“U.N. Deadlocked Over Draft Agreement on Refugees and Migrants”

In the International New York Times
3 August, 2016

“Western European countries, along with Russia, resisted what many had hoped would be a pledge to resettle one-tenth of all the people fleeing war and persecution. And the United States balked at language that would have committed all countries to not detaining undocumented children who arrive at their borders.

At issue is a 22-page draft “outcome document” that the 193 countries of the United Nations are trying to agree on before the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in September. It is not legally binding. Still, the negotiations are so difficult that a draft text that had been expected to be adopted on Monday, after being postponed at least once before, was postponed again.”

For full article, please click here

The negotiations for an outcome document in view of the 19 September UN summit on large movements of refugees and migrants in New York seem deadlocked. It is very worrying to see that the US and Europe are not supporting the end of child detention, changing the initial text from “detention is never in the best interests of children” to “detention is seldom if ever in the best interests of children, we commit to minimizing this practice and using it as a measure of last resort.” Even more worryingly, the negotiated draft has nothing to say about how to manage mobility and diversity in the future, how to integrate these dimensions of our contemporary societies into democratic structures, with a proper normative framework and effective institutions to ensure that the human rights of all, including migrants, are protected and security is guaranteed. As was the case for the Development Agenda 2030 or the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the is an urgent need of a long-term strategic vision on mobility and diversity, which goes well beyond responding to the present issues of individual States and sets out a human-rights-framed agenda for mobility and diversity throughout the planet.


The New Ideology of the New Cold War: Orderism

Article in the NY Times
2 August, 2016

“In its heyday, Communism claimed that capitalism had betrayed the worker. So what should we make of Moscow’s new battle cry, that democracy has betrayed the voter?

It’s a worldview that has become increasingly clear through the era of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, via a mosaic of public political statements, off-the-record conversations with academics and intelligence insights. Let’s call it “orderism.”

Orderism has started to challenge democracy in many parts of the world — Turkey, Poland, the Philippines. But Mr. Putin’s Russia believes it holds the copyright on this formula, and sees it as the sharp end of the wedge it is trying to drive among the nations of the West.

The ideology’s basic political premise is that liberal democracy and international law have not lived up to their promise. Instead of creating stability, they have produced inequality and chaos. The secular religion worshiped in the Western parliaments was globalization (or, in theEuropean Union’s case, Europeanization). These beliefs, according to the orderists, overlooked the downsides.”

What populist politicians (Putin, Trump, Le Pen, Wilders, Farage, Erdogan and many others) hate most are institutional checks and balances which can protect individuals (and especially the voiceless) whose rights and freedoms are threatened by the tyranny of the majority: an independent judiciary with effective access to justice, efficient national human rights institutions and ombudspersons, expert auditor-generals, solid anti-corruption mechanisms, principled law enforcement, free media, energetic civil society organisations, strong trade unions…

The political lesson of the Thirties – that, without checks and balances, majorities will be wrong – which had translated into the contemporary, complex and evolving overarching human rights doctrine, seems to have been entirely forgotten by this first generation of politicians who has no memory whatsoever of the WWII years. Majority rule does not mean political legitimacy if human rights are violated. We might have to learn this lesson again, and may be the hard way.

Trying to embrace the present complexity, diversity and mobility of our fast-changing societies through complex institutional mechanisms (such as the European Union) is not a sign of decadence: the simplistic “solutions” of populism and nationalism can only turn wrong in the long term.

Do we really all have to suffer through a renewed bout of extreme right populist governments before we collectively realise that democracies are complex accountability machines which rest on a tripod made of electoral representation, effective human rights guarantees and the Rule of Law?

How can we make clear to all, as Jean Monnet famously said, that “Nothing is possible without men, nothing is lasting without institutions”.

