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Complex Problems with Asylum in the U.S.

It is no secret that the U.S. immigration system is broken. With thousands of immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S., Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is detaining them at the border. CBP has effectively jailed immigrant children in detention camps. There are somewhat secretive limits on asylum applications. In order to fix a system, it is necessary to first understand its complexities. The U.S. immigration structure as a whole is a huge and complex system that cannot be simplified into one article. This article will discuss the asylum process and specific areas that have begun to undermine asylum in the U.S.

What is the asylum process?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website defines asylum applicants as people who are “seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.” The process begins after an immigrant enters the U.S. either under a different status or as an asylum applicant. An immigrant seeking asylum is required to file a form with USCIS  within one year of entering the country. They must provide extensive evidence that the applicant has a credible fear of returning to his or her home country.

As per regulation, applicants for asylum in the U.S. are able to make a claim at the U.S. border crossing or while they are in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes custody with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In fact, there is no way to request asylum in advance. Olga Byrne, Director of Immigration for the non-profit International Rescue Committee, confirmed that “There’s no way to ask for a visa or any type of authorization in advance for the purpose of seeking asylum. You just have to show up.”

After arriving at the border and going through an initial asylum interview. The interviewer then determines whether the applicant’s fear is credible. If the interviewer determines that there is a credible fear, then the applicant is released and given a court date to plead their case before an immigration judge in addition to filing the USCIS form. If it is found not credible, DHS begins deportation proceedings, though the applicant does have the option of requesting that his or her case be heard by an immigration judge.

What are the immediate problems?

The first and most immediate issue is the lack of legal counsel. The government does not provide counsel to immigrants going through the asylum process. Navigating the U.S. legal system can be difficult for anyone, let alone an asylum seeker that may or may not have full command of the English language. Having an attorney makes a significant difference. A 2016 study by Syracuse University found that having representation increases an applicant’s chances of approval for an asylum case by 40 percent.

In the same study, researchers found that 90 percent of claims for asylum in the U.S. without representation are ultimately denied. This is partly because the burden of proof is entirely on the applicant to show to the courts and USCIS that he or she is eligible under the regulations. This can be a difficult prospect for someone who does may struggle with the language or lacks have access to documents containing regulations and applicable evidence while detained.

The second issue is immense pressure to deny cases. Former immigration judge Jeffry S. Chase confirms that immigration judges are assigned quotas for cases each year. Every day, each judge sees a dashboard of their statistics with a green/yellow/red layout to show them whether they are getting through the appropriate amount of cases each day. Though the quotas are meant to help keep cases moving forward, in reality, they push judges to deny cases since denials go faster. Pushing through cases means that applicants and attorneys do not have time to build the record of evidence and ultimately build their case.

What can people do to help?

There are multiple organizations that provide pro bono representation to asylees. The Immigration Justice Campaign is an organization devoted to providing due process for non-U.S. citizens. Another organization is the American Association of Immigration Lawyers’ pro bono project, which provides pro bono immigration counsel to vulnerable populations such as asylum seekers.

For long-term solutions, it is important that people continually contact their representatives about issues in immigration. One can support immigration reform, such as getting rid of judge quotas or providing those seeking asylum in the U.S. with free legal counsel. Government employees generally are not allowed to disclose any information about their work nor are they allowed to speak publically about what goes on behind the scenes at USCIS, DHS, or similar governmental organizations, but that does not mean that they do not care. There are people in government who want to help, but they need citizens to speak up and speak out against unfair immigration policies.

The immigration system as a whole has problems, but they are not irreversible. The asylum process is currently complicated and difficult, but it does not have to be that way. With the right amount of political activism from U.S. citizens and cooperation, change is possible.

Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

African Immigration to Spain
While Eastern and Central Europe have been dealing with the brunt of the refugee crisis—thanks to conflicts in Syria and the rest of the Middle East—Western Europe is far from unaffected. However, a large number of immigrants in Spain originate from West Africa, and they come to Spain for a variety of different reasons; both as refugees, and in search of economic opportunity unavailable to them in their home countries. This article takes a look at the causes of African immigration to Spain, as well as the living conditions immigrants experience in their new host country.

