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The global compact on refugees: Strengthening international cooperation to ease the plight of refugees in the world

11-01-2019

Recent large-scale flows of refugees and migrants have brought to the world's attention more forcefully than ever the plight of persons who are forced to flee their homes because of war, insecurity or persecution. They have also exposed how ill-prepared the international community has been to deal with this challenge and how uneven the distribution of the burden of caring for such people has been among countries. In 2016, to enhance preparedness for refugee crises, improve the situation of refugees ...

Recent large-scale flows of refugees and migrants have brought to the world's attention more forcefully than ever the plight of persons who are forced to flee their homes because of war, insecurity or persecution. They have also exposed how ill-prepared the international community has been to deal with this challenge and how uneven the distribution of the burden of caring for such people has been among countries. In 2016, to enhance preparedness for refugee crises, improve the situation of refugees and relieve the burden on host societies, the United Nations (UN) member states convened in New York and adopted a declaration paving the way for a non-binding international compact on refugees. They annexed to this declaration a comprehensive refugee response framework that spelled out a series of short- and longer-term measures to address refugee crises. The framework has been applied in several pilot countries and the lessons learnt fed into a global compact on refugees. The compact was drafted by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) following broad consultations with various stakeholders, and its definitive version was adopted by the UN General Assembly with a large majority on 17 December 2018. The global compact focuses on international-, regional- and national-level mechanisms for achieving a fairer distribution of the responsibilities related to refugees, and on areas where action can be improved. It has been criticised, among other things, for its non-binding character and for excluding victims of natural disasters from its scope. This is an updated edition of a Briefing published in June 2018.

Migration from Central America

25-10-2018

Although not a new phenomenon, migration flows from Central America, in particular from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras (also called the Northern Triangle of Central America, NTCA), have grown exponentially since 2014, with a considerable increase in the number of adults and a huge one in the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the borders. And the ‘caravan’ of Central American migrants that has recently reached Mexico on its way to the US border has again turned public and media attention ...

Although not a new phenomenon, migration flows from Central America, in particular from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras (also called the Northern Triangle of Central America, NTCA), have grown exponentially since 2014, with a considerable increase in the number of adults and a huge one in the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the borders. And the ‘caravan’ of Central American migrants that has recently reached Mexico on its way to the US border has again turned public and media attention towards this silent exodus. The push factors that have been fuelling migration from these countries include poverty, unemployment and under-employment, rampant crime and violence – in particular gang violence – but also institutional weakness and corruption. The pull factors include family re-unification, migrants' perceptions of more permissive immigration laws in destination countries, and the existence of well-organised smuggling networks. Their main destination countries are the United States and Mexico, but other neighbouring countries such as Belize and Costa Rica are receiving growing numbers of NTCA migrants, as are some European countries, including Spain, Italy and France. Countries of origin, transit and destination have set up new instruments for alleviating the problem, such as Mexico´s Southern Border Programme, and the regional Alliance for Prosperity, which have produced mixed results. International organisations, such as the EU and the United Nations, have been providing help, and the European Parliament has also expressed its concern on the situation of these migrants and their human rights.

Towards a binding international treaty on business and human rights

23-04-2018

With its extended value chains, economic globalisation has provided numerous opportunities, while also creating specific challenges, including in the area of human rights protection. The recent history of transnational corporations contains numerous examples of human rights abuses occurring as a result of their operations. Such corporations are known to have taken advantage of loose regulatory frameworks in developing countries, corruption, or lack of accountability resulting from legal rules shielding ...

With its extended value chains, economic globalisation has provided numerous opportunities, while also creating specific challenges, including in the area of human rights protection. The recent history of transnational corporations contains numerous examples of human rights abuses occurring as a result of their operations. Such corporations are known to have taken advantage of loose regulatory frameworks in developing countries, corruption, or lack of accountability resulting from legal rules shielding corporate interests. This situation has created a pressing need to establish international norms regulating business operations in relation to human rights. So far, the preferred approach has been 'soft', consisting of the adoption of voluntary guidelines for businesses. Several sets of such norms exist at international level, the most notable being the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Nevertheless, while such voluntary commitments are clearly useful, they cannot entirely stop gross human rights violations (such as child labour, labour rights violations and land grabbing) committed by transnational corporations, their subsidiaries or suppliers. To address the shortcomings of the soft approach, an intergovernmental working group was established within the UN framework in June 2014, with the task of drafting a binding treaty on human rights and business. After being reluctant at the outset, the EU has become involved in the negotiations, but has insisted that the future treaty's scope should include all businesses, not only transnational ones. The EU's position on this issue has been disregarded by the UN intergovernmental working group until now, which raises some questions about the fairness of the process. The European Parliament is a staunch supporter of this initiative and has encouraged the EU to take a positive and constructive approach. This is an updated edition of a briefing published in July 2017: PE 608.636.

