International Refugee Law
This report summarizes the presentations and following discussions from the Expert Seminar on Shared Responsibility in International Refugee Law held in Amsterdam in May 2011. The overall aim of this Expert Seminar was to map and examine principles of collective … Read more
30 May 2011
The Expert Seminar addressed the allocation of responsibility in respect of refugee protection. Collective or shared responsibility for refugees is highly topical. The regime is based on the recognition that problems of refugees (both the causes of refugee flows and the protection of refugees) are international problems that require international cooperation.
The meeting focused on three aspects of the refugee regime that are of particular interest from the perspective of SHARES: (1) collective responsibility (obligations) of states for the protection of refugees; (2) shared responsibilities arising out of extra-territorial refugee policies; and (3) shared responsibilities arising out of the practice of refoulement. The aim of the seminar was to examine and discuss what principles of collective and shared responsibility have emerged in the area of refugee protection.
On the basis of the presentations and discussions during the meeting, a report is currently being prepared on issues of shared responsibility in the context of refugee law that will be made publicly available on this website.
15 March 2012
Professor Bhupinder S. Chimni will provide a lecture on ‘burden sharing in international refugee law’ as part of the SHARES lecture series. The principle of burden sharing requires states to cooperate in dealing with the global refugee problem. In his book International Refugee Law: A Reader he argues that it is not merely a moral but a legal principle.
Currently, Professor Chimni is Chairperson of the Centre for International Legal Studies (CILS) at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He also served as a member of the Academic Advisory Committee of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for the period from 1996-2000. In addition, he is on the editorial board of several national and international journals, most of which deal with refugees issues.
As part of its Lecture Series, SHARES regularly invites scholars to give presentations on issues of shared responsibility. See here the overview of the SHARES Lecture Series.
3 December 2012
On Monday 3 December, the second SHARES Debate is organized in cooperation with SPUI25, the academic centre of the University of Amsterdam.
SHARES Debates are organized throughout the year to provide a platform for discussions with a broader audience on questions of shared responsibility.
This debate, entitled External Processing of Asylym Seekers outside the EU: Out of Sight, Out of Mind? will address the possibility of external processing of asylum seekers outside the territory of the European Union, and whether the policy proposals on external processing of asylum seekers provide a basis for the ‘sharing’ or ‘shifting’ of responsibility. (more…)
16 May 2013
This SHARES Seminar will discuss papers reviewing the practice of shared responsibility in the field of international refugee law.
In conformity with the general approach of the SHARES Project, the seminar will discuss the law and practice relating to situations where multiple actors (states, international organizations and other non-state actors) have contributed to a single injury, and where questions have arisen about their ex post facto responsibility for that contribution. All papers have in common that they discuss situations where the questions of responsibility are governed, or influenced by international refugee law. (more…)
4 April 2011
The European Court of Human Rights issued a landmark ruling in the case of M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece on 21 January 2011. The case concerned the expulsion of an asylum seeker to Greece by the Belgian authorities in application of European asylum law. Not only is this judgment extraordinarily rich, it also exposes serious flaws in the current European asylum regime.
7 July 2011
Do States – and other subjects of international law – have a collective obligation to protect refugees? And if this is the case, does a breach of this obligation lead to shared international responsibility? At a time when the burdens and responsibilities that flow from massive displacement of people have been distributed so unevenly among the world’s regions and countries (see UNHCR Global Trends 2010), these two questions have attracted growing interest and were discussed at the Expert Seminar on Shared Responsibility in International Refugee Law that the SHARES Project organized on 30 May 2011 (see Programme). (more…)
30 October 2011
Refugees are legally and morally entitled to some form of protection. This is generally undisputed. The disagreement begins when we ask the question which state will be called upon to provide that protection? (more…)
12 December 2012
On 11 December 2012, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that there are more than half a million registered Syrian refugees. That number is climbing by the day, as more refugees flood into neighboring countries. In Turkey, for example, 136,319 refugees are living in 14 government-run camps. From there, many of them try to make it into Greece, the gateway to Europe, only to be returned to Turkey. (more…)
19 March 2013
Refoulement describes the act of removing a person to a country where he or she is in danger of being subjected to serious human rights violations. It is a well-established legal concept in refugee law as well as extradition law and codified in a range of treaties. As transpires from the recent case of Willcox and Hurford v the United Kingdom before the European Court of Human Rights, the reverse scenario may also be possible: the removal of a person from one country to another one, where the receiving country’s responsibility may be engaged on account of previous wrongful conduct in the transferring State.