Five Questions and Answers

1. Why are People from Western and Central Africa Leaving their Home Countries?

The short answer is a variety of reasons. While the overall volume of immigrants to Europe has dropped to pre-2015 levels, African immigration to Spain is still spurred by more than just garden-variety economic migration—though that certainly still plays a large role. The reasons for migration vary greatly by gender, with most men emigrating for economic reasons while most women are leaving due to threats of violence.

2. Why Spain?

Spain has a labor shortage and is more welcoming to migrants than other European countries. While geography is a major factor in emigration from Spain to Africa (the Strait of Gibraltar is slightly over seven nautical miles from the African mainland to Spain), Spain has—until very recently—been a notable exception to the anti-immigrant sentiment overtaking much of Europe. The current Spanish government is center-left, with over 80 percent of adult poll respondents saying that they would be in favor of taking in irregular refugees. New agricultural sectors in the south of Spain—mainly greenhouse farming—have also created an unskilled economy that few Spaniards find attractive, but looks promising to refugees.

3. How do Immigrants get There?

Refugees arrive in Spain either by the Spanish enclaves in Morocco or the dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean. The most immediate destination for African immigration to Spain is the enclave city of Ceuta, which is politically Spanish and geographically Moroccan but is governed more or less autonomously, like Catalonia or the Basque Country. Some also arrive via ship, in the infamously choppy Mediterranean. The first decision of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s administration was to admit the Aquarius, a ship of more than 600 migrants, into Spain after Italy turned it away.

4. What Kind of Life is Waiting for Immigrants Once they Arrive?

“Nobody talks about what it’s really like.” Many of the African migrants in Spain live in the southern regions, doing seasonal agricultural work. This is especially true for the men who emigrated to Spain for economic reasons, trying to send money back home to their loved ones. Despite the supposed greater economic opportunity that comes from a Eurozone nation, many of the African migrants in Spain live in ramshackle chabolas, makeshift shacks comprised of wood and plastic leftover from agricultural scrap. In these settlements, more migrants have mobile phones than access to a toilet or kitchen.

5. Is Spain’s Generosity Towards Migrants Coming to an End?

The short answer is yes. The majority of African immigration to Spain comes through Morocco and the Strait of Gibraltar, but the path of many migrants does not end there. Recently, Spain has come under fire from other European leaders for being the exception to an otherwise-ubiquitous tight border policy, which has put pressure on the Spanish government to somehow stem the tide. In response, Spain has outsourced its border security to Morocco, the country that processes most migrants to Spain. This has alarmed left-leaning political groups and human rights NGOs, who claim that Morocco’s human rights record is inadequate.

While Spain has upheld the Sanchez government’s initial promise of being more accepting of migrants, large-scale African immigration to Spain and pressure from other European leaders has prompted a tightening of the flow of migrants through Morocco and the Mediterranean. While the conditions African migrants find in Spain are far from luxurious, the work is good enough for them to continue to migrate. What Spain ultimately decides to do in regard to the influx of immigrants from Africa could either continue to serve as a lone exception to the rest of Europe or join the continent in its increasing anxiety over immigration.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

Pros of Immigration

While many view immigration as a cultural crisis, the pros of immigration are significant. Immigration is a point of contention as immigrants change the face of a population and bring their own culture with them. Moreover, immigrants receive criticism if they do not fully integrate, by not speaking the country’s primary language. Some people simply feel there’s no room for immigrants. They fear their jobs will be taken or undercut by the low wages some immigrants are willing to work for.

In spite of these concerns, it is undeniable that immigrants infuse much needed vitality into the economy. They build businesses, create jobs and bring new perspectives. Most importantly, welcoming immigrants supports and promotes an international standard of human rights. Everyone should be able to settle somewhere safe, healthy and stable—especially if their native country is not so.

Below is an immigration case study of sorts, demonstrating the economic benefits of immigration in Japan, the U.S., and Western Europe.

Japan

Plagued by an aging population and declining birth rates, immigration provides Japan with a new source of young workers. The Japanese Health Ministry predicts that by 2060, the country’s population will fall to 86.74 million. This is a 40 million decrease since 2010. Currently, 20 percent of Japan’s population is over 65 years old. As a result, this burdens Japan’s shrinking workforce with the funds for their pensions and healthcare. But immigration into Japan ensures the nation’s economy can maintain itself as people retire.