EYE 2016 – Migration: Across the universe

28-04-2016

In 2015, a record number of migrants reached the European Union, prompting urgent discussion of the Common European Asylum System, the responsibility and solidarity of Member States, and the impact of migration on our societies. But this discussion is neither new nor unknown elsewhere, leading to the possibility to share experiences and learn from each other. This note has been prepared for the European Youth Event, taking place in Strasbourg in May 2016. Please click here for the full publication ...

In 2015, a record number of migrants reached the European Union, prompting urgent discussion of the Common European Asylum System, the responsibility and solidarity of Member States, and the impact of migration on our societies. But this discussion is neither new nor unknown elsewhere, leading to the possibility to share experiences and learn from each other. This note has been prepared for the European Youth Event, taking place in Strasbourg in May 2016. Please click here for the full publication in PDF format

Gender aspects of migration and asylum in the EU: An overview

04-03-2016

Against a background of huge worldwide displacement, the EU is currently facing a surge in the number of people arriving in search of international protection. One aspect of this massive movement of people that is beginning to come under the spotlight is its gender dimension. Men and women are exposed to different types of risk and vulnerability during the different stages of migration. Due to their status in society and their sex, women and girls are particularly subject to discrimination and sexual ...

Against a background of huge worldwide displacement, the EU is currently facing a surge in the number of people arriving in search of international protection. One aspect of this massive movement of people that is beginning to come under the spotlight is its gender dimension. Men and women are exposed to different types of risk and vulnerability during the different stages of migration. Due to their status in society and their sex, women and girls are particularly subject to discrimination and sexual and gender-based violence – which may of themselves be grounds for flight – and have specific protection risks and needs that may be overlooked in reception procedures. In addition, failure to take due account of gender issues in asylum systems and integration measures may lead to discriminatory outcomes. Other factors, including age and sexual orientation, also affect vulnerability and needs. A body of gender-sensitive standards and guidance on displacement and asylum has been built up at international and EU levels. However, reservations have been expressed regarding some aspects of the EU legal framework, particularly its implementation at national level. It has been concluded that variable responsiveness to gender across the EU means that women are not guaranteed consistent gender-sensitive treatment when they seek protection in Europe. In the context of the current refugee crisis, stakeholders including the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), women's and refugee organisations and the European Parliament have expressed strong concerns about protection gaps, and called for further action to protect women and girls.

European Neighbourhood Policy: Southern Neighbourhood migration issues

15-12-2015

The Valletta Summit held in November 2015 was the venue for more than 60 countries to come together with the European Union and African Union institutions, as well as regional and international organisations involved, to address the current migration crisis. The summit was called for in April 2015 by the European Council, when European Union leaders held a special meeting on the migration situation in the Mediterranean, recognising the need to deepen dialogue and partnership with the African countries ...

The Valletta Summit held in November 2015 was the venue for more than 60 countries to come together with the European Union and African Union institutions, as well as regional and international organisations involved, to address the current migration crisis. The summit was called for in April 2015 by the European Council, when European Union leaders held a special meeting on the migration situation in the Mediterranean, recognising the need to deepen dialogue and partnership with the African countries. The April European Council tasked the European Commission with proposing measures for immediate action, as well as policy options for the medium and longer term. To this end, on 13 May, the Commission presented its proposal for a European Agenda on Migration, which was followed on 27 May by the implementation plan for the first measures. More than 3 600 people have so far been declared missing in the Mediterranean sea in 2015. The grim death toll in the Mediterranean has provoked an urgent call for action as 2015 has been the deadliest year so far for migrants trying to get to Europe. The reasons for this significant increase in migration flows include, amongst others: war, political repression, and economic crisis. Libya has become a popular starting point for many journeys, with human traffickers and smugglers exploiting the country's power vacuum and increasing lawlessness. On 13 April 2015, a conference of foreign ministers from the European Union and the southern shores of the Mediterranean took place in Barcelona to discuss the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). At centre stage of the agenda was stronger cooperation in the fight against Jihadist terrorism and irregular immigration. To this end, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tasked the Commission to come up with a proposal for a reviewed ENP, which was published on 18 November 2015.

Migrants in the Mediterranean: Protecting Human Rights

29-10-2015

In reaction to recurrent tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea, the European Union (EU) has adopted a series of measures seeking to improve the protection of migrants trying to reach the borders of the EU by sea and to share responsibility among countries involved by increasing cooperation with transit countries. This study focuses on the existing and planned EU policies and actions to protect the human rights of migrants before entering the EU by sea or after they have left the territory of the EU. ...

