Where the Italian Parties Stand on Immigration and Asylum

Italians will head to the polls today to vote for parliament in an election that is as anticipated by the rest of the world as it seems dreaded by Italians. The election will be the first test of a new election law meant to provide for more proportional representation, which combines “first past the post” (or “winner takes all”) voting for 36% of seats with proportional representation for the rest. This, in combination with a high number of undecided voters, has made the results very difficult to even guess at.

Another feature of the new law is special rules for pre-formed coalitions. The threshold for an individual party to enter parliament is 3%, while pre-formed coalitions must reach 10% of the vote. While higher, the threshold favors small parties who link up with others to form a super-group, who may not have made it into parliament on their own.

The main person to take advantage of the new arrangement is a familiar figure hoping for a comeback: Silvio Berlusconi, who is technically barred from serving as prime minister until 2019 due to charges stemming from his last term. His center-right/ far right Forza Italia coalition is edging others out in the polls, followed by the populist Five Star Movement (running as a stand-alone party), whose political platform was unusually created and voted for online.

The ideas Italian parties present on migration mainly do not deviate much from the rest of Europe. The main difference is that the harsh idea of mass deportations for undocumented individuals, while impractical and likely illegal, have a better than usual chance of moving out of the far-right fringe and into mainstream discourse because of their presence on the program of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia as well as its composing parties.

We’ve taken a look at the programs of the top parties to see what could await migration policy in Italy.


The Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle

Beppe Grillo

Five Star’s candidate for prime minister, former comedian Beppe Grillo. (Image http://bit.ly/2tjxe5A via Giovanni Favia on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0))

“Stop the Business of Immigration”

  • An end to the Dublin regulation and automatic redistribution of people seeking asylum via quota to other European countries.

  • Cut back on corruption in the territorial commissions in charge of asylum processes

  • Up aid and ban weapons sales to the global south.

Five Star’s jointly written program on immigration is harshly critical of past parties’ handling of the migration issue, saying that it has been used to distract from the responsibility of the state, blame the EU as a wicked “stepmother”, and treat immigrants as the other, “a social enemy to be fought.” In the meantime, they describe an overwhelmed asylum system, where a backlog means asylum claims take an average of 18 months to process and EU funds to help end up being dispersed in obscure ways, “permeable to infiltration by organized crime.” Against this backdrop the movement prescribes a mixed-bag of solutions, highlighting calls for more transparency in Italy and more solidarity from Europe.

They propose that evaluation of asylum claims be handled by embassies in the countries of origin and transit, with help from the EU, UNHCR, and IOM. They call for obligatory and automatic distribution of asylum seekers to various member states, and to override the Dublin system to allow this to happen. In addition, they would install multiple bilateral agreements with other countries to help smooth the possibility for people to return to their countries voluntarily if their asylum claims are rejected (“voluntary repatriation.”). The weakness of such a plan is that it will require the EU to take action- something a domestic party would only have nominal influence over.

They suggest that territorial commissions (CIE) in charge of asylum processes should receive more employees so they can carry out their work more effectively. Also, asylum interviews should be videotaped. Making these commissions work more effectively will reduce the pull of organized crime, Five Star says, but it should also be standard to install timely reporting measures on funds, and to publish budgets publicly to further cut down corruption and enhance transparency.

Finally, Five Star wants to stop the sale of weapons to conflict zones, and amp up efforts to reach Italy’s commitments for foreign development aid: 7% of the GDP.


Democratic Party (Partito Democratico)

Matteo Renzi

Matteo Renzio, former prime minister and leader of the center-left Democratic Party (Image via Flickr http://bit.ly/2CXPHE9 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

“There is no better answer than the facts.”

  • An end to the Dublin regulation and automatic redistribution of people seeking asylum via quota to other European countries.

  • Withhold aid from EU member states that do not participate in redistribution schemes

  • Expand citizenship rights for children born and raised in Italy

The Democratic Party is the party currently holding power, that was thrown into disarray when former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi stepped down following a failed constitutional reform. Typically for incumbents, their electoral platform seeks to highlight what they have already achieved in tandem with staking out what they will do next. They are running in a pre-formed coalition with Civica Popolare, Insieme (center left/ Greens) and Più Europa (a pro-European party.)

When it comes to migration, the PD sets very high, even frightening, stakes (perhaps aiming to counter the fearful rhetoric on the right). They note that concerns about immigration are not necessarily driven by racism but the current situation is nevertheless driven by fake news and xenophobia and can lead to “bloody” consequences, as has been seen in the past in Nazi Germany, wartime Yugoslavia and Italy itself under dictator Benito Mussolini. However, for fears and misinformation “there is no better answer than the facts.” Migration must be managed, not stopped.

The PD notes that arrivals to Italy are down (33%) and that with the so-called Minniti agreement struck between Rome’s Interior Minister and the UN-backed government in Libya they have created “humanitarian corridors” that allow verified refugees to travel risk-free to Europe, while sending non-refugees back. (However, this agreement has been heavily criticized, particularly for confining people to conditions in Libya that range from unsanitary to deadly.) This plan would continue, combined with a long-awaited reform of the Dublin regulation and implementation of an automatic redistribution scheme, wherein people arriving to seek asylum would be sent to other countries throughout Europe to have their claims processed (a so-called “quota system”.) As noted above, the weakness with these policies is that they are highly reliant on agreement from the other member states, and remain highly controversial (especially among the Visegrad group.) One proposal stands out though: the PD says they would advocate “solidarity” in Europe by withholding Italian aid from states that refuse to help manage migration. Its not clear whether they can do this, but such an idea has been proposed before, notably by Germany’s Martin Schulz.

In short, the PD would continue in the same direction: advocating for a higher European share in managing migration flows to Italy, relying on a shaky repatriation agreement with Libya, and following their obligations to process asylum claims of those who make it to Italy.

Additionally, the PD wants to approve a new citizenship law that would grant a right to citizenship for children born and raised in Italy.


Italian Force (Forza Italia)

Antonio Tajani

Antonio Tajani, former European Parliament president and Forza Italia’s candidate for prime minister. (Image via EPP on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2tgHYBl CC by 2.0)

“Restore Control”

  • Marshall Plan for Africa

  • End landings on Italian shores (to “zero”)

  • Mass deportations of people with undocumented status using bilateral agreements with home countries

The Forza Italia coalition is the Silvio Berlusconi backed pre-formed coalition containing far and center-right parties. In their one-page program on immigration, they keep it brief and a more than a little fuzzy.

Since Berlusconi left office and the “Left” has been in control, there have been “biblical waves” of immigration, they say. (While immigration to Italy has certainly increased in the last years, the idea that this is related to Berlusconi’s departure is spurious to say the least.) In order to bring an end to this situation, Forza offers a brief package. First, they would support a so-called “Marshall Plan for Africa,” referring to mass investment that would give sufficient resources to North African governments that would somehow result in lower immigration. (It would appear this idea is gaining European traction: the same idea has been floated Austria’s center-left Social Democratic SPÖ as well as by Germany’s center-right Christian Democrats CDU.)

Second, they would block migrant departures and bring illegal landings to zero (they do not elaborate how.) Third, they would immediately repatriate illegal migrants using bilateral agreements with the individuals’ home countries. And fourth, they would develop a plan for real and sustainable integration. Again, they don’t elaborate further. But this general program is in line with other European center-left parties with the exception of one point: the highly impractical and partially unlawful idea of arranging mass deportations.


Northern League (Lega Nord)

Matteo Salvini

Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right Northern League (Image via flickr, http://bit.ly/2oGojWL (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

 “Africa doesn’t fit in Italy”

  • Build new regional identification and expulsion centers (CIE) and transfer more powers over immigration to the municipal level

  • Mandatory detention of migrants for first six months, longer for individuals lacking identification papers

  • Simplify possibility of revoking refugee status and deny status to individuals destined to require high levels of state assistance

  • Mass deportations of people with undocumented status using bilateral agreements with home countries

  • Make process for acquiring citizenship more difficult and subjective.

The far-right Northern League is in a coalition with several other parties (Forza Italia) backed by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, but they have their own electoral program centered on the localization of immigration management and easing deportation of undocumented people. Their policies, though sometimes mysterious in their aims, are clearer and more limited than the average far-right party, with strategies that appear to aim at making life in Italy uncomfortable for foreigners.

The League proposes that multiple new Identification and Expulsion Centers (“CIE”) are opened in different regions (currently there are four) to ensure faster expulsion. They would have migrants remain in detention for at least six months, and also note that detention would be mandatory for anyone lacking identification papers. Control over identification and expulsion, as well as over issuing residence permits, would be transferred to regional and municipal authorities, and data on such matters would be shared with the police.

The League wants insofar as possible to prevent people from seeking asylum in Italy. They would achieve this through the US of off-site reception centers in “safe countries” such as Libya and Tunisia, although they later note that Libya is a war and propose hosting a peace conference for the state parties, and suggest (mysteriously) enlisting the cooperation of Russia to secure agreements with different Libyan factions.