The Court’s inadmissibility decision sets a human rights standard for the implementation of prisoner transfer agreements. On a more fundamental note, it raises the question whether and in what way the absolute character of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights should allow for taking into account the generally beneficial purpose of Prisoner Transfer Agreements (or PTAs).
The case concerned two British citizens who had been convicted in Thailand to thirty-three years and twenty-six years’ imprisonment respectively for illegal drug possession. After having served part of their sentences in Thailand, they were transferred to the United Kingdom pursuant to a bilateral prisoner transfer agreement between Thailand and the United Kingdom. Having arrived in the UK, they challenged the further execution of their sentences, arguing that their continued detention was grossly disproportionate on account of its length (Article 3 ECHR) and arbitrary because they had agreed to a plea bargain to admit guilt that resulted in a higher term of sentence to be served in the UK; and because the trial in Thailand of one of the applicants would have been manifestly unfair (Article 5 § 1 ECHR). (more…)
20 June 2011
UNHCR’s 2010 Global Trends report, released on World Refugee Day, reveals that there are deep imbalances in international refugee protection. Four-fifths of the world refugee population is being hosted by developing countries. In a reaction, High Commissioner Guterres said that “[d]eveloping counties cannot continue to bare this burden alone and the industrialized world must address the imbalance”, for example by increased resettlement qoutas.
24 February 2011
Italy has asked for solidarity in dealing with massive outflows of people, most notably from Libya. Many European Union governments have, however, criticized Italy for exaggerating the threat of asylum seekers. The disagreement underscores divisions in Europe on how to tackle immigration and share responsibility for the protection of refugees.
26 April 2011
France and Italy have jointly called for changes in the Schengen Agreement in the face of a wave of immigrants arriving in Europe from Libya. Free passage among the European Union should temporarily be denied in case of exceptional circumstances. They also called on the European Union to broaden the role of its border agency Frontex.
11 April 2011
The recent upheaval in North Africa has caused a massive wave of immigration, with thousands landing on the Italian island of Lampedusa in recent months. The government in Rome wants to move the immigrants on to other EU member states, but other countries don’t want them.
15 April 2011
On 14 April 2011, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe issued a Resolution on “The large-scale arrival of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees on Europe’s southern shores”. This Resolution calls for wide-ranging solidarity and cooperation by all member States in providing support for the “boat people” from North Africa, but also for the countries of origin.
Source: Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe News
1 September 2011
The High Court of Australia has ruled that the Malaysian refugee swap is unlawful, dealing a huge blow to the Gillard government for which the handling of border protection has become an important political issue. Under the deal, Australia was to send 800 asylum-seekers to Malaysia, in return accepting 4000 refugees from Malaysia over four years. However, in a six-to-one decision, the court found the minister could not validly process asylum-seekers in a third country unless that country was bound under law to provide effective protection for them while their refugee status was determined. That protection must be enshrined either in domestic law or in the form of international instruments, such as the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which Malaysia has not signed.
22 September 2011
Human Rights Watch has released a new report on the Involvement of Frontex in Ill-Treatment of Migrant Detainees in Greece, titled ‘The EU’s Dirty Hands’. The report assesses Frontex’s role in and responsibility for exposing migrants to inhuman and degrading detention conditions during four months beginning late in 2010 when its first rapid border intervention team (RABIT) was apprehending migrants and taking them to police stations and migrant detention centers in Greece’s Evros region. The RABIT deployment has been replaced by a permanent Frontex presence. The report is based on interviews with 65 migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Greece in November and December 2010 and February 2011, as well as with Frontex and Greek police officials.
22 September 2011
In her Opinions in joined cases C-411/10 N.S. v Secretary of State for the Home Department and C-493/10 M.E. and Others v Refugee Applications Commissioner and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform concerning the interpretation of the Dublin II Regulation, Advocate General Verica Trstenjak of the European Court of Justice has established that asylum seekers may not be transferred to other Member States where they could face a risk of serious breach of the fundamental rights which they are guaranteed under the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
7 November 2011
Germany paid officials of other States such as Sierra Leone to issue identity documents for asylum seekers that arrive in Germany without any indication of their countries of origin. The lack of identity documents is a very frequent phenomenon among persons that flee from places of persecution.