  Fence - Wire. Photo credit: Openphoto.net

Reforming Canada’s Immigration Detention Policy

Guest contribution by Vanessa C. Wachuku
18 July, 2016

The Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister, Ralph Goodale recently announced that Canada will review its immigration policy on the detention of foreign nationals by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) based on concerns regarding identity, flight risk or danger to the public. Foreign nationals are also detained if they are deemed inadmissible based on security reasons, criminality or violations of human and international rights[1]. If arrested under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), the person is either held in one of three Immigration Holding Centers across Canada or in a provincial jail or correctional facility pending a review by the Immigration Refugee Board (IRB). While Canada has historically detained foreign nationals with human rights advocates calling for changes to the policy, the recent[2] deaths of three foreign national detainees within a two month span from March to May of 2016, appear to be the catalyst that has opened a policy window[3] for the Canadian government to review and propose changes to its immigration detention regime. These changes include the immigration detention of children[4], the use of provincial jails to detain foreign nationals and the indefinite detention of foreign nationals without charge[5]. If adopted, these changes which are discussed below, will significantly reform Canada’s immigration detention policy.

Considering that child and youth advocates have been calling for an end to the immigration detention of children, Minister Goodale’s announcement to review the policy is of significance in light of extensive literature on the negative impact of immigration detention on children. According to a Canadian study published in 2015 by Kronick, Rousseau and Cleveland on the experiences of asylum seeking children in detention[6], children not only experience physical and psychological trauma while in detention but also experience long term effects from immigration detention. According to the recently released 2015 immigration detention data by the Canadian Council for Refugees[7], 82 children, not inclusive of children accompanying a parent in an immigration holding center, were detained for a total of 1,922 days. While some children are removed from Canada, others are released into the community. In light that these children may have experienced significant trauma arising from detention, social programs are implemented to support these children. The current policy design is confusing as while Canada detains children which may create or exacerbate physical and psychological concerns, it attempts to resolve these concerns through delivery of social programs. A policy reform that ends the immigration detention of children may address this policy problem that intersects between immigration and social policies and aligns with the recently released report by the United Nations Secretary General calling for States to end the immigration detention of children and adoption of alternatives to detention[8].

Minister Goodale’s announcement to review the use of medium-maximum provincial jails in detaining people that are held under IRPA is timely in light of outcry and petitions by human rights, legal and health advocates to end this practice[9].  Detaining foreign nationals in provincial jails that are operationalized under the Criminal Code criminalizes them. They are treated in the same manner as people who are convicted of a crime. A recent ruling by the Ontario Superior Court awarded $60,000 to an immigration detainee, Jamil Ogiamien, who has been in detention since 2013 at Maplehurst correctional complex. Although the immigration detainee was not in the medium-maximum provincial jail because of a criminal conviction[10] as he was in detention while waiting for a decision by the immigration officials[11], he was subjected to mandatory lockdown for almost half of the three years. The Superior Justice Douglas Gray ruled the lockdown was in violation of the immigration detainee’s right to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

These recent announcements on potential changes to Canada’s immigration detention regime highlight that Canada has finally recognized the policy issue of immigration detention which has been labelled, most recently by Stephanie Silverman and Petra Molnar, as a “black box”[13].  The adoption of alternatives to reduce and potentially end the immigration detention of foreign nationals, in particular children, will be a policy reform that human rights, legal, health and child & youth advocates should closely monitor.

Vanessa C. Wachuku is a PhD student in the Policy Studies Program specializing in the Immigration, Settlement and Diaspora Policies stream at Ryerson University.

[1] Canada Border Services Agency. “Arrests, Detention and Removal”, 04 January 2016, online: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/security-securite/arr-det-eng.html

[2] Muriel Draaisma, “Federal Government reviewing immigration detention process after strings of deaths”, CBC News 16 May 2016, online:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/public-safety-immigration-detention-1.3584700

[3] John Kingdon and James Thurber, “Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies”: Longman, 2011

[4] The Canadian Press, “Liberals want to end jailing of child migrants, public safety minister says”, CBC News 30 May 2016, online: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/child-migrants-jail-end-goodale-1.3607712

[5] Michelle Zilio, “Ottawa to change migrant detention policy to reduce the use of provincial jails”, The Globe and Mail 15 June 2016, online: http://www.theglobeandmail.com//news/politics/ottawa-to-change-migrant-detention-policy-to-reduce-use-of-provincial-jails/article30482750/?cmpid=rss1

[6]  Rachel Kronick, Cecile Rousseau, and Janet Cleveland, “Asylum-seeking children’s experiences of detention in Canada: A qualitative study.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, vol. 85, American Psychological Association, United States, 2015.

