Migration Governance in South America: Where is the region heading?

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By Marcia Vera-Espinoza, Leiza Brumat and Andrew Geddes

Migration governance in South America seems to be in transition. Following recent interviews with key actors in in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Ecuador as part of the MIGPROSP project we identify three tendencies in migration policy: ‘retreat’, ‘inertia’ and ‘change’. Together, these tendencies suggest that policy development and change in South America is unlikely to take the form of a unidirectional ‘tide’ be it liberal or illiberal, but will rather be non-linear and dependent on domestic conditions of governance and governability that shape how rhetorical commitments ‘hit the ground’. These conditions can include the state of the economy, but also other critical factors such as changes of government and political will. Read More

“Safe return review” refugee policy: counter-productive and morally indefensible

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Exploring the government’s new refugee policy, Marcia Vera Espinoza, Clara Sandelind, and Brid Ni Ghráinne argue that the process could prove to be damaging in multiple ways, all while not benefitting anyone. They conclude that it will be difficult to enforce, it will erode social cohesion, and will render the processes of integration meaningless.

Opposition has quickly risen against the government’s “safe return review” policy. This new policy means that after five years in the UK, the situation in a refugee’s country of origin will be reviewed and if it is deemed to be “safe”, the UK will seek to return the individual rather than offer them permanent settlement. The previous process, in place since 2005, was a straightforward process that granted settlement when a refugee applied after an initial five years leave granted by their refugee status. Reviews were carried only in exceptional circumstances. The latest policy by the Home Office of actively reviewing all individual cases after 5 years puts in question the UK’s commitment to refugee protection by changing the approach from durable to temporary solutions.

From a legal point of view, the 1951 Refugee Convention permits the cessation of refugee status where it is safe for the individual to return to his country of nationality. In other words, the review policy is not in itself a breach of refugee law. But it is only in very limited circumstances that returns would be lawful. Before removing an individual, states must engage in a thorough analysis of the conditions in the country of nationality. Changes in the circumstances need to be fundamental, such as an end to hostilities, a complete political change, and return to a situation of peace and stability. Such changes also need to be given time to consolidate before any decision on cessation is made. The individual must also be able to re-avail himself of the protection of his country which encompasses physical security and safety, a functioning government, a functioning system of law and justice, and human rights protections. Read More

MIGPROSP PhD researchers’ thoughts ahead of The Dynamics of Regional Migration Governance conference

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By Laura Foley and Andrea Pettrachin

As the two newest recruits to the MIGPROSP project, this is our first conference as part of the team and we are really looking forward to it. The programme for the conference, available here, is packed full of interesting papers and speakers and will make for two days of stimulating discussion. On the eve of the conference, we reflect what we are most excited about for the conference.

Laura: As part of the MIGPROSP project, my research analyses the governance of low-skilled labour migration in Southeast Asia so there are a number of speakers that I look forward to hearing, especially the opening panel on May 25th which includes Nicola Piper and Sandra Lavenex’s paper Regional migration governance in Asia: perspectives ‘from above’ and from below’. In the paper, they contrast the dissociation between formal highly selective mobility norms, which tend to reflect government’s preference for temporary movements of highly skilled professionals, with informal governance “from below” consisting of the “bottom up” mobilisation of civil society actors. In the paper, they seek to identify the venues through which these two largely dissociated processes may be brought closer to another.

On May 26th I am similarly looking forward to hearing Stefan Rother’s paper The uneven migration governance of ASEAN where he explores the uneven governance response to labour migration in Southeast Asia, notably the ‘glaring governance deficit’ of lower-skilled migration. Rother’s contribution will analyse how the governance deficit is addressed by the vibrant civil society in the region who provide ‘migration governance from below’. This is of particular interest as civil society organisations in Southeast Asia are some of the actors that will be included in my research. Read More

The Dutch aren’t turning against immigration – the salience of the immigration issue is what drives Wilders’ support

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by James Dennison, Andrew Geddes, and Teresa Talò

The key story in the 2017 Dutch election campaign so far has been the high levels of support for Geert Wilders’ PVV in opinion polls. But what explains the PVV’s ability to attract voters? James Dennison, Andrew Geddes and Teresa Talò write that although Wilders’ success is frequently linked to hardening views on immigration, attitudes toward immigration in the Netherlands have actually remained fairly stable. The real root of the PVV’s support lies in the salience of the immigration issue itself, partially heightened by media coverage of recent increases in the numbers of migrants entering the country.

