The Refugee Crisis and the Battle for Europe’s Soul

The University of Oslo had the honor of hosting Frances Webber as part of its series on Forced Migration.  She provided a stirring account of the present crisis and its impact on the legal and political systems within Europe:

The refugee crisis has polarized the citizens of Europe, between compassion and hostility, solidarity and fear.  But at the level of government, only Angela Merkel bucked the European trend of closing the door- and she had to fight her own party.  In the rush to reinforce Fortress Europe, across the continent standards of justice and of decency are being eroded, and the concept of universal human rights is under unprecedented threat.  Children drown in sea voyages made necessary by rigid visa requirements and punitive carrier sanctions, stand for days in rain, cold and mud at borders and ‘hotspots’, live in shanty towns with no sanitation, dependent on volunteers for food and shelter.  Closed borders and criminalization of unauthorized entry deny rights to access to asylum; procedures are curtailed, with fewer safeguards against wrongful decisions.  Inhuman policies such as confiscation of valuables to pay for detention, are employed or threatened.  Vulnerable people are detained, and deported to danger and death.  The role of lawyers is vital in challenging abuses  and double standards, but so is that of civil society in demanding structures of accountability.

In her lecture, she referred to a decision by the Upper Tribunal on children at Calais, available here .   She also discussed the findings of her report “Unwanted, Unnoticed: an audit of 160 asylum and immigration-related deaths in Europe

The lecture was followed by a debate in which the accountability of both state and IOs was raised, as well as the need for greater transparency, and support for civil society.  The event was conducted in English (even though the title of the video is in Norwegian) and may be viewed here.

Photo by Al Jazeera

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