[7]Canadian Council for Refugees, ‘Immigration Detention Statistics 2015”, March 2016, online: http://ccrweb.ca/sites/ccrweb.ca/files/immigration-detention-statistics-2015.pdf.

[8] End Immigration Detention of Children. “End Immigration detention- United Nations Secretary General. 13 May 2016. online:  http://endchilddetention.org/end-child-detention-united-nations-secretary-general/

[9] Audrey Macklin, Raoul Boulakia and Barbara Jackman. “Media Release – Over 100 lawyers and legal scholars from across Ontario join call for Minister Naqvi to stop accepting immigration transfers to Ontario jails”. 26 May 2016. Online: https://stoptransferstojails.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/media-release-over-100-lawyers-and-legal-scholars-from-across-ontario-join-call-for-minister-naqvi-to-stop-accepting-immigration-transfers-to-ontario-jails.pdf

[10] Amy Dempsey, “Judge awards inmates $85,000 over lockdowns”. The Star 12 May 2016, online https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/05/12/judge-awards-ontario-inmates-85000-over-lockdowns.html

[11] Damian Hornich and Kevin A. McGivney, “Prison Lockdowns and Charter Damages: Ogiamien v Ontario 2016 ONSC 3080 (CanLII.)  25 May 2016, online http://canliiconnects.org/en/summaries/42111

[12] Geoffrey York, “Freed from Canadian Detention, South African man in Limbo”. The Globe and Mail 14 June 2016, online: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/freed-from-canadian-detention-south-african-man-left-in-limbo/article30462108/

[13] Stephanie Silverman and Petra Molnar, “Everyday Injustices: Barriers to Access to Justice for Immigration Detainees in Canada,” Refugee Survey Quarterly 2016: 35 (1): 109-127, http://rsq.oxfordjournals.org/content/35/1/109.abstract

  World Map Photo. Photo credit: Openphoto.net.

The Myth of Cosmopolitanism

NY Times Op-Ed
4 July, 2016

“Genuine cosmopolitanism is a rare thing. It requires comfort with real difference, with forms of life that are truly exotic relative to one’s own. It takes its cue from a Roman playwright’s line that “nothing human is alien to me,” and goes outward ready to be transformed by what it finds.

The people who consider themselves “cosmopolitan” in today’s West, by contrast, are part of a meritocratic order that transforms difference into similarity, by plucking the best and brightest from everywhere and homogenizing them into the peculiar species that we call “global citizens.”

This species is racially diverse (within limits) and eager to assimilate the fun-seeming bits of foreign cultures — food, a touch of exotic spirituality. But no less than Brexit-voting Cornish villagers, our global citizens think and act as members of a tribe.”

This short excerpt from this NY Times editorial contribution illustrates why cosmopolitan worldviews do not connect with most people. And why the human rights discourse as a key feature of this cosmopolitan identity is effectively rejected by a large part of the electorate when it doesn’t concern them directly and immediately.

  Susan Stewart, an artist, is a sponsor of Eman Mohammad and her family. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

Refugees Encounter a Foreign Word: Welcome

1 July, 2016

“Across Canada, ordinary citizens, distressed by news reports of drowning children and the shunning of desperate migrants, are intervening in one of the world’s most pressing problems. Their country allows them a rare power and responsibility: They can band together in small groups and personally resettle — essentially adopt — a refugee family. In Toronto alone, hockey moms, dog-walking friends, book club members, poker buddies and lawyers have formed circles to take in Syrian families. The Canadian government says sponsors officially number in the thousands, but the groups have many more extended members.”

An article which shows the way forward in terms of refugee sponsorships and mobility policies. It gives hope. And no one should believe in a Canadian exceptionalism of sorts. Any country can do this. It is a question of individuals being empowered and supported by appropriate refugee and migration policies and practices. It takes policy foresight, well-informed public debates and political leadership, three attributes sadly missing in the European discussions.

To read the full article in the NY Times, please click here.