The Guardian: 3,121 desperate journeys: Exposing a week of chaos under Trump’s zero tolerance

15 October, 2018


Commentary by Francois Crépeau: “An excellent analysis, with lots of cool infographics, of why, on immigration issues as it is the case on other complex social issues, zero-tolerance policies must be replaced by harm-reduction policies.”

On 6 April 2018, the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, issued a memoto federal prosecutors along the US-Mexico border directing them “to adopt immediately a zero-tolerance policy” for violations of a federal law barring “improper entry” into the country. “You are on the front lines of this battle,” Sessions wrote, as if rallying his troops against an invading army.

Over the next six weeks, the collateral damage of the Trump administration’s policy was revealed: some 2,654 children were taken from their parents or guardians in order to fulfill the mandate that they be prosecuted for a criminal misdemeanor. As of 27 September, 219 children whose parents had already been deported remained in government custody.

They came to the US seeking a better life. They ended up behind bars. Thousands of documents analyzed by the Guardian provide the most comprehensive picture yet of what happened to immigrants prosecuted under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy.

To read the full article, please click here.

The Guardian: The part of Brexit everyone’s been avoiding is finally here: immigration

The migration committee has made its mind up on free movement. Now does Theresa May listen to angry leavers, or business?
18 September, 2018


‘Immigration has been oddly sidelined as an issue so far in the Brexit negotiations.’ Photograph: Peter Nicholls/AP

Commentary by Francois Crépeau: Myths and fantasies are being slowly eroded, but, unfortunately, the show must go on!”

By: Gaby Hinsliff

Brexit was never really about immigration.

Or so liberal leavers fall over themselves to claim, at least. They can’t bear the idea of being associated with a racist backlash and so they insist it was really all about sovereignty; that all those inflammatory posters of dark-skinned migrants queuing at European borders and the cynical scaremongering about Turkey didn’t really have any bearing on the result, and that all they really wanted was just a fairer and more open system in which people could come to Britain more easily from Commonwealth countries.

Even Nigel Farage sounded as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth on the radio this morning, insisting all he ever wanted was control of our borders and equal opportunities for Indians to come here just as Romanians once did.

So it will be interesting to see what happens now the migration advisory committee has taken leavers at their word. Its long-awaited report on immigration after Brexit concludes, as expected, that once we leave the EU free movement should end, although it notes drily that that may leave us in the position of scrapping it “just as public concern falls about the migration flows that result from it”, and that both the benefits and the supposed negative impacts of it have been over-egged.

You can’t help wondering where its chart coolly summing up the facts – no evidence that EU migration has reduced wages or job opportunities for Britons on average, although some possible impact on the young and lower-skilled; some evidence that migration has pushed up house prices but also confirmation that migrants pay more in taxes than they take in benefits – was during the hysteria of the referendum debate.

To read the full article, please click here.

BBC: Nauru refugees: The island where children have given up on life

Suicide attempts and horrifying acts of self-harm are drawing fresh attention to the suffering of refugee children on Nauru, in what is being described as a "mental health crisis".
6 September, 2018


Commentary by Francois Crépeau: “Australia has adopted a policy which utterly violates the human rights of all human beings concerned. Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is prohibited, and children must be treated according to the principle of “best interests of the child”, to name only a few international human rights law standards at stake here. Adopting a policy that treats harshly some individuals (who have incidentally committed no crime) in order to deter others from a particular behaviour is a violation of the fundamental principle of individualisation in the human rights doctrine, itself based on Kant’s categorical imperative (“Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.”). Australian authorities will not avoid moral, political and legal condemnation for such an outrageous treatment of children, for the welfare of whom they are responsible.”

The tiny island nation, site of Australia’s controversial offshore processing centre, has long been plagued with allegations of human rights abuses.

But a series of damning media reports recently has also highlighted a rapidly deteriorating situation for young people.

“We are starting to see suicidal behaviour in children as young as eight and 10 years old,” says Louise Newman, professor of psychiatry at the University of Melbourne who works with families and children on the island.

“It’s absolutely a crisis.”

Australia intercepts all asylum seekers and refugees who try to reach its shores by boat. It insists they will never be able to resettle in Australia, so over the years has sent many to privately run “processing centres” it funds on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea.

Groups working with families on Nauru paint a brutal picture of life for children on the island. Many have lived most of their life in detention, with no idea of what their future will be.

The trauma they have endured, coupled with poor – and often dangerous conditions – contribute to a sense of hopelessness.

To read the full article, please click here.

The New York Times: Companies Say Trump Is Hurting Business by Limiting Legal Immigration

6 September, 2018 Verma, a software developer from India, is moving to Toronto after 12 years in Iowa. He said he had grown frustrated waiting for a green card. Credit: Kathryn Gamble for The New York Times.

Commentary by Francois Crépeau:The business community is finally making the case that the economy needs facilitated mobility, not more red tape. It is good that this influential community – too often hesitant to take a political stand on a toxic policy issue which could damage their brand – is voicing complaints against the nationalist populist border closure agenda. Hopefully, it will have been heard by the politicians who will take over after the current nationalist populist experiment will have failed on so many issues.”

By Nelson D. Schwartz and Steve Lohr

The Trump administration is using the country’s vast and nearly opaque immigration bureaucracy to constrict the flow of foreign workers into the United States by throwing up new roadblocks to limit legal arrivals.

The government is denying more work visas, asking applicants to provide additional information and delaying approvals more frequently than just a year earlier. Hospitals, hotels, technology companies and other businesses say they are now struggling to fill jobs with the foreign workers they need.