The League would make multiple new rules affecting individual people seeking asylum. For one, they would simplify the process for revoking refugee status and also expand the reasons for why it may be revoked to include crimes such as drug dealing and occupation of buildings. They would also enable the possibility of canceling benefits for individuals who fail to comply with rules in reception centers. Moreover, new budget constraints would ensure that individuals destined to be on 100% disability in Italy would not be admitted to the country. (This is likely an unlawful reason for excluding someone seeking asylum- the Refugee Convention allows for states to exclude refugees who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity, but not based on their potential costs to the state. See Art. 1(F) of the Refugee Convention.)

Other people who have migrated to Italy would also be treated more toughly. Non-EU citizens would banned from receiving welfare benefits, and the possibility (which currently exists) for migrants to get identity cards in Italy would be revoked. The process for getting Italian citizenship would also be tougher, requiring a subjective evaluation of an applicant’s “overall integration” into Italy.

 


Sources and Further Reading
Law 3 November 2017, Official Gazette of Italy
Women Dominate Italy’s Army of Undecided Voters, Financial Times, March 2018
Immigration Program of the Five Star Movement [Italian] (PDF) Five Star Web Site
Taking Care of People – Theme of PD Program [Italian] Democratic Party Website
Italian PM Renzi Resigns After Election Defeat, The Guardian, December 2016
The European Union’s Immigration Agreement with Libya- Out of Sight Out of Mind? Delphine Nakache and Jessica Losier, E-International Relations, July 2017
Democratic Party Platform 2018 [Italian] Democratic Party Website
Electoral Program [Italian], Forza Italia
Forza Italia Brochure: Security [Italian] [PDF]
Electoral Program Lega Nord 2018 [PDF] [Italian]
Header Image “Italia” by Stefano Corso on Flickr: (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) http://bit.ly/2F7IWFN
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Austrian Elections: Where do the parties stand on asylum, immigration and integration?

By Klaudia Wegschaider

In a few days, on October 15, Austria will elect its new parliament. And unlike in the recent German election, it is uncertain who will be the next Chancellor and which parties will form the future governing coalition. Currently, Austria is headed by a coalition between the Social Democratic Party and the People’s Party. In the run-up to the election, however, disputes between these two parties have risen due to an imbroglio involving a well-known negative campaign manager and several leaked documents. The likelihood of another coalition between the two parties thus appears to be decreasing. Instead, the populist Freedom Party may gain further relevance after this election.

In the meantime, it is worth taking a look at what the party manifestos say on migration, integration and asylum. Similar to many other countries, migration has been one of the key topics in the public debates in the run-up to the election.

Social Democrats (Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreich, SPÖ)

Integration requires a limit on migration

Here’s the link to the SPÖ manifesto.

With a page count of more than 200, this is the second longest manifesto. Relevant for this post are two chapters — on integration and on migration.

The chapter on integration starts off by stating that the number of refugee arrivals has to be “reduced to a level that makes integration possible.” To specify this level, the chapter references the annual limit on refugee arrivals that the Austrian government passed since 2015 (37.500 per year). Integration – as envisioned by this manifesto – is a combination of rights and duties. Among those duties is the mandatory integration year for asylum seekers and refugees (Integrationsjahr). During this year, participants receive integration counselling, qualification checks, language and skills training, job application support, and more.

The manifesto then turns to several targeted approaches to foster integration. For example, the party stresses the importance of special programmes for asylum seekers and refugees who are no longer of regular school-age. Apart from proposing new programmes, the manifesto also draws attention to existing initiatives in need of more support – such as programmes aimed at preventing radicalisation as well as all forms of extremism.

The chapter on migration carries the title “migration with a sense of proportion” and the sub-heading reads “humanitarian, solidary, consequent.” After outlining the current challenges, the manifesto briefly delves into seven steps: (1) A clear plan for a cooperation with West African countries is needed. (2) The EU should invest in a Marshall-Plan for North Africa to strengthen local development. (3) The EU needs to protect its external borders. (4)  A joint European asylum system ought to be developed. (5) Information campaigns need to reach out to migrants in countries of origin and transit. (6) Refugees whose claims are granted should then be relocated within the EU. (7) Those whose claims are rejected need to return to their countries of origin. To this end, further return agreements at the EU level are needed. The manifesto calls for a new position at the EU level to speed up this negotiation process.

Summary of main positions:

  • Asylum arrivals have to be reduced to a level that makes integration possible
  • Faster asylum procedures
  • Special programmes for asylum seekers and refugees who are older than regular school-age
  • General reform of the EU asylum system needed
  • Marshall-Plan for North Africa
  • Need for more return agreements between the EU and countries of origin

People’s Party (Liste Sebastian Kurz, die neue Volkspartei, ÖVP)

Promising to halt illegal migration

The ÖVP manifesto was released in three parts. Here’s are the links to part one, part two, and part three.

This three-part manifesto is by far the longest. The first mention of the word migration is on page 46 and talks of rising social costs due to illegal migration. The manifesto then states that a change in migration policy could in the long-term save Austria up to 1.5 billion euros (a time frame is not mentioned).

One chapter elaborates on the importance of development aid to ease the migration pressure. The manifesto promises to almost double the budget of the Austrian Development Agency to 155 million euros by 2021. However, if a country of origin is not cooperative in facilitating return, then development aid would be cut.

The second part of the manifesto takes a closer look at integration. Children whose German skills are deemed insufficient ought to have access to and take special German classes. In addition, more teachers with a so-called “migration background” are needed to offer further support for those children.

The final part promises a “return to the top” by halting “illegal migration.” Those who are rescued at sea, for example, are to be brought to “rescue centers” outside of Europe. Those who reach Europe and are in need of protection are to be brought to “protection centers” outside the territory of the European Union.

Parallel to that, the manifesto proposes two legal pathways: First, some of the most vulnerable are to be resettled to Austria from refugee camps abroad. This ought to happen in close cooperation with UNHCR, IOM and the European Asylum Support Office. Second, the existing points system ought to be improved so that skilled workers needed by the Austrian labour market have the chance to immigrate.

Summary of main positions:

  • Increase spending on development and cut aid transfers for countries that do not facilitate return of rejected asylum seekers
  • Faster asylum procedures
  • German language support for children
  • Halt to illegal migration
  • Demand-based immigration of skilled workers

Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ)

Rejecting all forms of migration

Here’s the link to the FPÖ manifesto.

The Freedom Party places the principle of fairness at the center of its campaign. Throughout its manifesto, the party speaks of a “fairness crisis” and implies a division between “us” and “them.” For example, a brief look at the table of contents shows that each of the 25 sections in the manifesto starts with the pronoun “our.” The emphasis on the pronoun “our” is lost in translation, but the headings are nonetheless telling: “1. Protecting our borders — Austria is not a country of immigration.” “2. Protecting our sovereignty and self-determination.” “Guarding our culture, values and traditions” … etc.

The central FPÖ demand is unequivocal: “For the time being, the FPÖ rejects all forms of immigration due to the migration waves in the recent past.” In the following sentence, the party acknowledges the right to asylum of all people who are persecuted due to their race, religion, or political beliefs. However, this right to asylum in Austria is only granted if the claimant did not reach Austria by traveling through a safe third country (note: Austria is a landlocked country and surrounded by safe third countries). In addition, the FPÖ promises to eliminate all financial incentives for claiming asylum in Austria — by cutting social spending and by switching to non-cash benefits.

The manifesto has much less to say on integration. There appears to be no section that addresses the challenge of integration explicitly. Instead, the following calls are included in the manifesto: Chapter 1 clearly states the FPÖ does not see Islam as a part of Austria. Chapter 8 calls for a restrictive limit on the proportion of foreign students in school in order “not to jeopardise the success of the Austrian children.”

Summary of main positions:

  • Rejection of all forms of immigration
  • Asylum only for those who did not arrive through a safe third country
  • Rejection of Islam as a part of Austria
  • Replacing monetary support with benefits in kind (for asylum seekers)
  • Limits on the proportion of foreign students in schools

Greens (Die Grünen)

Solutions at the EU level

Here’s the link to the manifesto of the Green Party.

The manifesto of the Green Party counts 64 pages and is filled with bare text, no pictures. This makes the manifest of the Greens stand out at first sight because all other parties extensively rely on visual material in their manifestos.

Migration features several times in the manifesto and often in relation to the European Union. Indeed, one of the central positions is that “actions taken by single states are not real solutions.” Thus, the European Union “requires a joint and harmonised immigration system.”

Just what exactly would this look like? The Greens focus on creating safe and legal pathways. For those who seek to study or work in Austria, there should be a system in place that selects candidates based on qualifications, language skills, age as well as additional integration factors. For those in need of protection, the Greens advocate for the reintroduction of the Botschaftsasyl, i.e. the possibility to claim asylum at embassies of EU member states. For asylum seekers that have already reached Europe, the Greens propose that they first stay at a joint initial reception center (Erstaufnahmezentrum) before being relocated to one of the 28 member states.

Integration is seen as “a key for social cohesion.” The manifesto goes on to mention the importance of language courses, the recognition of qualifications, education as well as coordination between the different levels of government. Among the more detailed policy proposals are the introduction of “Austria-for-Newcomers”-courses as well as initiatives on the equality between men and women, both aimed for refugees.