5 December 2011
On 2 December 2011, the European Commission presented a communication on enhanced intra-EU solidarity in the field of asylum proposing to improve responsibility-sharing and improve mutual trust through legislation, practical cooperation, and a better use of EU funding mechanisms. According to the European Commission, the improvement of solidarity mechanisms should be reached by making the supportive role of the newly established European Asylum Support Office more effective and by increasing the amount of funds available to Member States. The Commission also proposes to encourage the relocation of beneficiaries of international protection amongst EU Member States, through financial assistance.
22 December 2011
On 21 December 2011, the European Court of Justice delivered its judgment in the joint cases of N.S. v Secretary of State for the Home Department and M.E. and others v. Refugee Applications Commissioner under the preliminary ruling procedure. (more…)
2 March 2012
Ministers for Home Affairs of European Union countries will next week approve an increase in the compensation Member States receive from the EU budget for allowing refugees from outside the Union to settle in their territory. They will also endorse a pilot scheme under which each Member State is to indicate by 1 May how many refugees it plans to resettle in 2013, and from which groups designated by the EU as priorities. The ministers will meet in Brussels on Thursday 8 March.
Source: European Voice | EU member states to get more money for receiving refugees
16 March 2012
The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has opened an inquiry into how Frontex implements its fundamental rights obligations. Frontex is an EU agency based in Warsaw that assists EU Member States in the field of border security. The inquiry follows concerns voiced by civil society that Frontex would be ‘complicit’ in the violation of human rights, in particular because of its cooperation with Greece, where migrants are, according to the European Court of Human Rights, systematically treated in violation of human rights. One of the questions asked by the Ombudsman to Frontex is which party, Frontex and/or the Member State, is responsible for possible failures to respect fundamental rights in joint operations of border control. Further, the Ombudsman wants to know whether Frontex envisages the establishment of a mechanism by which migrants may complain to Frontex about possible human rights violations. The Ombudsman has asked Frontex to submit an opinion by 31 May 2012. The letter which opens the inquiry can be found here.
Source: European Ombudsman | Ombudsman investigates Frontex’s fundamental rights implementation
29 March 2012
The European rapporteur charged with investigating the case of 63 African migrants who were “left to die” in the Mediterranean last year has warned those responsible could end up in court. On Wednesday, the Guardian revealed the findings of a damning official report into the fateful voyage, which saw the sub-Saharan refugees drifting in the sea for two weeks while dying of thirst and starvation, even though their boat had been located by European authorities and emergency distress calls had been issued to all other ships in the area. The report blamed a collective set of “human, institutional and legal” failures for the inaction, labelling it a “dark day for Europe” and concluding that large loss of life could have been avoided if the various agencies in the area – NATO, its warships, the Italian coastguard and individual European states – had fulfilled their basic obligations.
Source: The Guardian | Migrant boat disaster: those responsible 'could face legal action'
10 June 2012
Turkey has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the EU border agency Frontex.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry stated that the MoU envisages sharing experience and information with Frontex to conduct joint assessments regarding mixed migration flows. Also, Frontex and the Turkish authorities agreed to cooperate in the areas of risk analysis, training as well as research and development.
Furthermore, both parties foresee the possibility of deployment of Turkish officers to selected border crossing points at the EU’s external borders.
Source: Turkish Weekly | Turkey Signs MoU with EU for Cooperation in Border Security
24 June 2012
The Italian paper La Stampa has made public the text of the agreement, signed between Libya and Italy in April 2012 to prevent undocumented migrants from leaving Libya. The agreement states that Libya should reinforce its land and maritime borders in order to counter the departure of migrants from its territory.
Various forms of collaboration between Italy and Libya are foreseen in the agreement, for instance, training of Libyan police and border personnel by Italy and Italian assistance in strengthening controls of Libya’s borders and coastal patrols, through providing technical means and equipment. Libya’s borders will be manned and operated by the Libyan authorities. Furthermore, according to the agreement, procedures facilitating voluntary return of irregular migrants would be coordinated with the International Organisation for Migration.
Source: Amnesty International | Italy must sink agreements with Libya on migration control
14 August 2012
Asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat will be sent to the Pacific island of Nauru or to Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island for processing, the prime minister Julia Gillard announced on 13 August. The proposal to reopen the detention centres is part of a new plan to prevent overcrowded boats sinking en route and to deter refugees from reaching Australia. The proposal is the result of recommendations of an expert panel convened six weeks ago to find a political solution.
The announcement drew immediate condemnation from human rights groups, who say that ‘sending asylum seekers to places like … Nauru and Papua New Guinea is unacceptable and a complete outsourcing of Australia’s human rights obligations’. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said it would study the proposal in more detail.
