October 7, 2022

Tag: EU-Asia

DimitrisAvramopoulos, Immigration, Miscellaneous

Outsourcing asylum

As the EU considers outsourcing asylum screening to North Africa, our Migration Editor looks at what lessons can be learned from Australia’s use of offshore processing for asylum seekers.

Australia’s offshore processing centre for asylum seekers on Manus Island

LONDON, 17 March 2015 (IRIN) – As Europe braces for a summer of record maritime migrant arrivals, the EU has revived plans to establish processing centres beyond the borders of the Union. 

All indications are that the onset of calmer waters on the Mediterranean will lead even more people to attempt the crossing this year than did in 2014, when over 170,000 reached Italy’s shores alone. As conflicts in Syria, Libya and elsewhere rage on, over 8,000 migrants and asylum seekers arrived by sea in the first two months of 2015 compared to 5,500 during the same period last year, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
 
Amid a growing sense of alarm, particularly among EU “frontline” states such as Italy and Greece, which receive the vast majority of sea arrivals, some European officials have renewed their enthusiasm for an old proposal to process migrants and asylum seekers outside the EU.

Germany’s Interior Minister was among the first to dust off the idea of setting up asylum centres in North Africa and Italy took up the proposal at a meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels last week. The EU’s home affairs commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters afterwards that he would be visiting Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco “in order to create a zone in the area” to counter smuggling and irregular migration. 

“It’s about a humanitarian mission which would allow Europe to do screening and to dismantle a huge human trafficking market,” Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, explained. 

The proposal is being sold as a way to reduce the flow of migrants and asylum seekers embarking on perilous journeys to Europe by offering them legal ways to apply for visas or asylum in transit and origin countries. 

However, there are lessons to be learned here from Australia, where offshore processing began, ostensibly at least, as a way to ensure fair distribution of resettlement places; it has now overtly become a policy aimed at deterring migrants and refugees from ever reaching Australian soil. 

Australia started down the road of offshore processing more than 10 years ago when it began transferring asylum seekers intercepted at sea to detention centres on Nauru and Manus Islands. Measures implemented since then have become increasingly draconian and the evidence of human rights abuses at the offshore processing centres has piled up.

Canberra ignored warnings from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) that it was flouting its obligation as a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention to ensure people can access asylum, and recently wrote those obligations out of its domestic migration laws.  

In late 2013, Australia launched a military-led operation that has intercepted and turned back almost every boat carrying asylum seekers from Indonesia. Those detained on Nauru and Manu who are eventually recognized as refugees, can now only be resettled in Papua New Guinea, Nauru or Cambodia, according to bilateral agreements Australia has made with those countries.

“If you follow the logic of Australia’s policy, then you are going down a slippery slope”

“It’s become an out-of-sight, out-of-mind policy,” said Melissa Phillips, a migration researcher with the University of Melbourne. “If you follow the logic of Australia’s policy, then you are going down a slippery slope.”

There is no indication that Europe intends to follow Australia’s lead and intercept boats and send migrants to third countries for detention or processing of asylum applications. But public pressure on European governments to deter new arrivals is increasing – be it by detaining migrants or tightening borders.

However, different countries have different priorities and agendas when it comes to migration, and a system of processing asylum seekers in non-EU countries would depend on an agreement among member states about how recognized refugees would be distributed across the EU. Considering that a Common European Asylum Policy is still something of a pipedream and even the resettlement of Syrian refugees has been extremely uneven, it seems unlikely that member states will reach a consensus on this particular point.

Migrants detained in Libya, the departure point for most heading to Europe by sea

There are a number of other practical hurdles to setting up offshore reception centres, not least the question of their location. As the majority of boat departures in the past year have been from Libya, locating processing centres there would make sense except that Libya is in the midst of a violent conflict that is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco are potential candidates, judging by the EU home affairs commissioner’s remarks, but all three have worrying human rights records. How will the EU ensure that whichever country or countries end up hosting the reception centres, it runs them in compliance with international and EU refugee and human rights laws? 

