‘Camps That Are Becoming Cities – Cities That Are Becoming Camps: The Case of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon and Jordan

The Oppenheimer Chair is pleased to welcome Faten Kikano, PhD Candidate in Environmental Design, from the Université de Montréal for a conference and a photo exhibition. Ms. Kikano will present her research and her photos about the life of  Syrian refugees in camps in Lebanon and Jordan. Join us for a lunch, a short conference…
Sonia Cancian Poster
Monday, 27 March 2017

The Power of Life Stories: Situating the Narratives of Migrants and Refugees within the Context of the Law

The Oppenheimer Chair and the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism are pleased to welcome Dr. Sonia Cancian, from Zayed University for a seminar on life stories of migrants and refugees and the law. This seminar will lead a discussion on life stories of migrants and refugees and their power (or not) within…
  The Danish authorities have called for Zarmena Waziri, 70, who has dementia, to be deported to Afghanistan. She has suffered multiple strokes and has high blood pressure. Photo Credit: Andrew Testa for The New York Times on The New York Times' website.

Old, Ill and Ordered Deported From Denmark to Afghanistan

Article in The New York Times
22 April, 2017

“Zarmena Waziri’s dementia is so severe that when she recently ate an orange she forgot to swallow and nearly choked to death. She has suffered multiple strokes, has high blood pressure and wears a diaper.

Now, in a case that has captured headlines across Denmark, the Danish authorities have called for Mrs. Waziri, a 70-year-old Afghan woman, to be deported to Afghanistan, where, her children say, she is sure to die.

Her daughter Marzia, her main caregiver, has lived in Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city, for 25 years and owns a small grocery business. Marzia’s two children are Danish citizens.

Read Post

  “I do not try to cross illegally,” said Mohammed Wafa Sekendari, right, who left Afghanistan with his family a year and a half ago. Photo credit: Akos Stiller for The New York Times on The New York Times' website

Already Unwelcoming, Hungary Now Detains Asylum Seekers

Article in The New York Times
19 April, 2017

“Double rows of razor-wire fences. High-tech watch towers equipped with search lights, motion sensors, cameras and loudspeakers. Hungary’s border with Serbia, specially fortified in the last two years to keep out migrants and refugees, is anything but a welcome mat.

Now, add to those deterrents detention camps — small container villages surrounded by razor wire, with a tiny playground for children.

Hungary, which already had one of the toughest immigration policies in the European Union, last month rolled out a draconian new asylum procedure that will reduce applicants to a trickle — 10 people a day — and essentially put them in prison camps for months while their cases are decided. Even after that, if the recent past holds true, more than 90 percent are likely to be rejected.

By May, several hundred asylum seekers already in Hungary may also be relocated to the detention camps, evoking ugly and unavoidable echoes of rounding up Jews, Roma and others during World War II.”

The pictures illustrate well the present model of refugee camps in Europe, which one can find in Italy and in Greek hotspots, as well as now in Hungary. The automatic detention of all asylum seekers remain in violation of international and European human rights instruments.

  Young people inside a refugee camp in north-east Greece. Photo credit: Patrick Kingsley for the Guardian on the Guardian's website

Child refugees in Europe ‘forced to sell bodies’ to pay smugglers

Article in The Guardian
19 April, 2017

Unaccompanied child refugees in Greece desperate to reach the UK and other parts of northern Europe are being forced to sell their bodies in order to pay smugglers to help them with their journeys, according to a new report from Harvard University.

The Report from Dr Vasileia Digidiki and Prof Jacqueline Bhabha at the university’s centre for health and human rights, reveals what they describe as a “growing epidemic of sexual exploitation and abuse of migrant children in Greece”.

The report says child refugees from conflict zones including Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan trying to make their way across Europe are being stranded in Greece, unable to afford the fees charged by smugglers to move them.