In addition, the Greens seek to enhance participation options for non-citizens. For example, the Greens call for the right to vote at the local level not only for EU citizens (which already exists), but also for third country nationals (after an undefined length of stay). At the same time, the Greens stress the importance of anti-racism initiatives and acknowledge the work by volunteers who stand up for refugees.

Summary of main positions:

  • Criteria-based selection system for those seeking to study or work in Austria
  • Reintroduction of the option of filing an asylum claim abroad at embassies
  • Joint initial reception centres for asylum seekers that arrived on EU territory
  • Relocation of refugees within the European Union among all 28 member states
  • Speedy and affordable access to language courses
  • Passing of a law that would ease the recognition of qualifications
  • Introduction of the right to vote for third country nationals at the local level (after several years of living in Austria)

NEOS 

Searching for a coherent policy approach

Here’s the link to the manifesto of the Neos.

The NEOS manifesto sees solutions neither in “left-wing dreams” nor in “right-wing hatred.” It then goes on to list a few specific measures. First, it promises a more coherent approach to integration. To achieve this, the party envisions a new department focussed on integration. Its responsibilities would span from kindergarten to labour market entry.

Second, the manifesto calls for faster and more efficient asylum procedures. To this end, they set a time frame of 180 days for a decision on an individual’s asylum case. Persons fleeing from war immediately ought to have the chance to apply for subsidiary protection — a status valid for a certain time. (Instead of first having their application for refugee status denied and then being considered for subsidiary status.) Those applying for asylum would have the duty to reside in their assigned town or city for as long as they are dependent on social spending (Residenzpflicht).

While a positive asylum decision ought to come with support for the integration process, a negative decision is grounds for immediate deportation. Therefore, NEOS seek to negotiate binding return agreements with the relevant countries of origin. In exchange, these countries would see their development aid significantly increased.

In the European context, the party reaffirms the importance of the free movement of people for EU citizens. At the same time, the manifesto states that countries unwilling to take part in the “alliance of responsibility” with regard to refugee migration no longer ought to reap the benefits of the Schengen area.

Summary of main positions:

  • Found a department dedicated to integration, developing solutions from kindergarten age to entry to the labour market
  • Faster and more efficient asylum procedures
  • Option to immediately apply for subsidiary protection
  • Binding return agreements with countries of origin
  • Requirement for asylum seekers to live in their assigned town
  • Benefits of Schengen area only for those who share responsibility within the EU

A note on the parties covered: This post only covers five of the 16 parties standing for election on 15 October 2017. Selected were only those parties that are already represented in the parliament. The order is based on the result of the last national election in 2013. Omissions of relevant sections and simplifications are possible, but not intended. For a complete picture, please see the linked manifestos.


*About the author: Klaudia Wegschaider graduated with an MSc in Migration Studies from the University of Oxford, where she focused on the intersection of migration and democracy. She now works for an independent German foundation and volunteers for the Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration. Klaudia is not affiliated with any political party.


Sources and further reading:
SPÖ Consultant Silberstein organized a right-wing Facebook page [in German], Profil, Sept. 2017
Austria’s Election Has Been Upended Over A Shady Meme-Posting Facebook Page, Buzzfeed, Oct. 2017
Campaign Platforms [all in German]
SPÖ: Plan for Austria: The Program for prosperity, security and good mood
ÖVP: Part 1: New Fairness and ResponsibilityPart 2: Awakening and prosperityPart 3: Order and Safety
FPÖ: Austrians Deserve Fairness
Die Grünen: This is Green
NEOS: The future manifesto for a new Austria 
Header Image: Austrian Parliament via SPÖ-Parlamentsklub  on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2gC1mQA (CC BY-ND 2.0)

 

 

 

Sympathy for the Visegrad Group? A look at the V4’s migration proposals

In European migration politics, the governments of the so-called “Visegrad Group” or V4 – Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia– have set themselves apart with their consistently strong stance against EU refugee policy over the past few years. The four strongly oppose a quota distribution system collectively and take a harsh tone against both Brussels’ migration policy and people seeking asylum in their national media. (For an example, read “Will Fear of Refugees Become the Status Quo in Czech Politics?”). As the European Commission takes steps to potentially punish three of the countries for refusing to follow a specific EU resettlement policy, the countries show no sign of backing down. But is there room for compromise?

Drawing a line in the sand

The European Commission announced it was taking the first step in infringement proceedings against three of the four Visegrad states –Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic – for breaching Council decisions regarding relocation of people seeking international protection or asylum from Greece and Italy. Slovakia, who has legally challenged the relocation order and only accepts candidates based on strict preferences, has faced criticism but no threats of infringement (yet). Although Visegrad-adjacent Austria has also refused to accept any transfers of people, they are also off the hook in this case because they promised to accept 50 people in May 2017, according to an EC report on resettlements.

The countries implicated have all separately reaffirmed their intention to defy any resettlement plan, despite the Commission’s warning of infringement. Warsaw quickly issued a statement in response the announcement, calling the Commission’s actions premature in light of pending cases with Slovakia and Hungary at the ECJ, stating, “Poland stands ready to plead its case before the Court of Justice.” Just last week, presidential frontrunner of the ANO 2011 party and current deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babiš told the Czech website Parlamentní listy: “As I said, I do not want a single refugee in the Czech Republic, not even temporarily.” And Viktor Orbán, Hungarian Prime Minister, connected his fight against resettling refugees to his ongoing efforts to stifle George Soros, telling students at a Hungarian cultural festival in Romania that Soros has been “using his money, people and institutions to transport migrants into Europe.” In the same speech, he said that Hungary would continue to endeavor to offer a “calm, Christian life” to its inhabitants and  “will not take in people who raise the concern in us that they will change our cultural identity.”

These public statements from Visegrad leadership are clear about what (or rather, who) they don’t want. But what do they offer as an alternative for handling migration on the European level?

What does Visegrad Want?

On July 19th, the Visegrad Group met in Budapest and issued a Joint Statement on Migration that outlined their position- not just what they stand opposed to, but what they offer as an alternative. In it, they reaffirm their commitment to a joint “consensus-based European solution” to dealing with migration. For the V4, the essential thing is to divide people seeking asylum from what they call “economic migrants”, a determination that they maintain should be made outside of EU territory but with the assistance of member states. Further, they write that any relocation schemes must be strictly voluntary, and the overall focus should be on preventing people from leaving their countries and entering Europe in the first place. The entire letter can be read here.

The tone of the letter is significantly subdued in comparison to what leading politicians have been telling their populations regarding asylum and Brussels, but that’s no reason to discard it. Let’s take a look at some of the key proposals and whether they are practical and further, whether they point to any areas that could lead to a compromise between the Visegrad Group and Commission.

1. Make asylum determinations outside of Europe

We believe that the precondition of any efficient strategy related to mixed migratory flows is to distinguish between genuine asylum seekers and economic migrants. The necessary assessments have to be completed outside the territory of the EU in administrative centres protected and supplied with the assistance and contribution of the EU and its Member States.

In order to deal with asylum “at the roots”, as they write, it is necessary to move the asylum process outside of EU territory. This proposal is a familiar one, as can be seen by our discussion of former French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s policy platform. There are several problems with this idea, but also an area of possible compromise.

One problem is the assumption inherent in this proposal that people migrating to Europe belong to either the category of asylum seekers or “economic migrants.” This division is confusing and artificial. In Europe, as all over the rest of the world, people migrate for a variety of reasons outside of seeking asylum. They may be seeking better opportunities and jobs, but they also might be hoping to reunite with a family member or loved one, access educational opportunities, gain medical treatment, or for any number of other reasons. They may not be able to access protection under the refugee convention, for instance, because authorities believe there are other safe areas to flee within their home country, but this doesn’t make their motives necessarily economic in nature. And importantly, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are not entitled to other forms of protection.

A second, stickier issue is the notion of completing assessments of people’s asylum claims outside EU territory. Nothing in EU or international law forbids the possibility of a state granting people asylum from a distance outside that state’s borders. In fact, countries do this all the time, often aided by government officials or NGOs within a country to identify people that can be transferred to another country to get protection.

The problem comes when this is posed as the only way of granting asylum. “Sequencing is crucial,” write the Visegrad Group, but legally, they have bound themselves to also accept refugees who apply from within their territory (as have all other European countries). The 1951 Refugee Convention and its follow up the 1967 Protocol both define refugees as someone who:

“owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

The “outside their country” aspect is crucial. If countries were only willing to offer asylum to people who applied without leaving their own countries, then people would have to remain in a country where they are at risk while waiting for an answer- possibly facing death or torture. All V4 countries have signed both the 1951 Convention and its 1967 protocol (see UNHCR’s list of signatories for more details.) This binds them to accepting applications of asylum on their own territory, and to not “refouling” people (sending them back to places where they face persecution.) This definition of asylum as allowing people to leave their national borders to safety is also included within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” (The “seek” part is also important: it means you are entitled to ask for asylum, even if you don’t ultimately receive it.)

