Migration is one of the most common features that shape history, communities and identities. It is not just a historical occurrence and continues to hold immense relevance to date. Therefore, it is quite unfortunate to see the aversion towards migration demonstrated by a majority of countries.
We do not need to look too far to understand why there has been an escalating international refugee crisis over the last few years. Countries in the Middle East have been caught up in endless civil wars. Since the Arab Spring, there have been violent changes in regime that have resulted in complete political turmoil across Yemen, Libya and Lebanon.
Syria has been divided between the forces that are loyal to Bashar al-Assad and the rebels fighting against his oppressive regime. Its problems have only been exacerbated by the emergence of Isis. So, if you are faced with death and torture from all sides, what will your natural instinct be? The answer is simple: survival. The same applies to migrants fleeing from Afghanistan and the war-torn African countries.
What has the reaction of the host states been towards refugees and asylum-seekers? When refugees undertake perilous voyages to Europe, they are simply labelled as ‘illegal immigrants’. However, we need to know whether these people are truly illegal or their host countries are acting illegally by refusing to accommodate them.
The EU countries, which have been faced with an inflow of refugees since 2014, are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention 1951 and its 1967 Protocol, which obliges them to accommodate refugees who enter their country. Refugees are defined as people who flee the risk of persecution. These are the kind of circumstances that migrants who have fled to Europe are trying to avoid. By not tending to these vulnerable refugees, the states are breaching their international law obligations.
There are countless refugees who are waiting for their applications to be considered for review by the EU states. The refugees, who had been camping at Calais, have been forced away by the authorities who have destroyed the Calais ‘jungle’.
However, the status of immigrants that has posed to be a major political stumbling block for a large part of the Western world. Last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May agreed with French President Emmanuel Macron to contribute GBP 45 billion for extra security at the Calais Border against immigrants seeking asylum in the UK as part of Britain’s wish to secure a trade deal with France post-Brexit.
In addition, the US has just faced its first government shutdown since 2013 after the Congress refused to agree on funds for the government in the absence of the government’s commitment towards safeguarding the Dreamers against deportation. The Dreamers are a group of young people who had migrated to the US and had been granted permission to stay for an extended period by the Obama administration. But now, they are facing deportation under the Trump administration.
These two recent examples show the Western world’s anti-immigration stance and also indicate how immigration has become a huge political challenge. Within Europe, this stance has resulted in unaccompanied children waiting to reunite with their families, which EU member states had committed to under the Dublin Regulation. The UK has also failed to accommodate its stated target of 480 unaccompanied child refugees under the so-called Dubs scheme. This has exposed children to extreme weather conditions and left them vulnerable to exploitation by child traffickers.
This is hardly surprising since we live in a world where the likes of Trump impose travel bans on Muslims and where Britain votes to leave the EU. However, we need to realise that strength doesn’t lie in divisions but in integration.
The writer is an advocate of the high court.
Email: qadirmuneeb gmail.com