Source: International Herald Tribune | Premier of Australia Backs Plan on Refugees
Source: BBC | Australia asylum: MPs debate Nauru and PNG centres
Source: The Guardian | Australia to deport boat asylum seekers to Pacific islands
3 September 2012
Turkey’s foreign minister has requested the UN Security Council (SC) to set up refugee camps in Syria, stating that Turkey will soon not be able to cope with the large number of refugees crossing its borders. Setting up safe zones in Syria would require military intervention and installing no-fly zones. Russia and China remain opposed to such measures, blocking SC action. During an emergency session of the SC, France and the United Kingdom nevertheless indicated that they would not rule out following up on Turkey’s request. This has caused media to speculate that they may intervene even without a SC mandate, already comparing the situation with the intervention in Kosovo in the 1990s.
Source: New York Times | Threat to Syrian Civilians Is Growing, Officials Say
Source: BBC | 'Difficult' demand for refugee camps in Syria vexes UN
14 September 2012
The Swiss Refugee Council (OSAR) has called for an immediate halt of all returns of asylum seekers to Hungary. OSAR notes with concern the numerous reports by human rights organizations highlighting serious deficiencies in the Hungarian asylum and reception system. In particular, it is emphasized that asylum seekers returned to Hungary are systematically imprisoned, abused and are likely to be given tranquillizers while in prison, as reported by the most recent report published in April 2012 by UNHCR.
Switzerland returned 99 people in 2011 and 2012 (until end of July) to Hungary under the Dublin Regulation. According to OSAR, in view of the conditions for asylum seekers in Hungary, these returns may under certain circumstances violate the international obligation of non-refoulement (see Article 33 of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees) as well as Swiss law on asylum.
Source: OSAR | Stop aux renvois en Hongrie
14 September 2012
A briefing paper from Human Rights Watch (HRW) entitled ‘Hidden Emergency – Migrant deaths in the Mediterranean’ argues that the EU needs to take urgent action to address the tragic deaths of thousands of boat migrants on its shores. According to UNHCR, an estimated 1500 migrants died in the Mediterranean in 2011 making it ‘the deadliest year on record’.
HRW recommends establishing a framework for cooperation in rescue at sea and standard operating procedures for shipmasters as well as amending the draft legislation creating EUROSUR – a surveillance system to monitor the Mediterranean and North Africa – in order to include the duty to assist migrants at sea. Furthermore, it is advised that resettlement programs for recognized refugees rescued at sea should be put in place.
Source: HRW | Hidden Emergency - Migrant deaths in the Mediterranean
23 November 2012
In a report published on 23 November 2012, Amnesty International condemns Australia’s newly reinstated policy of offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru. During a three-day inspection of the facility, it found a toxic mix of uncertainty, unlawful detention and inhumane conditions creating an increasingly volatile situation on Nauru, amounting to breaches of international human rights law by both the Australian and Nauruan government. According to Amnesty, the dire circumstances that the asylum seekers are facing further highlights why a developed country with a functioning refugee processing system should never send asylum seekers to a country without existing capacity to care for, process and protect them.
Source: Amnesty International | Nauru Camp A Human Rights Catastrophe With No End In Sight
Source: BBC | Australia asylum camp in Nauru 'cruel and degrading'
25 March 2013
The German Federal Ministry of the Interior has announced that it will receive some 5,000 refugees from Syria. The first refugees should arrive in Germany by June. According to the official statement, the German Ministry of Interior intends to promote a coordinated European response together with UNHCR to protect refugees from Syria. The Minister will meet the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres in April, when he will launch a resettlement appeal to the EU.
Source: Bundesministerium des Innern | Nachrichten | Flüchtlinge aus Syrien (in German only)
17 May 2013
On 16 May 2013, legislation passed the Australian Senate to excise the entire Australian mainland from the migration zone. All asylum seekers who arrive anywhere in Australia by boat are now eligible to be sent to Nauru or Papua New Guinea for ‘regional processing’.
With the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issuing scratching reports on the processing centers on Nauru and Papua New Guinea, there was a failed attempt by the Greens, an opposition party in the Australian Parliament, to strike down the legislation.
The Australian Government, which is dealing with an increasing number of boats arrivals, says the legislation is a deterrence measure. The idea was one of 25 recommendations that was put forward by an expert panel on asylum seekers and introduced to the Parliament by the Government last year.
Source: ABC News | Parliament excises mainland from migration zone