Japan is historically unwelcoming to immigrants, believing peace and harmony to be rooted in homogeneity. As such, the nation’s immigration policy reflects this. Japan only allows a small number of highly skilled workers into the country. This policy has been in place since 1988 to combat labor shortages. However, this is no longer enough to combat Japan’s worsening economy. In 2018, labor shortages in the nation were the highest they had been in 40 years.

However, the pros of immigration in Japan are clear. Without it, Japan faces an incredibly insecure economic future. With no sign of population growth, the nation’s perpetually shrinking workforce will become unable to support its retired citizens. However, immigrants can round out the workforce in Japan. And they can neutralize any economic woes the nation might face in the future by preventing labor shortages.

USA

The cultural and economic contributions immigrants have made to America are vast, overwhelmingly advantageous and long-lasting.

A study done by economists at Harvard, Yale and the London School of Economics found US counties that accepted more immigrants between 1860 and 1920 are doing better today as a result. These counties have significantly higher incomes, higher educational achievement, less poverty and lower unemployment because immigrants provided the low-skilled labor needed to support rapid industrialization. Undeniably, immigrants have always and still continue to increase economic growth in America.

Similarly, immigrants in the U.S. have been integral to innovation and entrepreneurship. Half of all startups in America worth over a billion dollars have been founded by immigrants. Eleven of these startups employ more than 17,000 people in the U.S. Some of these companies, such as Uber and WeWork, have significantly changed American culture. They modify the way Americans live their daily lives. Therefore, the pros of immigration in the U.S. are grounded in the diversity of thought brought by immigrants, necessary to further American innovation and economic growth.

Western Europe

Like Japan, Western Europe is battling an aging population and declining birth rates. Fertility rates are expected to hit zero in the next decade. Consequently, this region may not be able to sustain its expansive social welfare programs as its workforce shrinks and retired populations grow. In Germany, the median age is 47.1 years, the oldest in Western Europe. This is only slightly younger than Japan’s 47.3 years. Besides convincing its native populations to have more children, immigration is their only alternative.

Immigration into Western Europe is an undeniable win for both the immigrants and the host countries. Many new immigrants in Western Europe have escaped unstable regimes, religious persecution, and economic downturn in North African and Middle Eastern countries. Thus, immigrants give the region a younger workforce that is able to sustain the region’s expensive social benefits. In return, Western Europe provides immigrants with jobs, stability, and a safe place to live.

While still a very divisive topic, the pros of immigration lie in its plethora of economic benefits. It is undeniable that immigration has always been the driver of economic growth, despite all of the criticism. Immigration provides immigrants with an alternative to oppressive regimes and other instability, of course. And the pros of immigration for nations absolutely outweigh the cons.

Jillian Baxter
Photo: Pixabay

Refugee Sanitation Facility Act
The Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act was scheduled to be seen by the House of Representatives the week of May 20, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. During this period, the bill moved through the House but still has to pass the Senate. Reintroduced after December 2018 revisions by sponsor Grace Meng (D-NY-6), the bill aims to “provide women and girls safe access to sanitation facilities in refugee camps.”

Moving the Bill Forward

In April, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted for the bill to be seen by the rest of the House for a vote. Co-sponsored by 42 representatives, the bill is an international affairs policy that would call the Department of State to ensure safe and sanitary conditions for refugees being held by the US government, with special focus on the conditions where women, children and vulnerable populations are present. It is intended to be an addition to the preexisting Section 501 of the Foreign Relations Act, U.S. code 2601 that states “the provision of safe and secure access to sanitation facilities, with a special emphasis on women and girls, and vulnerable populations.”

A Rising Crisis

According to the American Immigration Council, the number of people forcibly displaced around the world grew from 42.7 million to 68.5 million between 2007 and 2017. Under United States law, a refugee is “A person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution’ due to race, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin.” This definition has been a part of US law since as early as the 1951 United Nations Convention. Since January 2017, the admission of refugees into the U.S. has dramatically declined. The Trump administration lowered the refugee admissions ceiling from 110,000 (set under the Obama administration) to 50,000.

As of July 2018, there were over 733,000 pending immigration cases and the average wait time for an immigration hearing was 721 days. The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act requires all individuals seeking asylum at ports of entry to be detained until said hearing. Jarring images of these detention centers have been shared online, with depictions of children sleeping in cages and on the ground with no blankets. The Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act can help in providing more dignified conditions for refugees.