It should be clear that people needn’t remain in their own countries to seek asylum, and that the members of the Visegrad Group are obligated to process asylum claims of people who make it to their territory and ask for protection, just as the rest of Europe is. But so long as this is guaranteed, a compromise could see more asylum decisions being reached in sending countries, such as through embassies or special centers for that purpose, without excluding the right to seek asylum in the traditional way as well. This could indeed prevent people who have no viable claim for asylum from making perilous journeys while expediting the process for people who do have viable claims.

However, a major concern would be to ensure that assessments carried out abroad comply with legal standards and aren’t a way of moving the asylum process out of sight and out of mind.

2. Secure external EU borders

We need to be able to fully protect the external borders of the European Union. At the same time, we need to remove internal border controls. We need to make sure that no one can avoid being properly identified and registered before entering the territory of the EU.

This proposal also offers plenty of room for agreement with the rest of Europe. The idea of strengthening external border controls while providing free movement within the EU is an aspiration that is nearly universally shared. This can be seen by the dramatic budget and staffing increase over the last years for the European border agency Frontex, headed out of Warsaw, and increasing funds for Italy to manage asylum assessments (and deportations.)

However, the implication that everyone can be “properly identified” before entering the EU is problematic for a few reasons. First, as discussed above, its a right under international and European law to seek asylum in other countries. This right is not limited to those who are “properly identified.” In other words, providing ID is not a prerequisite to seeking asylum, and attempting to stop people from entering because they cannot provide ID might violate international law.

Throughout the asylum application process people are grilled on their stories and asked to provide as much evidence as possible to back up their claims of persecution and country origin. But it must be recognized that, when fleeing war or persecution, it is sometimes not possible to bring full documentation. For others, these important papers might be lost in transit. Still others might be stateless, in which case they may never have had proper identification documents to begin with. Any of these circumstances do not take away a person’s right to ask for protection.

3. Use aid to discourage “pull factors” and prevent people from leaving

We need a sustainable European solution with the long-term objective of a proactive involvement of the EU and its Member States in the most affected Third Countries of origin and transit including improving their living conditions.

The idea of preventing migration through increasing development aid is an unproven concept that has nevertheless been pushed by people as diverse as Jean Luc Melenchon in France and Mark Rutte in the Netherlands. The problem with the idea is that the EU already spend billions in development aid, but this aid may not reach people most vulnerable to persecution and war. Not to mention the fact that it does not address pull factors such as family reunification. Nevertheless, if aid is indeed aimed at improving living conditions and not at preventing people from leaving their country (as everyone is entitled to) then it is hard to see major downsides to ramping it up.

At the same time, there would appear to be room for improvement in this area from the states proposing the aid increase. The EU has targets for development aid to lower income countries known as “Official Development Assistance” (ODAs). In the latest Commission report on the subject (found here) it was noted that although progress has been made, the EU has not reached its collective goal of setting aside .7% of Gross National Income (GNI) for development aid.

The Visegrad states fall well below this goal, as well as below the less ambitious target set for countries who had joined the EU after 2002 (as all four Visegrad states did). The target for these countries was .33% of GNI, whereas all Visegrad states had reached between .12%-.14% in 2016.

So here too is an area of potential compromise: EU countries in general and Visegrad countries in particular could strive harder to reach their development assistance goals as part of an effort to improve living conditions in countries that currently experience high levels of emigration. But it should be remembered that development aid doesn’t end wars.

Can member states work together?

Looking at the migration policy proposed by the Visegrad states in Budapest, its possible to identify at least three areas where compromises should be possible:

1.) Provide additional means of applying for asylum from outside of the EU

2.) Continue to secure EU borders while supplying assistance for identification and registration of people seeking asylum at entry points to the EU

3.) Increase development aid, for instance, by getting closer to Official Development Assistance goals.

Interestingly, the viable parts of Visegrad’s migration platform all point to one thing: more money. There’s no doubt that providing more financial support up and down the asylum system can make a difference in how well the EU handles migration and asylum. But is it enough to replace the human aspect of accepting people into societies?

At the end of the day, no matter how much funding is offered and how many restrictions are applied, there are numerous people that are truly entitled to protection under laws agreed to in Europe for over half of a century, many of whom are already here. Increasing funds to prevent people from coming might be an area both sides can agree on, but it cannot possibly represent more than a partial solution to the current standoff over people already here and waiting for help.

 

Sources and Further Reading
Will Fear of Refugees Become the Status Quo in Czech Republic? MV
Relocation: Commission launches infringement procedures against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Press Release, European Commission. June 2017.
Pending Case: Slovakia v. Council. Info-Curia, European Court of Justice.
Thirteenth Report on Resettlement and Relocation, European Commission, June 2017
MFA statement on the European Commission’s decision to launch infringement procedures against Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, June 2017
Interview with Andrej Babis.  Parlamentní listy, July 2017.
Viktor Orbán’s answers to questions from audience members after his speech at the Bálványos Summer Open University and Student Camp. (Speech Transcript) Hungarian Government, July 2016
Joint Statement by the Prime Ministers of the V4 Countries on Migration, Visegrad Group, July 2017
Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, UNHCR
States Parties to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967
Protocol, UNHCR
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN
Questions & Answers: the new European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Press Release, European Commission, 2016
Frontex to Get Budget Hike After Refugee Failures, EUobserver, 2015
EU unveils more measures to help Italy deal with Migrant Crises, Financial Times, July 2017
Council conclusions on annual report 2017 on EU development aid targets, European Commission, May 2017
Header image via Poland MFA on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2uumbVB (CC BY-NC 2.0)

 

Comparing the Labour and Conservative Manifestos on Migration

Following an approved motion by British Prime Minister Theresa May, the UK will hold snap general elections on June 8th.

Under Britain’s Fixed Term Parliaments Act, elections are held every five years unless a snap election occurs through either a vote of no confidence with no follow-up government installed or the approval of a motion for snap elections by two-thirds of parliament, as occurred in this case. You could forgive the people of Great Britain for being tired of making decisions, but a great deal is at stake as the country heads to the polls.

The election comes just before Britain prepares to enter into negotiations of their exit from the European Union, and is seen by many as an effort of May to consolidate authority before undertaking the tremendous task ahead. For voters, the election represents a final say on what kind of Brexit they want, and where they stand on economic and social issues, particularly migration.

So what options are the parties now offering regarding immigration to the UK after Brexit? Let’s delve into the campaign programs of Britain’s two largest parties to see how sensitiveer on this senstivie topic.

Labour: People who migrate can be workers too

The section on immigration in Labour’s election manifesto starts out with acceptance: “Freedom of movement will end when we leave the European Union.  Britain’s immigration system will change…” This hints that Labour does not intend to challenge one of the key likely impacts of Brexit: the end of freedom of movement.

The new system they envision, however, has some changes in store that will impact people migrating from the EU and beyond.

Asylum: Labour promises to end indefinite detention and continue to take “our fair share of refugees” and meet international commitments. They also plan to review current housing arrangements for refugees as they are “not fit for purpose”.

Migration: The party platform prioritizes British workers but does not rule out the possibility of immigration as an augmentation. They say they will consult with industry to determine specific skill/ personel shortages and arrange the system based on the country’s economic needs. “This may include employer sponsorship, work permits, visa regulations or a tailored mix of all these which works for the many, not the few.” International students are welcomed and will not be included in any immigration numbers. Income thresholds- i.e., mininum amounts of savings or income a person must have before being able to come work or join a family member in Britain, will be replaced with a bar on access to public welfare.

We will replace income thresholds with a prohibition on recourse to public funds.

This small sentence on page 28 of the Manifesto hides a surprisingly controversial idea- can you legally bar people who immigrate from accessing public funds? This issue bears further examination.

Labour goes on to ensure that people who are already in the country working will be protected “regardless of their ethnicity”, and specifies that people who immigrate make valuable contributions to the economy and tax system. They promise to end exploitation, discrimination and unscrupulous overseas hiring practices- but are lacking any concrete details regarding how this would be carried out- will they install new anti-discrimination laws? Increase inspections of company hiring practices? Publicize existing workers rights to newcomers?

As a statement of intent, Labour’s intentions seem clear: migraton should be seen as a means to improving the economy and fulfilling work shortages, and people who migrate are seen primarily through the lens of their role as workers or potential competition to British workers. It seems that people seeking asylum might see their situation improve under a Labour government, and workers have some vague but promising benefits to look forward to.

Conservatives: Control and Reduce

The Conservatives address immigration at numerous points throughout their manifesto. They envision multiple changes to de-incentivize migration described as “too fast and too high.”

Asylum: The Conservatives promise a big change in British asylum policy: “We will work to reduce asylum claims made in Britain and, as we do so, increase the number of people we help in the most troubled regions.” In other words, a shift towards granting asylum to people who are outside of the country rather than inside when they apply. A similar idea was offered by the Front National in the French election, and we pointed out that it is problematic under the law to disallow asylum claims from being filed within the national territory, since it may violate the principle of non-refoulement. However, the Conservatives do not offer concrete details on how they will reduce asylum claims from within Britain, so its not clear if what they have in mind will violate their current legal obligations.