The legitimacy and legality of the policy would depend to a large extent on endorsement and technical assistance from UNHCR. William Spindler, a spokesperson for UNHCR, told IRIN that although the refugee agency has not ruled out third-country processing of asylum claims through multilateral arrangements “in exceptional circumstances” and “subject to appropriate safeguards”, “UNHCR’s position is that asylum seekers should normally be processed in the territory of the State in which they arrive.”

He added that UNHCR is advocating for offering other legal avenues for those seeking international protection in the EU such as humanitarian visa schemes, extended family reunification and increased resettlement places more evenly distributed across member states. 

Migration researcher Nando Sigona who is based at the University of Birmingham, noted in a recent blog that “proposals like this are easier to write on paper than implement in practice and would require a significant devolvement of financial and human resources”. 

“It is over ten years that similar proposals championing externalisation of asylum processing are on the table but they never fully reach implementation stage,” he added. 

The current sense of urgency driving EU migration policy may be enough to get the current proposal off the drawing board. If so, will Europe avoid Australia’s “slippery slope”?

ks/am

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edu, Miscellaneous

East Asia and the Pacific: Extraordinary Meeting of the Friends of the Lower Mekong

On February 2, Counselor Tom Shannon and Senior Advisor to the Secretary Ambassador David Thorne led a U.S. delegation to the Extraordinary Meeting of the Friends of the Lower Mekong in Pakse, Laos. The Friends of the Lower Mekong, a donor coordination group, came together with the countries of the Lower Mekong to discuss the connection between water resources, energy needs and food security. Accompanying Counselor Shannon and Ambassador Thorne were representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy.

The health of the Mekong River is essential to the economic growth and sustainable development of the region. In Cambodia, the Mekong supports the rich biodiversity of a watershed that provides more than 60% of the protein intake for the entire country. The river irrigates the “rice bowl” in Vietnam, where more than half of the nation’s rice production is concentrated in the provinces that make up the Mekong delta. In Laos, Thailand, and Burma, the Mekong is an important artery for transportation, a water source for aquaculture and agriculture, and a generator of electricity.

Meeting participants discussed the challenges of ensuring a future in which economic growth does not come at the expense of clean air, clean water and healthy ecosystems. The meeting brought together senior officials from Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam alongside representatives from the United States, the Mekong River Commission, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Union, and the governments of Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

At the meeting, the U.S. delegation announced several new initiatives, including the launch of USAID’s Sustainable Mekong Energy Initiative (SMEI). Through the SMEI, the United Stateswill promote the use of alternative energy and low-emission technologies. The delegation also announced that the Department of State will organize and send a Sustainable Energy Business Delegation to the region later this year.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will provide technical assistance on hydropower management. In conjunction, Counselor Shannon and Ambassador Thorne announced that the State Department will contribute $500,000 in support of a Mekong River study on the impacts of hydropower on the community and environment.

The Friends of the Lower Mekong will also work together to strengthen the capacity of Lower Mekong countries to more effectively implement social and environmental safeguards such as environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental analyses. The U.S. government, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Japanese International Cooperation Agency and the Government of Australia plan to jointly develop a Regional Impact Assessment Training Center at the Asian Institute of Technology Center in Vietnam.

Under the auspices of the Lower Mekong Initiative the United States is continuing successful projects like Smart Infrastructure for the Mekong (SIM) to provide technical assistance to the region on land and water use management, renewable energy, and infrastructure development. $1.5 million will be spent on SIM projects in the Mekong region this year.

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EuropeanParliament, Miscellaneous

EIB and Bhutan sign a Framework Agreement for capital investments

EIB and Bhutan sign a Framework Agreement for capital investments

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EIB and Bhutan sign a Framework Agreement for capital investments

Román Escolano, EIB Vice-Président and Bhutan ‘s Finance Minister, Lyonpo Namgay Dorji

08/12/2014

Rights Free

On Thursday 4 December, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union’s long-term financing institution and Kingdom of Bhutan signed a Framework Agreement under which the Bank can start financing capital investments in the country.