2017 has been widely billed as a year of potentially momentous elections across Europe, including in Germany, France and, on 15 March, in the Netherlands. Some commentators have speculated about a domino effect that would see mainstream governments fall as part of a pan-Western backlash against globalisation and high levels of immigration following the British EU referendum and American presidential election of 2016. At first glance, the Dutch election supports this interpretation: polls suggest that the anti-immigration PVV – led by Geert Wilders – may win the most seats of any party in the House of Representatives. If Wilders’ party comes first, should we interpret the result as another example of surging public demand for an end to immigration? Or are such election results less indicative of a radical change in public attitudes than has thus far been assumed? Read More

Argentina’s restrictive turn on migration: Trump’s first imitator in the Americas?

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by Diego Acosta and Leiza Brumat

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Argentina’s history and national identity are inextricably linked to immigration. Indeed, between 1880 and 1930 the country was the world’s second largest recipient of migrants, behind only the US. The immigration policies of both nations were often aligned during the period. In 1902, for example, Argentina adopted a law facilitating the expulsion of foreigners amid concerns about labour movements and anarchists; in 1903 the US banned the naturalization of anarchists. After the US approved its 1917 Immigration Act, which excluded from entry numerous groups including epileptics, alcoholics, criminals, beggars, and those with a physical disability, Argentina quickly reacted with similar laws in 1919 and 1923, fearful that those denied permission to disembark in US ports would continue their journeys to Buenos Aires. Read More

More pathways for migrants to Europe can foil people smugglers – border clampdowns will not

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by Andrew Geddes and Luigi Achilli

By Ggia - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45246844

Syrian and Iraqi refugees arrive in Lesbos, Greece, from Turkey. Photo by Ggia – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45246844

The ongoing migration and refugee crisis topped the agenda at a meeting of EU political leaders in the Maltese capital, Valletta, earlier this month. Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, captured the urgency of the situation when he told the European Parliament in late January: “The European Union will be seriously tested unless we act now.”

The backdrop to this meeting is a dystopian image of Europe threatened by a migrant invasion of epic proportions managed by a criminal cartel of smugglers and traffickers. This nightmare vision continues to fuel resurgent populist and extreme right political parties. Containment and prevention of migrants reaching the EU, plus efforts to strengthen cooperation with neighbouring countries such as Libya, are widely seen as necessary political responses. Read More

How can global migration governance find innovative solutions in times of anti-immigrant sentiment?

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by Marcia Vera Espinoza

Hague_Institute_FlagEarlier this month experts from around the world gathered at The Hague Institute for a two-day workshop on global migration governance as part of the Global Governance Reform Initiative (GGRI). The GGRI is a joint project between The Hague Institute, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation (New Delhi) that seeks to analyse the deficiencies of the current international system in key areas of governance and propose policies and initiatives for improvement. Read More

Brazil’s new migration law: a huge step forward for migrant rights protection

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by Diego Acosta

brazil-1542335_960_720This week (6 December) the Brazilian Congress voted by a majority of more than 70% in favour of the adoption of a new migration law. This law will replace the present framework adopted in 1980 during the military dictatorship (though it will only come into force after ratification by the Senate and six months after its official publication).

Despite its recent financial and political problems, Brazil remains a key country in the global arena. Together with Russia, India and China, Brazil is one of the BRICs and an economic giant – indeed the ninth largest economy in the world. Moreover, Brazil is both an emigration and immigration country and a crucial actor in the development of free movement of people and the bid to construct a regional citizenship in South America. Read More

Comparing migration governance in Europe and South America

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By Diego Acosta and Andrew Geddes

How do regional responses to migration differ in Europe and South America? This is the question tackled by new MIGPROSP research, published in the European Journal of Migration and Law.

Points of contact

There are important points of contact between Europe and South America.

  • The European Community (as it then was) strongly supported MERCOSUR’s creation in 1991.
  • In 2011, there were 3.1 million nationals of South American countries residing in the EU and around 1.3 million EU nationals who’d moved in the other direction.

But there are tensions too. The EU’s 2008 law on the return of irregular migrants, known as the Returns Directive, prompted a strongly critical reaction from South American governments.
A MERCOSUR declaration deplored the directive and pointed out the hospitality offered by South American countries to large numbers of European migrants. Read More

Free movement in South America: the emergence of an alternative model?

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by Diego Acosta

 

MERCOSUROver the last 15 years, South American governments and regional organisations have adopted an expansive discourse about migration that entails welcoming all migrants and promoting the free movement rights of foreigners. At a time when the European Union (EU) free movement regime has suffered a major setback with the United Kingdom voting to leave the bloc—an outcome heavily influenced by concerns over intra-EU mobility—South America’s move seems all the more noteworthy.

In contrast to their counterparts in Europe and the United States, South American politicians and civil servants stress the universality of migrants’ rights and the inefficacy of restrictive responses to migration. Read More