Migration: In their first mention of migration, the Conservatives sound quite similar to Labour in saying they will make changes suited to augmenting skills or shortages currently lacking in the British market. Rather than consult directly with industry as Labour promises to, the Conservatives will enlist the assistance of the independent Migration Advisory Committee.

We envisage that the committee’s advice will allow us to set aside significant numbers of visas for workers in strategically-important sectors, such as digital technology, without adding to net migration as a whole.

Nevertheless, they will double the Immigration Skills Charge to £2,000. (The Immigration Skills Charge is a fine employers must pay for hiring workers from outside of Britain, and the British Medical Association has complained that the National Health System or NHS stands to lose millions to this law under the current system- if it is doubled as under the Conservative plan, one should expect additional outcry.)

Later, in a section dedicated to immigration under ‘A Country that Comes Together’, the party announces their intention to significantly reduce immigration levels.

It is our objective to reduce immigration to sustainable levels, by which we mean annual net migration in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have seen over the last two decades.

To get the numbers of people down on such a large scale, they suggest the following:

  • Increase earnings thresholds for family reunification visas
  • toughen visa requirements for international students who wish to study in Britain as well as requirements for them to stay and work after graduating
  • accept fewer people from the EU

Security and Borders: Here, the Conservatives also depart from Labour by offering enhanced measures to prevent people from entering the country and for deporting people not allowed to stay. The manifesto proposes satellite tracking for people subject to deportation orders and says they will make it more difficult for individuals with criminal convictions to enter the country.

Conclusion: Aside from an end to free movement, little agreement

The Labour Party and Conservatives appear on two opposite sides of the sprectrum when it comes to nearly every immigration topic raised. Neither opposes leaving the Schengen Zone as Britain is expected to do under Brexit, but on everything from international students to earnings thresholds they at total odds. In our next installment, we’ll take a look at other parties to see where they stand on some of the migration topics that could change Britain for years to come.

 

Sources and Further Reading
The Fixed Term Parliaments Act of 2011, Legislation from Britain’s National Archives
Report of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, House of Commons Library
For the Many, Not the Few: Labour Party Manifesto 2017
Forward Together: The Conservative and Unionist Manifesto 2017
Migration Advisory Committee Website 
Immigration Skills Charge – UK.gov
NHS could lose millions to Immigration Charge, British Medial Association, March 2017
Header image via David McKelvey on Flickr, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) http://bit.ly/2rKEqlr

 

With AfD back on the rise, MV takes a closer look at their new leaders. Part 1: Alexander Gauland

On Sunday, regional elections were held in North Rhein-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen or NRW in German) and the results were striking for two reasons. First, the center-left Social Democratic party fell significantly in comparison to 2012, from 39% to 31% in Germany’s largest state (as measured by Infratest Dimap below). Their national government partners the Christian Democrats (CDU) outperformed them, in the latest test of the appeal of SPD’s new leader Martin Schulz versus current CDU chancellor Angela Merkel.

Secondly, two parties made significant gains: the neo-liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the far-right Alternative für Deutschland, which will sit in the state’s parliament for the first time.

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Its been a good few weeks for the AfD, with their success also being reflected at the national level, as this opinion poll from Ipsos demonstrates. AfD has risen to become Germany’s third biggest party.

Ipsos_Public_Affairs_Wahlforschung_07-05-2017

This upswing comes after AfD’s party congress in Cologne in late April, where they voted to go a new direction in party leadership. Frauke Petry, the popular party chief who garnered widespread media attention as well as comparisons to Donald Trump, has been replaced by two people to stand as candidates (“Spitzenkandidaten”) for the party in September elections: AfD founder Alexander Gauland and investment banker Alice Weidel. This was a major rejection for the internationally well-known Petry, who’s proposal for a “Realpolitik” revamp of the AfD was not even debated at the party congress.

Thus far, the party has taken a hard-right line on migration issues, calling for the closure of German borders and an end to social-welfare access for people seeking asylum, among other things. Are Gauland and Weidel likely to alter this course? We’ll be taking a closer look at the new candidate duo and their influence on the AfD platform, starting with AfD founder Gauland.


Alexander Gauland: A Focus on Education and “Self-Preservation”

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Alexander Gauland is a conservative journalist and politician who founded the AfD together with Konrad Adam and Bernd Lucke after the Greek financial crises and leads the party in Brandenburg. Born in Chemnitz (former East Germany) he sought and received asylum in West Germany in 1959, fleeing after high school. He then studied at the University of Marburg, where he received his doctorate. He served as the state secretary of Hesse under Walter Wallman, and is the author of various history and political books, such as Instructions for Conservatives (2002) and more recently Worry about the West? A Debate (2017).

According to FAZ, as state secretary under Wallman, Gauland traveled to Hong Kong in 1979 to bring 250 Vietnamese people who had fled from the war on boats to Hesse as refugees. This is quite a contrast to his position in recent years, where he has stated that boats containing people seeking asylum should be turned away (in violation of international law). However, in Hong Kong Gauland himself allegedly hand-picked which individuals would come to Germany, selecting highly skilled workers that he thought could easily integrate, such as watchmakers and mechanics. One could conclude from this that Gauland is not against migration, but wants Germany to welcome only people with high skills or education levels. This view is consistent with the original AfD party platform, which says “We welcome highly-skilled immigrants with a distinct willingness to integrate.”

But at some point after his mission in Hong Kong, he seems to have stopped believing that there are highly skilled or educated people among migrants to Germany.

This can be seen in a recent press release about the German school system. Gauland said:

“It is becoming increasingly clear that the vast majority of the millions of migrants who come to us are not skilled at all but illiterate and very low-educated people*…. Germany does not need non-integrable illiterates, which are left to the welfare state for a lifetime. We need highly qualified specialists, which we have to choose according to a points system ourselves. Everything else hurts our society.”

(*It is unclear what Gauland is basing his statement on, and should be noted that prior to the civil war, the adult literacy rate of Syria was 84% and primary school enrollment was over 99%, according to UNICEF.)

AfD’s newly agreed upon campaign program, which details their platform for the upcoming election in September, echoes Gauland’s doubts that any of the people in the current wave of migration can integrate. The AfD’s immigration program now starts by detailing a “demographic problem” between Africa/the Middle East and Europe, and says the aim of their immigration and asylum policy is not self-selection, but rather self-preservation.

The aim of the AfD is self-preservation, not self-destruction of our state and people. The future of Germany and Europe must be secured in the long term. We want to leave our descendants a country, which is still recognizable as our Germany.

The new platform strays away from talking about who is welcome in favor of who must be kept out, and takes a much stricter tact, echoing Gauland’s press release claiming that a majority of people seeking asylum are illiterate and unable to integrate (again, without offering evidence.)

The borders must be closed immediately. The unregulated mass immigration into our country and its social systems by mostly professionally unqualified asylum seekers is to be terminated immediately. A successful integration of all these people, including a considerable proportion of illiterates, is impossible.

The campaign platform goes on to call for an end to jus soli (birthright) citizenship and a reduced number of people with dual citizenship, both measures that would apply to people who already here, regardless of whether their parents arrived through the asylum process.

This sounds like the Gauland not of 1979 but of 2016, who evidently takes issue not only with people who have migrated but also with people whose parents have immigrated to Germany, like Jerome Boateng, the football star who was born in Berlin to a German mother and a father originally from Ghana. Talking to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Gauland said about the German player: “People find him good as a football player. But they wouldn’t like to have a Boateng as a neighbor.” Thus even a uniquely skilled individual like Boateng is viewed as potentially not belonging (though he was born in Germany.)

The AfD campaign platform seems to have shifted slightly to allow for Gauland’s ethno-nationalist views to take precedence: migration is viewed as a threat to German identity, whether the person is highly skilled, integrated, or even born in Germany. As Gauland himself sought asylum in West Germany and managed to receive an education there and succeed to high ranks of the German government, it is worth asking why he now assumes the same trajectory is impossible for others.


Sources and Further Reading
NRW election Results, Infratest Dimap, May 2017 (German)
Sunday Questionaire, Ipsos Germany, May 2017 (German)
Federal Party Day: Voter Program agreed to and new lead candidates selected. AfD, April 2017 (German)
Meet Frauke Petry, the Donald Trump of Germany“, Newsweek, Mar. 2017.
Interview: Alexander Gauland on the topics and objectives of the AfD. HNA, Sept. 2014 (German)
Bio of Alexander Gauland. AfD (German)
Books by Gauland, Amazon.com
Searching for the Earlier Gauland, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, June 2016 (German)
Gauland: Send boats with migrants back, AfD, Oct. 2016 (German)
Manifesto for Germany: The Afd Party Platform, AfD
Gauland on the Migrant Quota, AfD, April 2017 (German)
Syria at a Glance, UNICEF
Campaign Program for September 2017 Elections, AfD (German)
Gauland insults Boateng, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, May 2016 (German)
Image: Gauland via Metropolico.org on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2oSPRdZ (CC by-SA 2.0)

Macron v. Le Pen on Immigration, Asylum and Integration

After lots of excitement in the final weeks leading up to the French election, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will proceed to the runoff, a result that was widely predicted and yet produced significant surprise when it actually came to be, given the current distrust in the accuracy of polls.

