Longing for Belonging

Rohingyas. Palestinians. Iraqis. Afghans. Lebanese. Jewish. Sri Lankan Tamils.

A minute snapshot of those who have longed, or those who are longing

The international refugee protection regime...can be characterised as one that is...in a state of crisis.’

The 1951 Refugee Convention constitutes the linchpin of international refugee protection and confers refugee status to individuals owing to a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of particular social group or political opinion, who is outside their country of nationality and is unable or owing to such fear unwilling to return to it.  This Convention has been described as the ‘universal instrument that has protected tens of millions of refugees, in all parts of the world, over the last half century.’ So why is it now been described as in a ‘state of crisis’?

Fulfilling the criteria of the Convention qualifies an individual to legal refugee status and entitlement to the rights attached to this status; including rights to employment, housing, education, social security and travel documents.

However, in an increasingly globalised world, rationales behind migration are varied thus leaving some asylum seekers fleeing the most serious threats to their basic human rights- unprotected by the Convention.

It is as a result of the protection gaps of the Convention such as its inability to protect individuals suffering incidents of serious harm or acts by non- state agents that the notion of ‘complementary protection’ has been born; a level of protection extended to individuals unaddressed by the Convention. A concept rooted in the basic human rights principle of non-refoulement; commanding that states cannot return asylum seekers to situations of persecution. ‘Complementary protection’ is sugar coated in the fact that states are obligated to give way to the fundamental human rights principle of non-refoulement.  However, history dictates that obligating states to abide by any of their human rights duties is no easy task.

For the ‘humanitarian’ status of complementary protection to be granted, states must first acknowledge an international protection need- which unsurprisingly they are reluctant to do, with state sovereignty being their primary concern. Beyond the issue of states refusing to acknowledge when a complementary protection case exists, yet another significant problem remains of the status (or lack of) conferred to individuals under this form of protection. Unlike refugee status, individuals under complementary protection have very few if any rights at all.  More worryingly, state practice on complementary protection differs widely. It is therefore inevitable that individuals facing the same level of persecution are being afforded incomparable levels of protection depending on their host states. This is clearly a violation of the rule of law rhetoric that our global leaders repeatedly espouse, championing so called equality of the law. The case of Greece exemplifies the stark issues with this area of international protection. Greek law recognises no right for humanitarian status; rather the decision rests with the discretion of administrative decision makers. This is another example of how the fate of the vulnerable rests in the hands of self -absorbed politicians.

Although the human rights underlying rationale to complementary protection is admirable in attempting to fill the gaps of the 1951 Convention, it is no doubt that states in fact have their own national interests at heart; hence not substantiating complementary status to that of Convention refugee status. It is due to the lack of certainty that complementary protection creates that demands harmonisation in order to adequately address growing international protection demands. How realistic this is in light of a hostile impartialist international attitude towards the protection crisis is another problem. One may argue that complementary protection is better than nothing. However, in simply establishing what is effectively an empty status which actually confers very little protection seems pointless. 

Surely refugee protection is a responsibility of the international community, the same international community which has created and continues to perpetuate the refugee crisis with its civil unrest, conflicts and wars instigated by self-interested and protectionist motives?

The future of the international protection challenge I submit vests in the voice of people, to engage and rise up against these injustices and to campaign for change. However, this can only be achieved when the myths surrounding the refugee and asylum seeker have been dispelled.

The non-integrationist alien that our newspapers tell us is a terrorist, job-thieving, live-off-the-state sponge is rather a by-product of the failure of our world leaders in maintaining a world of peace and security, where innocent bloodshed, war, hurt and pain prevails no more.

They are simply individuals longing to belong.

Comments

Mabrur Ahmed

i love the last three paragraphs of this article, bang on the money and I completely share your opinions/facts =D

06 December 2010 delete
Zeenat Islam

What's everyone's thoughts on the debate between an open v closed borders policy?

07 December 2010 delete
Rahima Begum

I am all for a communal internationalist approach to alleviating some of the daily struggles of refugees and working towards completely eradicating the whole existence of refugee status all together by locating these displaced communities.

A wholesome reliancy on governances and the UN is not enough to fix this ongoing issue. Its in the changing of the international communities psyche can some form of tangible change occur - how can one challenge or work towards getting citizenship for refugees and providing a home for them when the whole notion of displacement has not been challenged and ideologies surrounding it overthrown.

A great read - thank you Zeenat for shedding light on such crucial matters.