Though there are some organized efforts to provide sanitation to refugee camps, none of them are mandated by law. The Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act of 2019 would reflect in U.S. law the priority of treating all on its lands with human dignity.

– Ava Gambero

Photo: Flickr

closed its ports

Recently, Italy‘s newly formed government has closed its ports to migrant ships. The new political atmosphere is run by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League party, known for its strong anti-immigration beliefs.

In particular, a rescue ship named Aquarius, which was carrying 629 rescued migrants on board from 26 countries in Africa, was denied entry into an Italian port on June 10. The ship was forced to stay out at sea until another European country, Spain, gave the ship access to its ports the next day.

The new Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, who is also the League’s leader, made the decision to close Italy’s ports. In the past, Salvini has called Sicily “the refugee camp of Europe,” and his actions reflect Italy’s struggle with the high numbers of refugees arriving each week. The Italian government wants Europe as a whole to play a larger role in accepting refugees.

Why Italy Has Closed its Ports

Since 2013, 690,000 immigrants have arrived in Italy. While some may be legal, many are not and 500,000 of them still reside in Italy. Among them are denied asylum seekers and those who have overstayed their visa.

In 2017 alone, 120,000 migrants arrived and the Italian government has estimated that 4.2 billion is the cost of taking them in, roughly $4.9 billion. That figure is divided between caring for asylum seekers, who are generally not allowed to work, as well as paying for sea rescues and providing medical assistance. This is one of many contributing factors as to why Italy has closed its ports.

Italy’s Changing Relationship to Refugees

In 2017, Italy formed a deal with Libya to enforce Libya’s coastguard in order to keep migrant ships from entering Italy. Since the deal, in the first five months of 2018, the number of migrants reaching Italian ports has dropped to 13,808. This is down 84 percent compared to the same period of time in 2017.

Part of Salvini’s campaign was to repatriate at least 500,000 migrants during his five-year term, as Italians have grown increasingly afraid of migrants and associate higher crime rates to the influx of migrants. Italy has closed its ports as a way to combat this sentiment.

International and National Response

As the nation has closed its ports, mayors across the south of Italy have spoken out against this decision and have pledged to open their ports to these rescue boats. However, without the direct support of the Italian coastguard, it is unlikely that much can be done.

This sentiment, however, gives hope to the changing attitudes toward helping these migrants. It demonstrates that opinions are changing and that people are more interested in saving the lives of refugees, rather than keeping them out.

As a response to Italy having closed its ports, European leaders and humanitarian groups have denounced this decision. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees appealed to Italy and Malta, stating that issues such as these should be addressed after the rescue and that the lives of the migrants should have been put first. Furthermore, Spain and France have offered to help take in the migrants.

As a solution, the European Council President Donald Tusk has proposed regional disembarkment platforms outside of the European Union. This would allow a more manageable way to differentiate between economic migrants and migrants in need of protection. As a result, the strain would be taken off countries such as Italy and allow for a more efficient system, which would benefit E.U. countries, the migrants and public sentiment toward this issue.

– Trelawny Robinson
Photo: Flickr

PianoterraIn Italian, “pianoterra” translates to “ground floor.” Pianoterra is also an organization based in Italy that is working to keep refugee mothers and children safe.

The Mission of Pianoterra

Pianoterra was founded by Alessia Bulgari, Flaminia Trapani and Ciro Nesci. According to the group’s website, “[the founders’] stories are intertwined by personal ties: Alessia and Flaminia are cousins, Flaminia and Ciro are husband and wife.”

The organization was founded in 2008 with the main goal of helping immigrant women get the necessary things to be able to prosper in Italy. When the organization began, 58 percent of the women seeking help from the organization was Italian while the other 50 percent was foreign. Today, 98 percent are foreign women.

Pianoterra’s Past Initiatives

Pianoterra has led several initiatives to improve the lives of refugee women and children. Two of these important projects include “Right to Feed – Support of Breastfeeding” and “From Mom to Mom.”

The project “Right to Feed – Support of Breastfeeding” began in January 2009. The project was aimed at mothers who were unable to breastfeed and did not have a sufficient amount of money to be able to feed their children. Pianoterra worked to “distribute free formula milk, according to pediatric prescriptions, and other basic necessities.”