When it comes to immigration, the differences between the top two candidates are significant, although they are not as diametrically opposed to one another as, say, Le Pen and Jean-Luc Melenchon. While Le Pen offers a vision of a dramatically altered immigration regime for France, Macron essentially makes some measured tweaks to the status quo, focused on making the country a more attractive immigration destination for certain types of people and making the asylum process more efficient. Let’s see where the candidates come down on some of the big questions surrounding immigration, asylum, and integration.

Immigration: Invite more students and skilled labor, or reduce across the board?

Le Pen’s overall approach to migration is restrictive, although she doesn’t eradicate it totally as she has suggested in some speeches. She promises to reduce legal immigration to a total of 10,000 people per year, and change the law to restrict family reunification and acquisition of citizenship through marriage or birth in France. She also wants to crack down on irregular as well as EU immigration by leaving the Schengen zone and reestablishing borders, while bolstering border forces and customs agents.

Macron does not get into many specifics about his intentions on all forms of legal immigration, leaving us to assume that he wants to maintain the law as it stands on issues like the acquisition of citizenship and family reunification. (In fact, he asserts that “fantasies” about family reunification are overblown: only 12,000 received family reunification visas in 2015, and of these the majority received them under international rather than domestic legal commitments.)

Instead, Macron focuses on students and other types of “knowledge” migration. He would introduce new types of visas for professionals, scientists, and creators while streamlining existing procedures to make it easier for Masters students, artists, entrepreneurs and other highly qualified people to come to France.  Once they get there, he also wants to make it easier for them to access the labor market.

Asylum: Incredibly restricted, or restricted?

Both Le Pen and Macron in some way want to bolster the existing asylum regime to make it faster (and easier to deport people who do not receive asylum.) Le Pen would recruit 6,000 new border officers over five years, alter the asylum system to only take place in French consulates but not on French territory, and expel everyone else. (As we have noted, as stated these two last points likely violate French domestic and international obligations.)

Macron advocates for a “dignified” system that is nevertheless “inflexible” with people who are not entitled to remain. This inflexibility is reflected in a much faster decision process: decisions on asylum applications should be reached in 8 weeks (it currently averages around 11 months) and judgments on appeals should take 6-8 weeks. In this same proposal, Macron implies (without stating outright) that he prefers people seeking asylum to remain in detention to help speed up the process.

Having the applicants on site greatly reduces the processing time (removal of unavailability and sickness, which involves one quarter of the cases, removal of travel costs) and eliminates the time and notification disputes.

This notion could be problematic under European and international law, so here we need a little detour to briefly discuss the legality of mass detention of people seeking asylum.

As the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) lays out in their Detention Guidelines, detention is an extraordinary measure that must be proscribed by law and justified by some legitimate purpose, not merely for convenience in speeding up asylum application proceedings.

Detention can only be exceptionally resorted to for a legitimate purpose. Without such a purpose, detention will be considered arbitrary, even if entry was illegal.

The Council of Europe concurs, saying in a recommendation on the subject of detention that people seeking asylum, although non-citizens, are protected by the European Convention on Human Rights: “no one shall be deprived of his liberty save in exceptional cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law, as stipulated by Article 5.1.b. and f. of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

A recent case at the European Court of Justice (2016) reiterates these principles and applies them directly to EU member states like France, narrowing the scope of justification for the detention of people seeking asylum to cases where the individual him or herself (and not just his or her status) presents a danger to public order or national security. Below, part of the Court’s ruling from JN v. Staatssecretaris voor Veiligheid en Justitie:

“…keeping an applicant in detention under point (e) of the first subparagraph of Article 8(3) of Directive 2013/33 is, in view of the requirement of necessity, justified on the ground of a threat to national security or public order only if the applicant’s individual conduct represents a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat, affecting a fundamental interest of society or the internal or external security of the Member State concerned.”

Detaining all people seeking asylum (including, presumably, children) so that their applications can be handled more quickly might infringe on international law, and Macron may be called upon to give a different justification for such a policy, or to restrict it to certain types of people (such as, e.g., people considered flight risks or threats to public security.)

Integration: Everybody just speak French

One place where Le Pen and Macron both concur is on the need of newcomers and nationals to learn French. Macron would encourage this by giving every newcomer to France the “entitlement” to learn French to the level of B1. In practical terms though, this isn’t so much a right as a requirement, since he proposes making this language acquisition a condition of a residence permit.

Le Pen rejects the concepts of multiculturalism and prefers the standard of “assimilation” over integration. To this end, she wants to strengthen ties with French-speaking communities across the world, ensure that French is spoken in universities, and “ensure primary schools spend half their teaching time on teaching spoken and written French.”

An imbalance in the candidates’ focus

In sum, the major difference between Le Pen and Macron is their focus. Le Pen has made restricting immigration and asylum one of the cornerstones of her campaign, while Macron is far more focused on economic and social considerations. Will his lack of focus cost him at the polls? Or will French people reject the kinds of radical, across the board changes that Le Pen is running on? We will find out in two weeks.

Sources and Further Reading
Marine Le Pen’s 144 Presidential Commitments (English) (PDF)
Emmanuel Macron’s Immigration and Asylum Proposals (French)
Detention Guidelines. UNCHR, 2012.
Rec(2003)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on measures of detention of asylum seeker. Council of Europe, 2003.
J. N. v Staatssecretaris voor Veiligheid en Justitie Judgment, Court of Justice of the European Union, 2016.
Detention of Asylum Seekers: The First CJEU Judgment -Steve Peers on EU Law Analysis Blog.
Images: Macron via Ville de Nevers on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2plFT1E, (CC by NC-SA-2.0), Le Pen via Blandine Le Cain http://bit.ly/2qa7K4Q (CC by 2.0)

Holocaust revisionist ‘gaffes’ hide policies that target both Jews and Muslims

US White House press secretary Sean Spicer has been the target of a media firestorm since his unfortunate remarks at a press briefing last week comparing Assad to Hitler, with Hitler coming out favorably. 

“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War Two. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons”…. “I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.”

(He later apologized.)

The remarks were clearly inaccurate, given that Hitler indeed used chemical weapons and deployed them against his own people. But whether or not Spicer was aware of that and simply misspoke, or is poorly informed on the history surrounding World War II, it provoked us at Migration Voter to reflect on recent similar “gaffes” from far-right politicians regarding the Holocaust.

For instance, Front National’s Le Pen said during an event with Le Figaro in April:

I think France isn’t responsible for the Vel d’Hiv…. I think that, in general, if there are people responsible, it is those who were in power at the time. It is not France.”

Vel d’Hiv is the shorthand for an event that occurred during the Holocaust when 13,152 French Jews were rounded up by French police at the direction of the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz, where they were murdered. France has taken responsibility for the atrocity in the past, but Le Pen implied this was hurting French pride, saying “France has been mired in people’s minds for years.”

And Germany’s far-right Euroskeptic party Alternative für Deutschland attracted a great deal of negative press following a speech in January by state leader of Thuringia Björn Höcke in which he discussed Germany’s dealing with their role in the Holocaust, referring to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in central Berlin as “a monument of shame.”

“We Germans… are the only people in the world who have planted a monument of shame in the heart of their capital city.” “We do not need any more dead rites in this country. … We no longer need hollow phrases in this country, we need a living culture of remembrance, which brings us first and foremost into contact with the great achievements of our ancestors.”

One of the reasons why the press has seized on these comments is because they supposedly give the lie to the strong stances these parties have each taken against anti-Semitism. These promises of being pro-Jewish and against forms of anti-Semitism have been coupled with a focus on casting Muslims, especially Muslim immigrants, as a threat both to Jews and to the nations in general.

  • Marine Le Pen of the Front National has promised numerous actions to target what she calls “Islamic fundamentalism”, proposing policies targeting mosques and Muslims (such as banning the hijab.) On the other hand, she has made conscious efforts to reach out to the Jewish community, banning anti-Semitic members of her party and sending FN party secretary Nicolas Bay on a goodwill trip to Israel. While there, Bay was interviewed by Haaretz (article behind paywall, but see Breitbart), where he made FN’s position clear: “[French Jews] understand that we’re the only ones who are clearly pointing to the source of the anti-Semitic attacks – the Islamists. Marine Le Pen has already said that the National Front is French Jewish citizens’ shield against these attacks.”
  • AfD takes a similarly strong stance against Muslims and immigrants from Muslim majority countries, stating in their program that “Islam does not belong to Germany” and introducing numerous policies against Muslim religious dress and immigration to Germany, while stating “ The AfD does not concur with the view which regards the criticism of Islam as islamophobic or being derogatory.” They have also spoken out often against anti-Semitism, however. For instance, in a press release in 2016 their Federal Councilor wrote, “The thought of what many of the Muslim immigrants bring along is characterized by anti-Semitism and the rejection of Western values…. Anti-Semitism must have no place in Germany. Many Muslims are still unaware of this and represent a danger to our values and our community.”

