Does UK government’s response to Afghan refugees belie its anti-refugee policies?

by Kathryn Allinson, Lecturer in Law, University of Bristol 

US Marine Corps Photo

Afghans constitute the second largest refugee population in the world with 2.6 million Afghan refugees registered globally. After almost continuous armed conflict since 1978, many of these individuals are in a ‘protracted refugee situation’ having been in refugee camps for over 40 years without access to what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) calls ‘durable solutions’ (resettlement, return or local integration – see UNHCR Global Trends Report 2018 p.22 and 27). However, the recent escalation in the crisis in Afghanistan has seen the numbers of people being displaced reaching over 330,000 since the start of this year, according to UNHCR.  Numbers of newly displaced persons are expected to rise to 500,000 over the coming weeks.  (more…)

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…)

As the Corona pandemic worsens, EU borders shut down: “A new low point for the EU’s respect for refugee rights and international law”

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.

On 3 March 2020, the heads of the key EU law-making institutions met at the Greek-Turkish border to support the efforts of the Greek border guards in pushing back and refusing crossing to a number of people (apparently not Turkish or Syrian nationals) seeking to flee Turkey and enter the EU. On 4 and 6 March respectively, the EU Councils for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, made statements applauding the action of the four heads of EU institutions in support of Greek border guards stating “The EU and its Member States remain determined effectively to protect the EU’s external borders. Illegal crossings will not be tolerated.”

The problem in international law with the actions of the Greek border guards, and their encouragement by the four heads of the EU institutions, is that they are not consistent with the obligations of the Member States and the EU (as stated in Article 78(1) Treaty on the Function of the European Union). This provision states that the EU is committed to respecting the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951 and the 1967 Protocol. Article 33 of that Convention provides that ‘no one shall be sent back to a state where he or she is at risk of persecution.’ This principle of non-refoulment is thus protected in international refugee law but is also a non-derogable obligation under international human rights law and considered to have customary law status. (more…)