08 December 2010 delete
Mabrur Ahmed

see for me, closed borders and open borders both work, but only when every nation in the world exercises the same thing in unison.

personally, im all for open borders, being the nomad that i am, but its a very valid point that open borders blatantly could be a security issue - that is only, if certain borders were more relaxed than others - do you get what i mean?

08 December 2010 delete
Jamal Mehmood

get your point on security, but surely open borders anywhere are a security problem regardless of how relatively open they are? maybe i misunderstood?

08 December 2010 delete
Mabrur Ahmed

you see if every country had open borders, and they were equally administered and policed in the same manner, then the laws of nature dictate that people will move most to a place where resources (i.e life standards, or education, or healthcare, or ability to earn more etc) are more favourable. The laws of economics dictate that where there is demand once equal supply is met, equilibrium is reached. once that equilibrium is breached, demand and supply will occur somewhere else.

its all theology i admit, but completely open borders will mean that people will always be mobile. if people are able to freely move, then there will not be competition between nations and as such security wont be an issue as the country who has the most 'resource' will not close its borders to protect its 'resource' - as such, there will be no threat of security being breached?

doest that make sense? lol

08 December 2010 delete
Jamal Mehmood

with reference to paragraph one lol (this is so schooly) i agree, but i also think that applying that particular economic theory might not work here, as many would be migrants may select a country to migrate to for historical reasons, i.e a perception of favourable resources, when the reality on the ground is something else. so even after equilibrium is reached (however we define it regarding people and resources, there may still be migration...

paragraph two: i get it. lol but like you said, with the theology point, even with tough policing, bare drugs etc get through lol.

08 December 2010 delete
Mabrur Ahmed

migration is not the problem though - migration is good, it adds diversity, and because the borders are open even if someone made a duff move, they would be able to rectify relatively simply.

by open borders i was implying for people, not for drugs and or arms etc. basically it would be administered much like it is currently, the only difference being that an individual would not need a visa to enter a country...i know its very ideologistic, but i like the idea, and as silly as it may be in the real world, what a nice world it would be if there were really no borders as such :/

09 December 2010 delete
Jamal Mehmood

gotcha.

09 December 2010 delete
Rahima Begum

I understand and agree to some extent with your concerns Jamal about open borders not always being ideal in terms of monitoring all activities - valid point, however, open borders can also be the answer to a number of political mishaps and contribute towards diluting power shifts between nations...
its a sticky one..

09 December 2010 delete
Zeenat Islam

This may be a really amateur point and indeed is in comparison to all the jazz you guys just wrote- do we have the physical space for an open border policy? :P

09 December 2010 delete
Mabrur Ahmed

gotta be honest, i dont really see your point...
take bangladesh for example, one of the poorest countries in the world, the size roughly of england, has 170million + living there - USA, about 40 times larger than Bangladesh, infinitely wealthier, only 250 million living there - space is not really the issue

09 December 2010 delete
Zeenat Islam

Yep in those terms I agree, although governments will continue to hide behind 'lack of resources' bla bla as one of their rationales behind a restrctive policy. But how open is open? We let every single person who wants to come in, in?

10 December 2010 delete
Mabrur Ahmed

open mean completely open - but if the idea was to work it would mean that it would have to be universally open - really it should be that nyone who wants to come in can come in. no doubt there would be an initial stickiness in the situation. lol, anyway this is a little hypothetical no?

10 December 2010 delete
Zeenat Islam

Not sure I think every single person should be allowed in regardless of their situation, should be for those fleeing persecution/torture/abuse etc etc as opposed to those who fancy a change in scenery. Indeed, hypothetical- tis the beauty of academic debate in my opinion.

10 December 2010 delete
Syeda Salmah

i agree with you zee, to some extent. It would be ideal to devote time and resources and compassion to each individual plea but how realistic is that? Perhaps I'm being to cynical? It's not that it's impossible but it's a fine line between someone who really needs to be accepted and someone who is taking advantage. Put it this way, you have your own house, some poor guy comes knocking on your door asking for help, food, money, shelter- what would be your response? Maybe you say yes and are compassionate and can affort to stretch your budget. But then on the other hand when he knocks you get creeped out and start thinking what AM I supposed to do with this strange man that I don't know, should i really let him live here, with my family and I? How will they react?I have enough problems of my own, can i afford to take on more?

Perosnally, I think that if the country focused on developing a more conscious society - perhaps Big society daRE I say it, to develop resposibility then we wouldn't have to hide behind lack of resources but would, of our own accord sustain these resources- we as people are the answer to supporting these people, we can as a society devote time yet too many of us have been brought up with a xenophobic attitude under the guise of freedom of speech.

12 December 2010 delete