In short, despite statements that could be construed as Holocaust revisionism, the officials of the Front National and AfD have consistently been outspoken against anti-Semitism, claiming that their policies, by excluding Muslims and fighting “Islamism”, will be the best safeguard for Jews in their countries.

The complication with this argument, that the press has so far failed to discuss as far as we know, is that a large number of the policies aimed at excluding Muslim religious practices and Muslim immigrants would inevitably also target Jews, as well as other religious minority groups. 

Policies Targeting the Muslim Community that would affect the Jewish Community

Front National

Le Pen, for instance, promises to abolish dual citizenship (see presidential commitment number 27) for non-European holders of two passports. While this would no doubt affect a large population of French people with dual citizenship from Muslim-majority countries, she has stated that it would apply to Israelis as well. (Note, however, that we doubt this policy can go through as worded.)

In another example, Le Pen promises under the banner “Eradicate Terror and Break Up Islamic Fundamentalist Networks” that she will “ban foreign funding of places of worship and their personnel.” Although she explicitly mentions Islam in the title, her language clearly indicates (“places of worship”) this would apply to synagogues and Jewish religious activities (as well as other religious groups, presumably.)

Even more obviously, in her plan “to defend French unity and the national identity” Le Pen proposes constitutional and policy changes that would certainly apply to Jews, Muslims, and any other minority group.

Capture

It is difficult to parse what consequences these changes might have for religious minorities, but it would seem to change their constitutional status and ability to retain their own culture, if it differs from the majority culture. Commitment number 97 is particularly interesting, given Le Pen’s comments on France’s role in the Holocaust.

Additionally, Le Pen and FN have advocated for the elimination of any special religious dietary options in French public schools. In a 2014 interview, Le Pen outlined her position on the issue.

“We will accept no religious requirements in the school lunch menus,” Mrs. Le Pen told RTL radio. “There is no reason for religion [dietary options] to enter into the public sphere.”

This would eliminate any halal but also any kosher options. Therefore, if something banned by both Islam and Judaism – such as pork – was on the menu for that day, then pork is what Muslim and Jewish students would also be served. 

Alternative für Deutschland

In zeroing in on policies they hope will fortify and promote German “high culture” (Leitkultur) and move away from multiculturalism, AfD also promotes ideas that would harm German Jews as collateral damage in their fight against Muslims. For instance, in their platform (pg. 46), they state that German culture is composed of three main sources: Christianity, “scientific and humanistic culture” and Roman law, and that multiculturalism poses “a serious threat to social peace and the survival of the nation-state as a cultural unit”. Judaism clearly lies outside of their three main pillars of German society- does it also form a threat that must be protected against?

Capture

Under the section “End foreign financing of mosques” there are some additional provisions that would be problematic for the Jewish community. AfD calls for a ban on foreign financing of mosques, the banning of any language other than German spoke during religious services, and for imams to get government permission before preaching in Germany. It is difficult to see how these laws could comport with the German constitution generally, but if they would they would necessarily have to apply to all religious groups. This would disproportionately impact Jewish communities as it would ban foreign (such as Israeli or American) donations to synagogues, ban speaking Hebrew, and require visiting rabbis to get permission. German Christian congregations are primarily German-funded, speak primarily German, and are led primarily by German priests, necessarily making the impact of such policies far stricter on religious minorities and immigrant groups.

Again, its worth noting that many of these policies, as stated in their party program, are completely in contradiction with German domestic law and European Union law. However, whether or not they can be achieved, they allow insight into the stated aims and goals of the party.

Why analyze “gaffes” when the policies are clear?

Like with Sean Spicer’s remarks, the Holocaust revisionist statements by Le Pen and Höcke sparked minor scandals and caused many people to ask: were these accidental gaffes, or intentional anti-Semitic messages to voters?

In the case of the FN and AfD, it isn’t necessary to get at the innermost hearts and minds of the party elite via their speeches, because we have access to their direct, stated goals and programs.

If voters are worried about anti-Semitism in populist parties out of concern for its implications for the Jewish community if these parties were to come to power, it is very clearly worth understanding that many of the policies that are meant to target Muslims will harshly affect Jews as well as other minority religious groups, especially those with numerous co-religionists in other countries. Laws restricting the ability to dress a certain way, eat a certain diet or connect with (and fundraise from) people in other countries will evenly impact any person of faith connected to a minority religious group.

Voters who are concerned about anti-Semitism because of the historical context of what happens when a minority religious group is demonized and cast as a threat to the people and their national identity do not need to look too far to see that these parties already do precisely this with Muslims. For some people, that’s part of their appeal. For others, it may be a good reason to weigh their vote carefully.

 

Sources and Further Reading
Sean Spicer apologizes for gaffe” The Guardian, April 2017
Le Pen reopens old wounds” Reuters, April 2017
For Le Pen, France is not responsible for Vel’d’Hiv” Le Figaro, April 2017 (in French)
Vel’d’Hiv Roundup, Wikipedia.org
Chirac admits to France’s Atrocities During WW2 (video), Associated Press (1995)
Transcript of Höcke’s Speech in Dresden, Der Taggespiegel, (Jan. 2017) (in German)
144 Presidential Commitments (PDF), Front National 2017
‘We Just Want to Preserve Our Identity – Like Israel and Trump,’ Le Pen Party Official Tells Haaretz.” Haaretz (Jan. 2017)
French populists visit Israel to build relations“. Breitbart (Jan. 2017)
Manifesto for Germany- AFD party program (PDF), AFD 2017
Pazderski: Many immigrants bring along their anti-Semitic worldview. AFD Press Release (June 2016)
Le Pen Calls to Ban Special Dietary Restrictions, The Telegraph, (April 2014)
Cover image: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. Via Olly Coffey on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2nY8ahi (CC by-NC 2.0)

Unsubmissive, apolitical, revolutionary: the diverse migration views of the French presidential candidates

The French presidential race is just around the corner (April 23rd, to be exact) and the strongest performers couldn’t be more divided on the topic of immigration. Here’s our sum up of where the top five stand on migration and asylum.

To read about how the French election works, read our handy election explainer!


Marine Le Pen – Front National

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I want to put an end to immigration, that’s clear.

Since the start of her campaign, far-right Front National candidate and current forerunner Marine Le Pen has argued for “one culture and one language.” Thus, simplifying her immigration policy.  Le Pen calls for France to leave the Schengen zone and increasing the requirements to become a French national- eradicating so-called jus soli citizenship, and dual citizenship for non-Europeans. Additionally, Le Pen says that her immigration policy will reduce annual legal immigration into France by 80% , to about 10,000 individuals per year. Le Pen advocates the continuing of asylum applications overseas in French embassies and countries of origin, but states that many of the current migrants in France requesting asylum are illegal (undocumented) immigrants. She thus advocates a swift deportation policy and makes it impossible to legalize their situation. For immigrants who commit crimes, she suggests establishing bilateral treaties that allow people convicted in France to serve out their sentences in their countries of origin.


Emmanuel Macron – En Marche!

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The European Union cannot accept on its soil all those who are in search of a better life.

Former banker and finance minister Emmanuel Macron is the great question mark in the campaign- the leader of a brand new political party, he’s never held an elected post but is nevertheless steadily polling among the top two along with Le Pen and is likely (at this point) to make it to the runoff. His political stance generally rejects simple categorizations of left and right, but his immigration policy takes a relatively standard center-right line. He says the EU must continue to accept its “fair share” of refugees, while ensuring anyone not entitled to asylum is promptly deported, with decisions being handed down within 8 weeks of arrival. He also expects immigrants to integrate into local communities and introduces policies aimed at increasing integration, such as mandatory (funded) language courses. Finally, he wishes to make France more attractive for desirable types of migrants (desirable to Macron at least) such as researchers, students, investors, and artists.


François Fillon- Les Republicains

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Our demography is one of the most dynamic in Europe so that, in contrast to most of our European neighbors, we do not need immigration to support our growth.

François Fillon is the candidate of the center-right Republicans, once thought to be a strong contender but now under fire constantly following a scandal involving alleged payments made to his wife (“Penelopegate”). Facing calls to step down, he defiantly remains in the race and can’t be counted out. Regarding his immigration policy, he is barely to the left of the Front National, calling for legal immigration to France to be reduced “to the bare minimum.” To this end, he proposes strict limits on family reunification and even ethnic quotas for various regions to avoid concentration of communities in the same municipalities. To the extent that EU standards conflict with his proposals, he wants to renegotiate. He would also significantly reduce benefits for migrants, including healthcare, limiting it to minors and emergency treatment. He also calls for restoring detention for asylum seekers, and would have decisions handed down within four months. Finally, he wants to restrict citizenship to those immigrants who have shown themselves to be “clearly assimilated”, and allow for citizenship applications to be opposed by the state in cases of doubt, especially, he says, in the case of children of undocumented immigrants.


Benoit Hamon- Parti Socialiste

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The bulk of international migration is not on a South North Axis but a South-South axis. I will be working on both.