The agreement was signed by the EIB Vice-President with special responsibility for the Bank’s activities in Asia, Román Escolano and his Excellency Lyonpo Namgay Dorji, Finance Minister of the Royal Government of Bhutan in Thimphu, capital of Bhutan.

The EIB is the long-term lending institution of the European Union and its shareholders are the EU Member States. Its remit is to make long-term finance available for viable projects in order to contribute towards EU policy objectives. Outside the EU, the Bank support projects that contribute to economic development in countries that have signed association or cooperation agreements with the EU or its Member States.

In Asia, the European Investment Bank has so far signed Framework Agreements with Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and Yemen.

The signing of the Framework Agreement represents the first step of the EIB to support development projects in Bhutan. EIB is cooperating closely with the European Commission and the EEAS, in support of the EU’s policy objectives in the country. In pursuing sustainable investments in Bhutan, the Kingdom of Bhutan and EIB already discussed potential projects in the country, namely in the areas of energy and water infrastructure.

The EIB has been active in Asia since 1993 under mandates granted by the EU Council and the European Parliament. During this period the EU bank has signed contracts in the region for a total of EUR 5.6 billion. On 1 July 2014 the EU’s new External Lending Mandate, covering the period 2014-2020, entered into force. Part of the current mandate is dedicated to Asia, enabling the EIB to finance operations that contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation or the development of sustainable economic infrastructure. Additionally, the EIB can also draw on its own resources under the Climate Action and Environment Facility or the Strategic Projects Facility to finance relevant projects on a selective basis.

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Miscellaneous

And the Most Transparent Aid Donor Is…UNDP

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The UN Development Program is atop a new list published by the International Aid Transparency Index. And in case you were wondering, China is on the bottom. Overall, donor countries are off pace to meet their promise to join the transparency standard by the end of 2015. “A lot of progress was made at the political level in the early days of aid transparency, including a promise to publish aid information to an internationally-agreed common standard by the end of 2015,” said Rachel Rank, Director of Publish What You Fund. (Humanopshere http://bit.ly/1BSDrNG)

Man who brought Ebola to USA Dies…Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died on Wednesday morning at a Dallas hospital. This was the first death of an ebola patient in the developed world. “Duncan became ill after arriving in the Texas city from Liberia on Sept. 20 to visit family, heightening concerns the world’s worst Ebola outbreak on record could spread outside of the three worst-hit West African countries. About 48 people with whom Duncan had been in contact are being monitored.” (Reuters http://bit.ly/1BSHk5p)

Most of the world’s governments are taking measures to reduce the worst and most hazardous forms of child labor, according to a major report released by the U.S. Labour Department. (IPS http://bit.ly/1vRfh6C)

Ebola

Britain will send 750 troops to West African state Sierra Leone to help build an Ebola treatment centre, the BBC reported on Wednesday following a meeting of the government’s emergency response committee chaired by Prime Minister David Cameron. (BBC http://bit.ly/1t36PlQ)

The deadly Ebola epidemic could deal a $32 billion-plus blow to the West African economy over the next year if officials cannot get it under control, the World Bank warned Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1BSF4uW)

Sierra Leone burial teams have gone back to work one day after organizing a strike over pay and abandoning the dead bodies of Ebola victims in the capital. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BSE75Y)

Travelers arriving in the United States from Ebola-stricken Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will face mandatory screening measures for the deadly virus as soon as this weekend, according to a media report on Wednesday. (CNN http://bit.ly/1BSHHNg)

The United Nations mission in Liberia says a second member of its staff has contracted Ebola. In a statement Wednesday, the mission said the international medical official is undergoing treatment, but did not specify their nationality. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t38QOU)

Africa

An angry crowd killed a Muslim man in the capital of Central African Republic overnight, decapitating and burning his corpse, and in revenge Muslims killed a taxi driver, witnesses said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1t36gYY)

