Conversations (258)

Tackling the root causes of forced migration has to be a key plank in EU policies. That means not only seeking resolutions to numerous conflicts creating refugee flows (Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, to name just a few) but also addressing the whole range of human rights abuses that make life in home countries—and countries of first asylum or migration—untenable. And to be clear, I am referring here not only to civil and political rights abuses that come to mind when we talk about asylum seekers and refugees. I am also including social, economic, and cultural rights violations. Many of those risking their lives in the central Mediterranean will not qualify for international protection, though many could arguably qualify for humanitarian leave to stay, either due to hardships back home or abuse experienced along their migration journey. Others started out their journeys as trafficking victims, while still others became victims of trafficking along the way. (The neat divisions traced in international and European law between migrants, asylum seekers and refugees don’t hold up very well in the light of day. A Syrian refugee also wants a decent job and education for her children; the young man from Guinea hoping for greater economic opportunities also craves more freedoms and a life lived in safety.)

Conflict resolution, improving the lives of migrants and refugees in neighboring countries, a human-rights based foreign policy – all vital, all regularly included in EU programs and press releases. As has been noted, however, the reality is quite different. The EU aid and foreign policy has pivoted decisively towards migration control objectives rather than improving respect for human rights. The Partnership Framework for relations with third countries represents a clear articulation of the EU’s goal, significantly re-energized over the past 18 months, to intensify migration cooperation with countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia with the objectives of preventing irregular migratory flows to Europe and facilitating the removal of rejected asylum seekers and irregular migrants from EU territory.

In any event, improving conditions and freedoms in origin and transit countries are very long-term goals. In the meantime, EU countries need to show genuine leadership in the global displacement crisis and get serious about measures to minimize the need for dangerous migration journeys. That means refugee resettlement commensurate with EU capacity and global needs; support for the UN refugee agency UNHCR to expand its capacity to process resettlement; innovative programs for private sponsorship, employment and education visas for refugees; expanding, rather than limiting, family reunification options; increased use of humanitarian visas; and expanded legal migration opportunities for workers at all skill levels. It also means ensuring robust search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

No amount of safe and legal channels will reduce irregular migration to zero. People will continue to come, with or without life jackets but definitely with rights. Those rights cannot be sacrificed in the name of deterrence. Everyone should be treated decently, receive necessary care, and have access to information and legal advice about every procedure affecting their rights and liberties, whether they are applying for asylum, may have humanitarian or other grounds to remain in an EU country, or have been detained pending deportation.

As a human rights activist, I base my work on the belief that positive change is possible. That has become increasingly difficult as we see EU governments close Europe’s doors to refugees and make life harder for those already here. But I still have to believe that EU countries can adopt responsible and compassionate policies.
Well, when it comes to the question of resolving the Syrian war, I am not very hopeful - carefully spoken. While during the Obama administration any solution to the Syrian crisis suffered from the lack of political will in Washington (and Europe) to seriously engage, under Trump we are now even lacking the intellectual capacity.

Maria is totally right in laying out the figures that relativize the size of the European refugee crisis. But I’m not sure the numbers are of great help on the policy advocacy side. European governments have used the same numbers to argue for the need to separate those in need for international protection from those not entitled to any form of protection, the so-called “economic migrants.” They’ve argued assistance to refugees should prioritize helping them to stay near their countries of origin instead of them coming to Europe. All reasonable arguments, but as Maria has also shown on the example of the EU’s distortion of its developmental aid policy, this narrative is contradicted by the EU’s real political performance, and thus merely serves as a cover up.

The real problem is the EU’s lack of internal political will and capacity to seriously, strategically deal with a structural political problem. That’s why since March 2016, we have seen efforts by the EU to arrange a deal with the non-existing Libyan government, but no engagement in the Libyan state-failure nor any progress towards a coordinated European immigration policy that would ease the pressure of economic migration.

Regarding supporting refugees near their home countries – well, it may be worth comparing with the last refugee crisis Europe hit during the 1990s Balkan wars. I well remember how when the Bosnian war broke out, the only policy measure the German Kohl government’s took was – to introduce visas for Bosnian citizens in order to prevent them from coming to Germany. Yet back then, Bosnians could still reach the neighboring countries. Since the end of the recent European refugee crisis, Syrians in Syria basically find themselves locked up in their war-torn country, as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have de facto closed their borders with the neighboring country. This is a unique, deeply sad case in history. And it will ultimately backfire – for the EU, Europe and the West as a whole.
I regret nothing!
The funny thing is that I'm having my own challenges with acting appropriate.
Speaking of coalitions, what is the status of the coalition government in the Netherlands following the election? How will it compare to the recent past?
Examples of those liberal solutions are for example to take action against those who have been denied asylum but nevertheless ignore orders to leave (that's also unfair to those asylum seekers who respect the rules), tackling lawlessness in dodgy areas where poorer people live and liberalising labour market rules and high taxes on labour as this destroys jobs, certainly for those with poor language skills, which as a result complicates their integration into society.

As for the elections in France, it will be interesting to see if far right politician Marine Le Pen makes it into the second round. If she then would face independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, one risk could be that he would be perceived as someone representing the status quo, especially as he's now being endorsed by politicians from President Hollande's socialist party.

In Germany, we'll likely see either a new big coalition of christian democrats and social democrats, with the real question being whether Merkel or Martin Schulz' formation will come first and deliver the Chancellor. A small chance is a coalition with Schulz including greens and far left or one with Merkel including greens and liberal. The rightwing populist AfD has lost support but is still quite certain to enter the Bundestag, all a result of Merkel's turn to the left.

It's because they've tackled people so many times. And each time you tackle someone your nose takes a beating. But, fear not, after getting beaten up, your nose actually gets harder, you see. It forms a hard outer layer, a shell if you will, hence "hard nosed."

Yesterday during the Seahawks game they put up a graphic of how Seattle has all of its elite defensive players locked up for the next 2-4 years. Guys like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, et cetera et cetera.


My first thought was "Wow, that's a hard-nosed defense"


My second was "Exactly how much harder are those noses than your league-avg. defense? And why are their noses hard?"

Zach, you had some ideas on how to increase the number of followers signing up to follow conversations.


I think the longest-running idea we've had is to freeze the Follow button, so at any point while reading the conversation it was visible.


Another great one is to have the Follow button right at the top of the conversation. Even before someone starts to skim they might click to follow. That's pretty common behavior, and something I do in places like Facebook a lot. I'll save a link to read later, or share it before reading it myself.