Benoit Hamon represents the French Socialist party (parti socialiste), whose currently reigning president Hollande declined to run for re-election. Hamon is the minister of education, and its fair to say that migration comprises a relatively minor part of a wide-ranging program,  focused on reforming labor, the economy, and the justice system. His migration proposals focus mainly on the European level. He calls for a reform of the Dublin regulation based on “welcome and solidarity” and proposes the creation of a humanitarian visa for refugee reception. Further, he endorses “fluidification” of labor migration (presumably making it easier for travel in and out of France for labor purposes.)


Jean Luc Melenchon- La France Insoumise

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Turn off the causes of their departure one after the other.

Jean-Luc Melenchon’s  has argued that the immigrants that are currently here are not going anywhere, “Once people are there, what do you want to do? Reject them to the sea? No, it’s absolutely impossible.” As a result, his party presents a radical departure for the immigration system: decriminalizing undocumented migration, allowing more flexible work migration and easier acquisition of both residence rights and citizenship. The party also advocates standardizing asylum procedures across France and distributing asylum seekers equally across the country, and giving people who seek asylum the right to work while they await a decision.

In terms of restriction, Melenchon advocates a policy targeting the reasons that people leave in the first place. In a sense, Melenchon’s immigration policies are much more a preventative immigration type of foreign policy, suggestive of increasing foreign development aid. In his 2016 book “Le Choix de l’insoumission” outlines his position, “If we do not want people to come, it is better that they do not leave… We must stop believing that people leave for pleasure. So turn off the causes of their departure one after the other.” 

READ MORE
Candidate Programs: Le Pen, Macron, Fillon, Hamon, Melenchon
Penelopegate casts dark shadow over Fillon’s presidential prospects” (Jan. 2017) The Guardian.
Mélenchon, J., & Endeweld, M. (2016). Le choix de l’insoumission (1st ed.). Paris: Éditions du Seuil.
Analysis: The Far Right’s Coalition Conundrum (MV)
(Cover image via Mutualité Française on flickr, (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Where do the Dutch parties stand on refugees?

One of the unusual features of the Dutch electoral system is the large number of parties and multiple possibilities for coalitions. When it comes to refugee politics, a very hot issue in the upcoming race, the parties are all over the map and range from very strict on refugees- saying the Netherlands should not take a single one- to very welcoming, saying refugees should be welcomed without a limit and entitled to the same rights as Dutch citizens. To make it a little easier to navigate we’ve divided the top parties by their stances, using their own positions from their own platforms. Remember: multiple of these parties will have to find enough common ground to govern together, so we are likely to see big compromises.

PVV- Zero refugees, close the borders, exit the European Union and ban Islam

The Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV, is the far right party of Geert Wilders and takes the strongest stance against refugees and people seeking asylum, particularly if they are Muslim. Their platform is that the Netherlands should accept zero refugees, close all asylum centers, withdraw residence permits that have already been granted, and use the money that is currently given to people in the asylum process to support the “ordinary Dutchman.” In addition, immigration from Muslim countries will be banned, and people who hold dual citizenship and have a criminal record will be de-nationalized. Finally, a vote on leaving the European Union will be posed by referendum (the so-called “Nexit”), and the Koran would be banned (this would likely also require a referendum to change the constitution to allow for discrimination against religious groups.)

VVD- Netherlands is obligated to accept refugees, not economic migrants

The Die Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD) is the party of current PM Mark Rutte. Although they arrive at the conclusion in a different way, their position on refugees is nearly as hardline as PVV’s. While refugees are entitled to a safe haven, that should be granted in their own region and not in Europe. In the current situation, they say it is no longer possible to distinguish between refugees and economic migrants, so efforts should be given to stabilizing the region refugees originate from and preventing them from endangering themselves and making problems in the Netherlands. The majority who come to the Netherlands cannot possibly be refugees, VVD argues, as they traveled all the way there, passing through safe regions, so they should not be given false hope and resettled in municipalities. Those who do make it should be processed as quickly as possible and deported as quickly as possible. Anyone who remains must integrate as quickly as possible and pay their own way through language courses, and is entitled to the minimum of public assistance- container houses, healthcare, and food. People who fail to integrate should lose residence rights.

CDA- Refugees must be set up to be able to return

The Christen-Democratisch Appèl or CDA is the once dominant Christian union party that has a center-right viewpoint. On the issue of refugees and asylum, they partially echo the VVD in granting that refugees are entitled to protection, but this protection can be better granted in their own region. This way, they are also better enabled to return when a conflict has ceased. Thus, they support the creation of regional “safe havens” and financial support for governments hosting refugees. Refugees already in Europe should be distributed according to a quota system, with countries who don’t participate losing EU funds. Refugees already within the Netherlands should receive training so that they can be well-prepared to return to their countries as soon as possible- and those countries who will not accept their citizens back should be ineligible for trade or development cooperation. Anyone who will eventually receive Dutch citizenship must give up their previous citizenship, take an integration test and learn Dutch.

SGP – Allow refugees, but combat abuse of the asylum system

The Staatkundig Gereformeerde Parti or SGP is the Dutch Calvinist party, a socially conservative center- right party that received some international attention when it was sued for refusing to allow women into its ranks.  The SGP believes that the Netherlands should continue to accept refugees, especially those who have been persecuted because of their faith, but that as a small and densely populated country, the number of disadvantaged/ economic migrants must be limited and there should be stricter requirements for family reunification. Only those who agree, in writing, that they want to contribute to Dutch society should receive funds for integration courses, and public funding for refugees should be limited to the basics.

CU- Certain groups of asylum seekers are at a higher risk

The ChristenUnie or CU is a socially conservative Christian party, which nevertheless is somewhat liberal on issues such as the environment and immigration. Their position on refugees is that the Netherlands should continue to accept refugees while supporting assistance for them in their origin region and supporting a more equal distribution of refugees throughout Europe. Refugees should be distributed throughout the Netherlands, but in good communication with local municipalities and lots of opportunities for integration and volunteer activities in the home. The asylum process should be sped up so people know what their prospects for staying are as soon as possible and can start to integrate. They are especially concerned about the safety of LGBT and Christian refugees in asylum homes and favor more support for these groups. They also want more attention and special assistance for victims of trafficking, FGM and child marriage, and support a more liberal policy for child refugees. They also advocate basic support (food, shelter) for rejected asylum seekers.

PvDA – We accept refugees but our capacity isn’t limitless

The Partij van de Arbeid or PvdA is the left-leaning worker’s party that focuses on employment and social welfare. In their plan they embrace a European response to the refugee crises with a distribution system, and specifically cite the Geneva Refugee Convention as being the decider of who may stay. But the Netherland’s capacity to help is limited and the country has been put under pressure by accepting refugees- thus they take a strict stance against economic migrants, and encourage more say for municipalities in choosing how many refugees they will accept. A fair asylum policy must make special provisions for the vulnerable, especially children.

SP- Provide ample assistance here and in sending countries

The Socialistische Partij is a leftist social democrat party that takes a Euroskeptic stance on issues like the euro and freedom of movement, hoping to restrict EU policies and migration that suppresses wages. Nevertheless, in their platform they propose a European solution to asylum, namely, that reception centers are placed at international borders and then people found legally able tEo stay are distributed throughout Europe, incuding throughout the Netherlands. Like other parties, they support regional assistance to prevent people from leaving in the first place, and development cooperation in Africa but not with a “post-colonial process.” Refugees within the Netherlands should be equally distributed (“not just in poor neighborhoods”) and should receive ample assistance including mental health care. ‘No one should have to sleep on the streets”, they say, and people in asylum shelter that are at additional risk of violence should receive extra attention.

D66- Smaller numbers mean better opportunities

The Politieke Partij Democraten 66 or D66 is a progressive, pro-democracy and pro-European party founded in 1966. While “not everyone can come to the Netherlands,” they point out that the majority of Syrian refugees are sheltered by neighboring countries. They support strengthening European borders and capacities and accepting genuine refugees (but not economic migrants.) A smaller number of refugees will make opportunities for them to integrate stronger. In the meantime, they deserve assistance and the same rights to housing and healthcare as Dutch people have.

GL- Be realistic and humane towards refugees

The GroenLinks party advocated for a “confident and relaxed” Netherlands and is explicitly in favor of multiculturalism and against racism and discrimination. Their platform on asylum calls out as unrealistic proposals like closing the borders and instead proposes a workable and humane solution. While international development is in order, in the mean time international humanitarian obligations should be followed. They are in favor of European distribution but also believe the applicant’s choice should carry weight – especially in the case of minors who might want to live with relatives.Asylum seekers in the Netherlands should be able to work from day 1 and should have a decision within a reasonable amount of time. Rejected asylum seekers are also entitled to minimal assistance so they don’t end up on the streets.

With these positions in mind, we should be in a good position to speculate where parties have common grounds or irreconcilable differences once we have coalition options come election day (in less than a week!)

Interested in testing out which party suits you best? Stemmen Tracker lets you take a survey and matches your answers to a party.

(Image via Flickr, (CC BY-NC 2.0) http://bit.ly/2m7mezk)