Can we call such sexual exploitation an “unintended” consequence of EU border policies, when the European authorities know very well that more repression of irregular migration means more underground activities? Punishing migrants is actually empowering smuggling rings, unethical recruiters and exploitative employers. Through their policies, European States are effectively subsidising criminal networks. The current inefficiency of the Dublin relocation mechanisms and of national guardianship systems for separated children contribute to the tragedy.

Some cynics would say that making the life of asylum seekers as miserable as possible is part of the policy and practice arsenal to deter migration to Europe. Mitt Romney once called this kind of thinking a strategy to induce “self-deportation”. Not that it ever really worked that way. Others could say, even more cynically, that politicians know very well that such policies have no real effect on irregular migration numbers and movements. Their only objective is electoral at local level: anything goes, as long as one projects an image of “being tough on crime”.

To read the full article, please click here

European Commission Press Release

13 April, 2017

“Following up on the Joint Communication on the Central Mediterranean Route and the Malta Declaration, the EU Trust Fund for Africa upon proposal from the European Commission, adopted today a €90 million programme to step up the protection of migrants and reinforce migration management in Libya

Today, the EU Emergency Trust Fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa has adopted a comprehensive €90 million programme to reinforce protection and resilience of migrants, refugees and host communities in Libya. The programme will also support improved migration management in the country.

High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: “For the European Union, Libya and the Libyans have been and stay a top priority. We are working to promote a political solution to the Libyan crisis and to support the Libyan authorities on the many challenges they have to face, including the managing of the migration flows. As the first donor for Libya, we already are providing a sizeable package of support worth €120 million to assist the authorities and the population. And while we are working to provide training and capacity building to the coast guard to save lives in the Mediterranean Sea, we are addressing the appalling situation the migrants stranded in Libya face, together with international organisations such as IOM and UNHCR. The additional €90 million we adopt today are aimed at protecting and assisting migrants in the country, and the people who host them. Our aim remains cooperating in protecting lives, and promoting peace and stability in Libya. The European Union is doing its part and the Libyan authorities, all of them, have to do theirs”.”

Development assistance is increasingly geared toward the obsession of “stemming the flow” of migration to Europe. This doesn’t bode well for development programs, nor does it for migration governance.

To read the full press release, please click here.

  Photo credit: Rex/Shutterstock on The Economist's website.

The number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean keeps rising: so does the risk of death

13 April, 2017

The 16-year-old Gambian who was discovered by a Spanish naval ship as he clung to a fuel tank in open seas will doubtless be haunted by his experience for the rest of his days. But he was also exceptionally fortunate—the only survivor, by his account, among more than 140 people who left the Libyan port of Sabratha on a large rubber dinghy on March 26th or 27th. It began taking on water a few hours later, he told UN officials from his hospital bed on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

“Details of sinkings in the central Mediterranean are often sketchy and sometimes unconfirmed. The Libyan Red Crescent said no bodies had been found from the disaster the young Gambian reported. But it is clear from figures kept by international organisations that both the risks of setting out from Libya and the numbers reaching Europe are growing.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, 24,513 people had landed in Italy this year by April 2nd. That was an increase of about 30% compared with the first three months of last year. Yet UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, calculates that the death rate per 100 arrivals climbed from 1.8 in 2015 to 3.4 in the first three months of 2017. One in 30 migrants in the central Mediterranean now dies en route.”

“As the numbers make clear, the risk of death is not enough to stop them”. All the repression arsenal deployed by most global north states is in part an enormous waste, of human life and of tax-payers dollars. Governing such migration would be a lot more productive than resisting it. States could take over the mobility market from the hands of the smugglers, provide migrants with many more diversified visa options, concentrate their repression on the minute number of criminals and funnel their investments into access to labour market, support for entrepreneurship, language courses, integration strategies and anti-discrimination policies. All this would be directed towards wealth creation and social cohesion, while present policies are divisive, costly and inefficient.

To read the full article in The Economist, please click here.