With foreign hires missing, the employees who remain are being forced to pick up the slack. Seasonal industries like hotels and landscaping are having to turn down customers or provide fewer services. Corporate executives worry about the long-term impact of losing talented engineers and programmers to countries like Canada that are laying out the welcome mat for skilled foreigners.

To read the full article, please click here.

The Economist: Lessons for the EU from the Austro-Hungarian Empire

What Europe can learn from the collapse of the Habsburg empire a century ago
31 August, 2018


Commentary by Francois Crépeau:Respect for human rights and diversity is not a given, but a daily construct, resting on the strength of standards, the resilience of institutions and the courage of individuals. Providing an effective protection for the human rights of all, and making palpable that equality and non-discrimination are key principles upon which our society is built, are probably the best answer to nationalist populism. This means investing much more in the institutions that help people access their rights, such as the judiciary, national human rights institutions, ombudspersons, labour inspectors, social workers… Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the way Global North States are headed.”

A GOLDEN late-summer light filters through the windows of the Café Landtmann. Bow-tied waiters move among towering hot-house plants. Officials huddle around a table. They are fretting about fragmentation: Europe’s north is peeling away from its south; easterners feel like second-class citizens; outside powers are trying to divide and rule. This might be a scene from the final days of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918. In fact it is today, 100 years later. For once more the spectre of European fragmentation haunts Vienna.

It haunts other capitals, too. In Berlin, Angela Merkel urges her ministers to read “The Sleepwalkers”, an account of the political failures that led to the first world war. Political Brussels is rediscovering Stefan Zweig’s tales of post-Habsburg Austria. In Rome a populist government is preparing to battle the EU institutions over budget rules and to seed a new nationalist block in the European Parliament. Emmanuel Macron, France’s liberal hope, is losing his sheen; his proposals for euro-zone reform have been diluted. Autocracy is gaining ground in Warsaw and Budapest. Meanwhile China, Russia, Turkey and America are interfering ever more in European affairs. The geopolitical centrifuge is spinning European states away from each other, like dancers at a ball.

Vienna is the pivot. Austria is two months into its six-month presidency of the EU Council under Sebastian Kurz, the darling of the continent’s conservatives. To his critics he has cosied up to the far right by bringing them into his government, and indulged Islamophobia. To his fans, he is the smooth diplomat staking out a middle ground between liberalism and nationalism and building bridges between east and west. He will host Europe’s leaders in Salzburg on September 20th and get them talking about the things pulling Europe apart: Brexit, the next EU budget, trade and immigration. “We need to get everyone on board again,” says Alexander Schallenberg, the co-ordinator of Austria’s presidency.

It is also in Vienna that the memories of the old Habsburg multinational order reside. “Our history shows how quickly things can change for the worse,” cautions one Austrian intellectual. The empire once run from here had a larger budget and more power than today’s EU, not least its own army and tax-raising powers, but both stand as triumphs of liberalism over nationalism. Ten languages were once spoken in the Habsburg parliament. Following its annexation of Bosnia, the empire was the first western European state to recognise Islam.

Like the EU, the Habsburg empire seemed to suspend history. Germans, Hungarians, Slavs and sizeable Muslim and Jewish populations mingled in cosmopolitan cities like Vienna and Prague, Trieste and Lviv. Paul Lendvai, a Hungarian-Austrian writer born in Budapest in 1929 recalls: “My father always said peace was not having to show your passport.” The old order’s full value became clear only after it collapsed, when the dark energy of them-and-us took hold and the region succumbed to petty hatreds, economic disintegration and the whims of outside powers.

One lesson above all lives on: do not take the loyalty of a multinational block for granted. The Habsburgs charmed their subjects by giving them relative freedom, material benefits and protection under the law from the whims of local barons. “They created a situation where ordinary people could see their own interests in institutions of empire,” explains Pieter Judson, a leading historian of the empire. But when tough times came with the start of the war, he explains, it turned out that these loyalties had been contingent: “The state didn’t provide what it promised to provide. There was no food and no fuel. Men went to the front, women to the factories and children were left on the streets. Loyal nations—the Ukrainians, the Serbs, the Czechs—were persecuted without foundation.” When the empire was dissolved after its defeat, it was not greatly mourned.

Today’s EU is even weaker, fears Mr Judson: built on good living but without deeper roots. His home country, America, is a multinational, federal state that survives on common feeling. “But as an American living in Europe I feel that the stakes of belonging to the EU are not understood at all.”

Hearts and minds

European leaders can learn from the weaknesses of Austria-Hungary. Europe’s citizens today may have no affection for the bureaucracy, but like the subjects of the old empire they will tolerate it for as long as it generates wealth and preserves their freedoms. Yet complex institutions, second-rate European commissioners, wasteful policies like the common agricultural one and incompetent national governments across much of the continent all undermine that goal. To survive, the liberal European order, of which the EU is a pillar, must become leaner and more capable. Margrethe Vestager and Cecilia Malmström, the European commissioners taking on the digital giants and forging massive new trade deals for the union, are two of the better examples.

But the fate of Austria-Hungary also showed that multinational units cannot survive times of hardship without a sense of common purpose. Thanks to the rise of English, budget airlines, the internet and university exchanges, today’s young Europeans live much more “European” lives than previous generations. But politics is not keeping up. Nurturing a clearer European identity is not just a romantic goal; it is the only way to make the project sustainable in the long term, hard though history shows this to be.

So Europe’s leaders must face the balancing act that defeated their Viennese predecessors. They must show the pragmatism needed to keep their union afloat in the short term, while cultivating the vision needed to build common feeling in the long term. Mr Lendvai sums up the landscape: “Social democracy is a shambles; liberals are arguing with each other; Christian Democrats are losing their Christian feeling.” They’d better get their act together, he reckons: “For the ghosts of the past are coming back.”