The afternoon of the 25th June UWE Winchester seminar at 2pm began with an Overview on the Migrant crisis, firstly debunking commonly held myths- there is no such thing as a ‘bogus’ Asylum seeker,nor does Europe take in most of the World’s refugees, 80% are in developing countries. They are not a drain on the public purse as many migrants pay more into the system than those in the UK and according to the 2010 BMA data base there were 1,200 medically qualified refugees.
A distinction must be made between a refugee who has a well- founded fear of persecution for a convention reason,i.e.race, religion, political opinion or psg/particular social group and migrants or immigrants, although many migrants go on to claim asylum.Currently, most asylum seekers come from three countries, Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan.
The Istanbul Convention, full name Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence creates the requisite legal framework . Article 59 requires the UK government to ensure female victims of violence are afforded effective protection , regardless of their immigration status. Article 60 focuses on gender based Asylum claims. This is the first international convention to make the connection between the issue of violence against women and protection in relation to women asylum seekers, signed by the UK on 8/6/12 which led to gradual changes in the Law to comply with it , i.e. FGM and forced marriage. As the Government has not yet ratified it, it is under no legal obligation to meet its requirements.Asylum seekers are entitled to NASS maintenance of £27 per week , accommodation and support and health care appropriate to their needs in England.Net migration from the EU to UK was 172,000 in the last year and from outside the EU 191,000.
Human rights Watch/HRW recommends action by the EU in four areas to address the crisis [see’ Europe’s Refugee crisis’ ,HRW 16/11/15], thus-
Reducing the need for dangerous journeys, addressing the crisis at Europe’s borders, fixing the EU’s broken Asylum system and ensuring the EU co-operates with other countries to improve protection for refugees and respect for Human rights. In 2016 to date there have been 132,177 arrivals in Greece by sea.Whilst Turkey has been a safe haven for many fleeing conflict, it is not regarded as a safe third country as it is not a full member of the Geneva convention .It offers Syrians only a lesser form of protection. HRW has stressed the need for adequate reception centres to process applications ;particularly to counter smuggling and trafficking of women , children and the most vulnerable.
My cousin Olivia [Wellesley-Cole}, a former UNHCR Protection officer,based in Australia now with UNICEF,concentrating on South-East Asia shared these thoughts ,to what extent are the refugees ‘collateral damage’ of other countries ‘ proxy war in Syria?She posed three durable solutions , to the question I’d originally put to her ‘The refugee crisis , an avoidable crisis?’ Return to place of origin, Local integration in place of Asylum, Resettlement [from place of asylum} to a third country.In general, most refugees return home and only a few [maybe 3%-10%]are resettled.There is no obligation under international law to seek international protection at the first effective opportunity,source Expert roundtable on the concept of ‘Effective protection’ in the concept of secondary movements of refugees etc, Dec,2002.
When Germany offered so many places to refugees [over 1million}what was the rest of Europe supposed to do and what did they do? Olivia continued. Why are fences going up in some countries in Europe – Schengen zone? Which countries have or have not signed or ratified the Refugee convention? For those refugees from Syria who initially sought asylum in Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey the conditions there may not have been conducive to ‘effective protection’ which is why some have moved to Europe.This underpins the argument that it would have been better, [more ordered, less chaotic, increased dignity , less lives lost—} if
Europe had offered Resettlement to some of them which would have removed [or at least reduced} the need to make risky boat journeys and long walks across Europe.This is one possible solution to this humanitarian crisis.
Patrice Wellesley-Cole, President-Elect