With the “From Mom to Mom” initiative, Pianoterra helped mothers by collecting and distributing second-hand items for children. By collecting second-hand articles and connecting the women who donate with the women in need, mothers are “directly linked to a solidarity network of other women and mothers willing to support,” according to the organization’s website.

The Immigration Situation in Italy

Currently, immigration to Italy is occurring in large numbers. In 2018 alone, approximately 33,000 refugees have fled to Italy. However, the nation’s new interior minister has stated that “the country will no longer be ‘Europe’s refugee camp,’” according to TeleSur.

With the new government leaders in Italy, many refugees cannot count on staying in Italy. TeleSur reports that Italy’s “right-wing League stated that the vast majority of migrants in Italy have no right to refugee status, Italy cannot help them and by accepting low pay they worsen the working conditions of Italians.”

Although the Italian government is changing, there are still organizations working to help women and refugees prosper in the country. Pianoterra will continue to assist mothers in caring for their children and bettering their futures.

– Valeria Flores
Photo: Flickr

Bahamas Refugees
The Bahamas is an archipelago of over seven hundred islands and keys. It is nestled in the Caribbean with close proximity to the U.S. and has a populous of 319,000, as recorded by the United Nations in 2005.

The country has always been plagued with refugees and asylum seekers. Recently, there has been a change in immigration policies by the current governing administration, the Progressive Liberal Party. It has received much scrutiny and gotten backlash from international organizations inclusive of Amnesty International and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

To understand the Bahamas’ position and the state of refugees, here are 10 facts about Bahamas refugees:

  1. According to the World Bank, refugee by country or territory of asylum in the Bahamas was last measured at 13 in 2014.
  2. Individuals who have applied for asylum or refugee status and are awaiting a decision or registered as asylum seekers — are excluded.
  3. The percentage of tertiary educated immigrants or refugees to the Bahamas has significantly decreased to zero, signifying the country’s undesirable conditions.
  4. It is estimated that at least 100 refugees are residing in the Bahamas as of 2000 according to U.N. reports.
  5. The Bahamas government prefers repatriation of immigrants, and in 2015 the government spent $83,000 repatriating illegal immigrants as opposed to granting asylum to refugees.
  6. The process to seek asylum or refugee status in the Bahamas has been exposed as corrupt, unfair and unfavorable to applicants seeking political protection.
  7. Refugees experience discrimination, both subtle and overt, on a widespread scale.
  8. Refugees and asylum seekers are detained at a facility called the Carmichael Road Detention Centre in adverse conditions.
  9. Refugees and asylum seekers are subject to cruel treatment if detained in the Bahamas.
  10. The Bahamas receives no assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development for refugee and migration or other food aid programs.

With proper policy reform, training and understanding of human rights, as well as taking preliminary measures to establish a fair asylum process to regulate more efficiently situation with the Bahamas refugees, the country will be on the right path to compliance with international human rights law and eligible for aid.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Refugees in Slovakia
Over the past several months, the influx of migrants in Europe has notoriously prompted headlines about the manageability of refugees and illegal immigrants on the continent. To explore the details about one country in particular, here are 10 facts about refugees in Slovakia:

