The Challenges in Covid19 Times for Refugee Determination and Accessing Protection

By Prof Elspeth Guild, Queen Mary University of London and Kathryn Allinson, Research Assistant, Queen Mary University of London and Teaching Associate, University of Bristol.

The spectre of the Covid19 pandemic has stalked political leaders, at local, regional, national and European levels since mid-January 2020. In amongst the myriad responses that States have taken to combat the spread of the virus those relating to refugee protection make grim viewing. The scenes at the Turkish Greek land border where the President of the Commission, the President of the European Council, the EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs were present to witness, and applaud, the violent actions of the Greek border guards and military in preventing people seeking to cross from Turkey to the EU to seek protection is exemplary of the approach of many States. And it did not help the image of the EU in these exceptional times, as a place where refugees are welcome and provide protection in accordance with international law.

This unedifying political spectacle addressed towards the Turkish President and intended as a response to his responsibilities came at a most problematic time. EU states were within a week of closing internal and external borders to movement of persons with little regard to the needs of refugees. In this blog we will examine the subsequent efforts of the EU (and associated countries including the UK) to comply with their obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention, in particular, as regards the processing of asylum applications. (more…)

Inside San Diego’s Otay Mesa Detention Centre

By Dr Diego Acosta Arcarazo, Senior Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).*

Otay Mesa Detention Centre, San Diego
Otay Mesa Detention Centre, San Diego

Although much of my research focuses on legal aspects of undocumented migration, I’d never visited a detention centre for irregular migrants. So when the opportunity arose in May this year to see inside the Otay Mesa detention facility near San Diego (where a Russian citizen had died just days before), I couldn’t pass it by.

The first thing that strikes the observer is how far the facility is located from downtown San Diego. Indeed, it’s very close to the Mexican border. Having finally arrived after more than an hour’s drive, and after going through a double electrified fence and registration, we are conducted into a room where we are given a presentation by CCA personnel. CCA — the Correction Corporation of America — is a private company making huge profits on running such centres ($227 million in 2015). With some notable exceptions, scholars have neglected the business aspects of the migration industry, perhaps due to the opaque nature of some of the arrangements between governments and companies working in the sector. Yet these aspects raise innumerable questions as to whether one can reconcile the profit-seeking interests of shareholders in such companies with human rights, as well as to what extent legislation might be influenced by powerful lobbies interested in perpetuating the detention cycle. (more…)