What Can Hannah Arendt Teach Us About Today’s Refugee Crisis?

Originally published on Border Criminologies.

By Asher Hirsch and Nathan Bell.

While the current global refugee crisis is shocking in its dimensions, sadly it is not a new phenomenon.  Writing after the Second World War, the existence of a significant population of refugees and stateless people prompted the political theorist Hannah Arendt to reflect upon their rights.

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Forgetting its roots: Israel and asylum seekers

Some migrants in Israel and their employers are reeling from the effects of a new measure targeting Africans who entered the country illegally. Under the so-called deposit law, an Anti-Infiltration Law amendment that took effect May 1, African asylum seekers must deposit 20 percent of their wages into a fund they can access only upon leaving the country. In addition, their employers are required to deposit 16 percent of the asylum seekers’ pension allowances into the same fund.

Founded as a haven for Jews fleeing persecution, Israel has been far less welcoming to non-Jewish Africans seeking asylum. The country has approved fewer than 1 percent of all asylum applications since signing the 1951 UN Refugee Convention in 1954. Starting in the mid-2000s, large numbers of Eritrean and Sudanese migrants began entering Israel via Egypt, fleeing authoritarian regimes at home. As the numbers swelled, Israeli authorities became overwhelmed, and the government found it difficult to accommodate the new arrivals. Many were held in a detention center in the Israeli desert, and were subsequently given temporary visas and allowed to work.

The new law is just the latest development in Israel’s ongoing efforts to push out African asylum seekers, whom it considers “infiltrators.” By 2013, with tensions running high between migrants and Israelis, the country began implementing policies to stop African inflows and make life difficult for the roughly 55,000 already there. It completed a wall along its border with Egypt, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—whose supporters have referred to the migrants as “a cancer”—credits for blocking 99 percent of would-be African arrivals. Next, Israel began pressuring asylum seekers to relocate to a third country, giving them $3,500 in cash upon departure and promising them asylum once they arrive in either Rwanda or Uganda. Several thousand signed up, only to be led by smugglers on a shadowy journey through African borderlands—with no safety or legal status in sight.

The lack of welcome may be working: More than 3,200 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers left the country in 2016. The deposit law is likely to make life even more difficult for the tens of thousands of Africans still in Israel, who largely fill service jobs in restaurants and hotels. Businesses complain their labor costs will rise as a result of the provision, and aid groups say it has caused an uptick in asylum seekers being fired. With their limited access to public health care services contingent upon employment, those who lose their jobs can find themselves in very difficult straits.

The government maintains its actions are meant to benefit migrants, and that it is acting within the framework of international law. Meanwhile, lawyers and human-rights organizations are challenging the deposit law and relocation policy in court. For now, it appears the Africans will remain unwelcome in their would-be home.

From the Migration Policy Institute.

Does What Happens Offshore, Stay Offshore?

This article was originally published on Asylum Insight.

Australia leads the world in outsourcing and offshoring its human rights obligations. It is the only nation to subcontract the management of its entire detention centre network to private for-profit corporations. It is also the only nation that mandatorily detains those who arrive without a visa, and sends those who come by boat to third countries for processing. Between 2001 and 2007, and again from 2012, the Australian government has attempted to avoid both moral and legal responsibility for asylum seekers by sending them to offshore detention centres in the Pacific.

Australia maintains that responsibility for the management of these centres, and for the numerous abuses that have taken place there, rests solely with the host countries of Papua New Guinea and Nauru. The secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Mr Michael Pezzullo, asserted during the 2015 Senate inquiry into conditions at the detention centre on Nauru that:

‘The Australian government does not run the Nauru Regional Processing Centre, or RPC. It is managed by the government of Nauru, under Nauruan law, with support from the Australian government. The government of Nauru operates the RPC, assesses asylum claims and, where persons are found to be in need of protection, arranges settlement. The government of Nauru is specifically responsible for security and good order and the care and welfare of persons residing in the centre.’ (emphasis added)

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The Extra-territorialisation of Migration Control and the Right to Seek Asylum

This article was originally published on Right Now.

In this age of globalisation, many asylum-receiving states have attempted to restrict access to asylum through a range of extraterritorial measures that effectively prevent asylum seekers from reaching territorial borders in order to apply for protection.

As Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen notes in his book Access to Asylum, “the last decades have seen a number of policy developments to extend migration control well beyond the borders of the state.”

These extraterritorial measures include carrier controls that place financial penalties on airlines that carry those without a visa, disruption activities in transit countries, the use of immigration officers in foreign countries, offshore processing, and the interception of boats on the High Seas.

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Q&A Panel: The High Court and the Asylum Case

The High Court of Australia is poised to hear arguments about whether it is legal for the Australian government to intercept, detain and remove asylum seekers on boats outside Australia’s territorial waters.

What are the legal questions before the High Court? What are the government’s international law obligations? What avenues are open to the High Court? What might this mean for the future of Australian asylum policy?

In this Q&A panel, four legal experts will consider these and other issues:
Professor Jane McAdam (UNSW), expert on international refugee law
Professor George Williams (UNSW), expert on constitutional law
Associate Professor Tim Stephens (Sydney University), expert on the law of the sea
Edward Santow (Public Interest Advocacy Centre), expert on administrative law and co-author of Island of Impunity? Investigation into international crimes in the final stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War

The panel will be chaired by Steven Glass, partner at Gilbert + Tobin. The Kaldor Centre is grateful to Gilbert + Tobin for kindly hosting the event.

Statutory Interpretation in Australian Administrative Law

In an effort to protect parliamentary sovereignty, the Australian legislature has increasingly made new laws in areas that were once covered by the common law. Indeed, almost all aspects of law are now regulated by legislation.[1] Statutory interpretation has thus become an essential role of the courts in every aspect of the law. As Chief Justice Gleeson noted, applying legislation is now the largest part of the work of modern judges:

One of the changes making the work of modern judges different from that of their predecessors is that most of the law to be applied is now found in Acts of Parliament rather than judge-made principles of common law (in which I include equity).[2]

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