A court in Tanzania granted bail to an opposition member of parliament on Wednesday and eight others after charging them with illegal protests for demonstrating last week against a draft constitution. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1t36X4F)

The new head of the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, Ellen Margrethe Loej, called for “the guns to fall silent” in South Sudan to allow the United Nations and aid agencies to stop focussing on protecting people from violence and start helping the young country to grow. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vRf8ji)

Somalia’s first-ever cash withdrawal machine has been installed in the capital, Mogadishu. (VOA http://bit.ly/1qjb0Cm)

MENA

The governments of Europe and the United States have criticized Israel for announcing it will build 2,600 new housing units in a sensitive part of East Jerusalem. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t39oUK)

The U.N. refugee agency on Wednesday said it was urging the European Union to overhaul its policy toward Syrian refugees, warning the number of fatal accidents at sea could rise further as winter approaches. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BSEQ71)

Asia

Pakistan is losing ground in the battle against polio, with the country suffering its worst outbreaks in more than a decade, but suspicions about the vaccine itself are also proving an obstacle. (VOA http://bit.ly/1BSMrlX)

Five Afghan men were hanged on Wednesday for the gang rape of four women despite the United Nations and human rights groups criticising the trial and urging new president Ashraf Ghani to stay the executions. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1BSDU2s)

Authorities sealed off villages in Myanmar’s only Muslim-majority region and in some cases beat and arrested people who refused to register with immigration officials, residents and activists say, in what may be the most aggressive effort yet to force Rohingya to indicate they are illegal migrants from neighboring Bangladesh. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BSEFbP)

Indian PM Modi, in his biggest attempt at fiscal change since he swept to power in May, has been less bold than some would wish, steering clear of reforming the most sensitive and costly benefits – food and fertilisers. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1t356gf)

Rescuers and fishermen found eight survivors and 17 bodies Wednesday after two days of searching for a motorboat lost since its captain reported an engine failure off Indonesia’s main island of Java. (AP http://yhoo.it/1t35Zp4)

Cambodia enacted a regulation Wednesday to protect nightclub hostesses and other adult entertainment workers under the same laws that protect other workers’ rights, a move that was hailed by the U.N.’s labor body. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BSFZvx)

Protracted fighting in northern Myanmar is displacing entire villages, including those of ethnic Palaung, who say they need more help to build up local civil society groups to allow aid to flow more effectively to their people. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1t37p2K)

The Americas

Colombia must invest at least $44.4 billion to implement a peace deal with Marxist rebels to end a 50-year conflict, says a senator who backs the current peace talks, adding the amount is much less than the cost of waging war. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1t36nUv)

As sea levels rise, tidal flooding along the U.S. coast is likely to become so common that parts of many communities, including the nation’s capital, could become unusable within three decades, according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1t353AV)

Opinion/Blogs

Meet the Company That’s Bringing the LED Revolution to the Developing World (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/Zep2i6)

When it comes to aid, learn from those who know what poverty is really like (Guardian http://bit.ly/1t37gML)

Alibaba.com: Supermarket for torture devices? (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1BSHTfz)

A big deal in the ICC: 6 questions with GlobalPost’s Tristan McConnell http://bit.ly/1BSHWb2)

Rethinking US Foreign Assistance: MCC Tops US Government in Aid Transparency Again (CGD http://bit.ly/1t37eVl)

Alternatives to refugee camps: Can policy become practice? (IRIN http://bit.ly/1BSIKNb)

Marine Protection as Stand-Alone Goal for Post-2015 Agenda? (IPS http://bit.ly/1qjbpor)

How do donors imagine more effective humanitarian aid? (OECD http://bit.ly/1qjbLv4)

Africa On the Rise – a Myth or Reality? (New Times http://bit.ly/1qjcFYG)

Journalists Must Avoid Mass Hysteria Over Ebola (allAfrica http://bit.ly/1vRgIC1)

Categories: Uncategorized

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