In reaction to recurrent tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea, the European Union (EU) has adopted a series of measures seeking to improve the protection of migrants trying to reach the borders of the EU by sea and to share responsibility among countries involved by increasing cooperation with transit countries. This study focuses on the existing and planned EU policies and actions to protect the human rights of migrants before entering the EU by sea or after they have left the territory of the EU. The picture that emerges from the evaluation of EU policies and actions is a mixed one. On the one hand, it cannot be denied that instruments of sea borders surveillance and instruments of cooperation with third countries have now generally included human rights safeguards. On the other hand, implementation, monitoring and control remain problematic. Furthermore, the primary aim of existing EU policies and actions still seems to be the protection of the external borders against so-called ‘illegal’ immigration and the return of illegally staying migrants, rather than the development of effective strategies to protect human rights of migrants and the saving of lives on the Mediterranean. The study therefore offers specific recommendations to ensure a coherent human rights-based EU approach to improve the protection of the rights of migrants aiming to reach the EU.

Εξωτερικός συντάκτης

Samuel COGOLATI; Nele VERLINDEN and Pierre SCHMITT, Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, Institute for International Law, KU Leuven, Belgium.

The EU and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR)

13-05-2015

The European Union is currently faced with a migratory surge resulting from mixed migration flows of refugees and other migrants. In 2014 over 200 000 people illegally crossed the Mediterranean to reach the EU and the situation has become even more critical this year, especially considering the sharp rise in deaths at sea: 1 829 victims in 2015 so far as compared to 3 200 people in 2014. This dramatic situation requires the EU to seek holistic approaches to migration in close cooperation with key ...

The European Union is currently faced with a migratory surge resulting from mixed migration flows of refugees and other migrants. In 2014 over 200 000 people illegally crossed the Mediterranean to reach the EU and the situation has become even more critical this year, especially considering the sharp rise in deaths at sea: 1 829 victims in 2015 so far as compared to 3 200 people in 2014. This dramatic situation requires the EU to seek holistic approaches to migration in close cooperation with key international partners, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Addressing the Human Rights Impact of Statelessness in the EU’s External Action

12-11-2014

Statelessness is a significant human rights challenge: it is often a product of human rights problems, such as gender or racial discrimination, while it also has a serious and lasting impact on the enjoyment of other human rights. This study explores how the European Union can play a greater role in the fight against statelessness around the world as part of its external action on human rights issues. It demonstrates the nexus between statelessness and the EU’s current human rights priorities and ...

Statelessness is a significant human rights challenge: it is often a product of human rights problems, such as gender or racial discrimination, while it also has a serious and lasting impact on the enjoyment of other human rights. This study explores how the European Union can play a greater role in the fight against statelessness around the world as part of its external action on human rights issues. It demonstrates the nexus between statelessness and the EU’s current human rights priorities and identifies the ways in which the EU has already contributed to addressing statelessness in its external action. The study then discusses the ways in which the EU can strengthen its contribution to the fights against statelessness through multilateral action, bilateral action and improved institutional arrangements. Finally, the paper identifies a set of three thematic and five country priorities for EU engagement on statelessness, providing recommendations for action in each case.

Εξωτερικός συντάκτης

Laura VAN WAAS (Tilburg University, The Netherlands)

Current Challenges for International Refugee Law, with a Focus on EU Policies and EU Co-Operation with the UNHCR

03-12-2013

From an examination of the instruments of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and related policy measures regarding border surveillance and migration management, two interrelated issues stand out as particularly sensitive: access to asylum and responsibility for refugee protection. The prevailing view, supported by the UNHCR and others, is that responsibility for the care of asylum seekers and the determination of their claims falls on the state within whose jurisdiction the claim is made. However ...

From an examination of the instruments of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and related policy measures regarding border surveillance and migration management, two interrelated issues stand out as particularly sensitive: access to asylum and responsibility for refugee protection. The prevailing view, supported by the UNHCR and others, is that responsibility for the care of asylum seekers and the determination of their claims falls on the state within whose jurisdiction the claim is made. However, the possibility to shift that responsibility to another state through inter-state cooperation or unilateral mechanisms undertaken territorially as well as abroad has been a matter of great interest to EU Member States and institutions. Initiatives adopted so far challenge the prevailing view and have the potential to undermine compliance with international refugee and human rights law. This note reviews EU action in the field by reference to the relevant legal standards and best practices developed by the UNHCR, focusing on the specific problems of climate refugees and access to international protection, evaluating the inconsistencies between the internal and external dimension of asylum policy. Some recommendations for the European Parliament are formulated at the end, including on action in relation to readmission agreements, Frontex engagement rules in maritime operations, Regional Protection Programmes, and resettlement.

Εξωτερικός συντάκτης

Elspeth GUILD (Centre for European Policy Studies - CEPS, Belgium , University of London, the UK , Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands) and Violeta MORENO-LAX (University of London, the UK)

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