Koopmans. The empirical claim contained in this belief has two elements: one relating to the ‘suspension of Dublin’, and one relating to the ‘opening of the borders.’ Are these claims correct?

Read my blogpost on Border Criminologies.

Fact Check: Did the EU-Turkey Deal Bring Down the Number of Migrants and of Border Deaths? (2016)

From: Constant: 8 x la guerre (1951)

From: Constant: 8 x la guerre (1951)

On March 18th, 2016, the EU and Turkey agreed that all irregular migrants arriving on the Greek islands were to be returned to Turkey. It is generally believed that this agreement has led to a dramatic decrease of the number of irregular migrants, and hence of the number of border deaths. Exemplifying this idea is this quote from the second progress report of the European Commission on the implementation of the EU-Turkey Agreement: ‘The sharp decrease in the number of irregular migrants and asylum seekers crossing from Turkey to Greece is proof of the Statement’s effectiveness – and in particular, that the business model of smugglers can be broken. The clear message to migrants is that getting on a boat in Turkey, and endangering lives in the process, is not worth the risk given that there is a legal and safe pathway through resettlement.’ Are these claims correct?

See my blogpost on Border Criminologies

Minimalist Reflections on Europe, Refugees and Law (2016)

It is hard to understand the current developments in European refugee law without the benefit of hindsight. This paper refrains from trying to make a comprehensive analysis, and investigates fragments small enough to allow for analysis. We will look at the political and legal processes which turned the influx of a small number of people into the European Union into a crisis; at tunnel vision of European policy makers; at the legal aspects of the EU’s and NATO’s intervention in the Aegean Sea; and at the processes resulting in the acceptance of mass deaths as a daily routine.

Minimalist Reflections on Europe, Refugees and Law, European Papers 2016, p. 533-558

Uit de kast, maar ook uit de brand? Lesbische, homoseksuele, biseksuele en transgender asielzoekers in Nederland (2016)

In de afgelopen jaren is de positie van LHBT vluchtelingen verbeterd, omdat een aantal kwestieuze praktijken om hun asielverzoeken af te wijzen is afgeschaft. Toch blijft er spanning bestaan tussen de restrictieve manier waarop mensenrechten worden geïnterpreteerd in de context van asiel, en de ruimere interpretatie daarbuiten. Zo beslissen ambtenaren over de gender- en seksuele identiteit van asielzoekers, en wordt strafbaarstelling van homoseksuele handelingen in het land van herkomst niet als vervolging in de zin van de vluchtelingendefinitie aangemerkt.

Uit de kast, maar ook uit de brand? Lesbische, homoseksuele, biseksuele en transgender asielzoekers in Nederland , Ars Aequi 2016, p. 668-672

Dwang, verbod en grootse verwachtingen: over het falende Europese asielbeleid (met Maarten den Heijer en Jorrit Rijpma, 2016)

April liet een spectaculaire daling zien van het aantal Syriërs dat in Nederland asiel vroeg: 101 tegen meer dan 5000 in oktober vorig jaar. Het lijkt erop dat de dichte grenzen in de Balkanlanden en het akkoord met Turkije over de terugname van asielzoekers de komst van Syrische vluchtelingen sterk hebben afgeremd. Is de vluchtelingen‘crisis’ opgelost? Allerminst: de deal met Turkije is kwetsbaar en bovendien juridisch kwestieus. Belangrijker is dat het Europese asielbeleid heeft aangetoond slecht te functioneren. Het is nu vooral zaak de gemeenschappelijke asielregels crisisbestendig te maken. Daarvoor lijkt echter de politieke steun te ontbreken.

Maarten den Heijer, Jorrit Rijpma en Thomas Spijkerboer: Dwang, verbod en grootse verwachtingen: over het falende Europese asielbeleid, Nederlands Juristenblad 2016, p. 1672-1682

The Crisis of European Refugee Law : Lessons from Lake Success (2016, with Hemme Battjes, Evelien Bouwer, Lieneke Slingenberg)

In this paper, we address three connected central issues in refugee law. Firstly, who is entitled to protection? Secondly, what should that protection entail – merely allowing the presence of refugees in the territory, or allowing access to the labour market and health and welfare systems? Thirdly, where should refugees receive protection – in the first country in which they arrive after fleeing their home country, or elsewhere? We analyze the current crisis of European refugee law by looking back at the drafting history of the 1951 Refugee Convention. European policy makers can learn from the way in which the drafters partially solved these issues in 1950/1951.

Hemme Battjes, Evelien Brouwer, Lieneke Slingenberg and Thomas Spijkerboer: The Crisis of European Refugee Law: Lessons from Lake Success