Issue 78 The Search for Refuge

Introduction

on Wednesday, 27 April 2016. Posted in Issue 78 The Search for Refuge

PdfIconIntroduction

John Guiney SJ and Eugene Quinn

During 2015, in excess of one million refugees and migrants risked their lives in crossing the Mediterranean Sea to enter the European Union. More than 3,700 people, one quarter of them children, died by drowning during the attempt. Europe’s experience of increased forced migration is just one element of a global phenomenon of  escalating displacement of people, as a result of conflict, persecution, extreme poverty, and other human rights violations. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that there are now, worldwide, almost 60 million displaced persons, the highest number since World War II. 

Time to Act: Implementation of the Report of the Working Group on the Protection Process

on Wednesday, 27 April 2016. Posted in Issue 78 The Search for Refuge, Poverty & Inequality

PdfIconTime to Act: Implementation of the Report of the Working Group on the Protection Process

Eugene Quinn

Introduction

The Statement of Government Priorities 2014–2016, which was issued by the Fine Gael and Labour Party Coalition Government in July 2014, included a commitment to ‘treat asylum seekers with the humanity and respect that they deserve ... [and] reduce the length of time the applicant spends in the system ...’.1  

This commitment came against a background where the Irish system of Direct Provision for asylum seekers was featuring regularly in the media, with reports from around the country of protests, enforced transfers, hunger strikes and calls for the closure of accommodation centres. The growing concern about the Direct Provision system was encapsulated in a comment by the then Minister of State with special responsibility for New Communities, Culture and Equality, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD, who said: ‘None of us can stand over it, it’s just not acceptable’.2 

In mid-September 2014, a roundtable consultation was held by the government ministers with responsibility for the operation of the asylum and immigration systems in Ireland to hear the concerns and analyses of NGOs working in the area. Subsequently, in October, the Government established a Working Group which was asked to undertake the first comprehensive review of the protection process, including the Direct Provision system introduced in 2000, and report back to Government with recommendations.3

The EU Refugee and Migrant Crisis: A Shared Responsibility

on Wednesday, 27 April 2016. Posted in Issue 78 The Search for Refuge, Poverty & Inequality, International Issues

PdfIconThe EU Refugee and Migrant Crisis: A Shared Responsibility

David Moriarty

Introduction 

We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery! The boats landing daily on the shores of Europe are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance. (Pope Francis)1

During 2015, over one million migrants and asylum seekers risked crossing the Mediterranean Sea in unsafe boats in an attempt to enter the territory of the European Union. For many, though, this hazardous journey led not to the possibility of a new life in a place of safety and opportunity but tragically to their death: over 3,700 men, women and children, including in some cases several members of the same family, died by drowning while attempting to cross into Europe.  

Asylum and immigration systems categorise people seeking entry from other states as ‘asylum seekers’, ‘refugees’, ‘forced migrants’, ‘economic migrants’. Yet it is important to remember that first and foremost these are people – people who share the same human condition that we do, who share the same hopes and dreams of a better life for themselves and their families. Behind the numbers and statistics are people with names and faces. 

Our Common Humanity: Human Rights and Refugee Protection

on Tuesday, 26 April 2016. Posted in Issue 78 The Search for Refuge, Poverty & Inequality, International Issues

PdfIconOur Common Humanity: Human Rights and Refugee Protection

Colin Harvey

Contexts

The global refugee crisis is raising profound questions about the status and effectiveness of protection regimes at all levels. It should also prompt reflection on the present international order and why, despite the plea of ‘never again’, we still witness human rights violations on massive scales. 

The world remains a structurally unequal place, where social injustice is rampant, and individuals and communities are routinely forced to flee their homes. However small it may now feel, the interdependent world we inhabit is not the welcoming place we might expect. Recognition of our common humanity increasingly runs parallel with exclusion, deterrence and deflection. For many, but not all, the world is a much more tightly regulated space, where states determine the contours of movement on a highly instrumental basis. The lives of individuals and communities become secondary to strategic games lacking in mercy and compassion. The plight of the forcibly displaced therefore presents a distinctive set of challenges: to deliver justice to the ‘stranger’ in need and to struggle for justice and peace in our world.  

Pope Francis continues to place great emphasis on refugee protection, and his work has generated a renewed focus on the social doctrine of the Church. Through word and deed, he demonstrates an openness to the humanity of the refugee. This is reflective of a long-standing practical engagement within the Catholic tradition of respect for the human rights of the forcibly displaced, and an embrace of an inclusive concept of ‘refugee’.1 Underpinning this perspective is a strong alignment with many pressing concerns of the modern human rights movement. At its heart is enduring respect for the dignity of the human person, and a conscious negation of all forms of domination and oppression that deny our inherent dignity. The demand is to experience the person first, as someone in need of our support and help. 

Climate Change and Population Displacement

on Tuesday, 26 April 2016. Posted in Environment, Issue 78 The Search for Refuge

PdfIconClimate Change and Population Displacement

 Catherine Devitt

Introduction

The September 2015 issue of Working Notes had as its main theme, ‘Caring for our Common Home’,1 exploring aspects of our relationship with the natural environment, while providing a strong moral argument for taking urgent action in response to threats to our environment, including those arising from climate change.

Simply put, climate change is the altering of the Earth’s climate due to human-induced atmospheric and terrestrial changes, with significant implications for weather patterns, biodiversity, agriculture, and economic and social systems in general.  

This article opens with an outline of the main ramifications of climate change, followed by a focus on the relationship between climate change and population displacement. The status under international law of people displaced by climate change is considered next, and the article concludes by indicating some of the key issues involved in preventing and responding to climate-related displacement.