  1. As of 2015, the foreign population in Slovakia is about 1.56 percent of the total population, numbering approximately 84 thousand people. This is one of the lowest rates in the entire European Union.
  2. Rates of migration are dramatically rising since Slovakia’s admission into the EU in 2004. The total number of foreign-born residents has quadrupled and continues to increase by approximately 8,000 new arrivals each year.
  3. The highest percentage of new migrants originate from Ukraine and nearly half come from Slovakia’s bordering countries, also including Poland, Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic. Outside the EU, the largest populations represented are from Iraq, Afghanistan, Serbia, Russia, Vietnam, China and Syria.
  4. The most commonly reported reason for applicants seeking to relocate to Slovakia is for work. As for arranged arrivals, they typically utilize refugee camps in Slovakia as a backup when neighboring camps, often in Austria, face added strain.
  5. Numerous politicians in the country sparked controversy in 2015 with public statements regarding how Slovakia would only accept Christian refugees: “We could take in 800 Muslims but we don’t have any mosques in Slovakia, so how can Muslims be integrated if they are not going to like it here?” Many leaders retain the political belief that Slovakia is happy to help as a transit country but do not intend to house refugees in Slovakia as a final destination.
  6. Slovakia’s political stance is also in disagreement with many of their EU partners. Last year, a Syrian refugee relocation referendum was passed and originally arranged for Slovakia to take on a mere 1,000 out of 40,000 new refugees. However, Slovakia was one of only four countries to vote against the agreement, eventually conceding to 200.
  7. Socially, Slovakian citizens also oppose new refugees. Frequent marches and demonstrations against the perceived ‘Islamization of Slovakia’ are known to occur. As another example, the townspeople of Gabčíkovo, home to a major camp in the country, voted with a 97 percent majority to disallow fresh entrants because they value the culturally homogenous history of the country.
  8. Refugees in Slovakia are aware of the backlash as well, and reportedly often arrive in the country dissatisfied. In this respect, the views of the refugees are consistent with that of the government – Slovakia is meant to be a transit country on the path to Western Europe or the United States.
  9. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), formal legal regulations are also lacking regarding the status of many refugees. Slovakia does not have an established legal framework to define statelessness or people in flight, and there are also some difficulties with establishing dual citizenship. However, the UNHCR is also helping to overcome some of these barriers by sponsoring training programs and establishing assessment mechanisms.
  10. In addition to the camp in Gabčíkovo mentioned above, other major refugee camps are located in Rohovce and Humenné. Often such camps were originally intended to be temporary shelters during certain international crises but were later extended or reopened after prolonged instability. These areas are all near Slovakia’s borders with Hungary and Ukraine.

As a relatively poorer nation of Eastern Europe, Slovakia’s concerns for accommodating a large number of migrants socially and economically may prevail, but it is important to also ensure that refugees in Slovakia are welcomed to the highest possible degree. As the UNHCR rhetoric reiterates, Slovakia’s cooperation with resettlement arrangements is greatly needed for the most vulnerable citizens around the world.

Zachary Machuga

Photo: Flickr

Canadian Refugee System
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), refugees are “people fleeing conflict or persecution. They are defined and protected in international law, and must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom are at risk.” Below are 10 facts about the Canadian refugee system.

  1. The Canadian Refugee system has two primary sections: the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program and the In-Canada Asylum Program.
  2. The Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program deals with claims for asylum that come from outside of Canada.
  3. The In-Canada Asylum Program works to help people making refugee protection claims from within Canada.
  4. Initial assistance for refugees coming to Canada comes from the federal Canadian government, a private sponsor (such as an organization or wealthy person), or the Province of Quebec.
  5. Income support for refugees is provided for up to one year or until the refugee/refugee’s family becomes self-sufficient, whichever comes first.
  6. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) funds language training in English and French for incoming refugees who lack the language skills necessary to function successfully in Canada.
  7. Canada has a long history of accepting refugees, stretching back to 1770 when they allowed Quakers (who were being pushed out of America due to their religious practices) to settle in southern Ontario.
  8. Canada’s Immigration Act of 1976 required the government to establish targets for immigration and consult explicitly with provinces regarding Canadian immigration (including refugee immigration).
  9. In 1986, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees awarded the people of Canada the distinguished Nansen medal for their efforts during the Indochina refugee crisis of 1979-1980, wherein Canada helped settle over sixty thousand refugees.
  10. Currently, as part of the #WelcomeRefugees initiative, Canada has been resettling Syrian refugees across the country. As of June 2016, the government resettled upwards of 28,000 Syrian refugees.

Bayley McComb

Photo: Migration Bureau Corp.

Migrant Crisis
As the European Migrant Crisis intensifies, countries are more persistently urging the European Union (EU) to act. Top security officials representing France, Britain and Germany are pressing for better processing of migrants crossing over into southern Europe.

Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, France, Germany and Britain have received a total of 920,000 asylum applications. Four years later, they are feeling the pressure to respond to these asylum seekers more than ever before. Unprecedented numbers of migrants are reaching EU borders, and the need for action is almost tangible.

Accordingly, the three countries are calling for reception centers to be set up in Italy and Greece in order to register new arrivals. The migrant centers would distinguish between genuine refugees and economic migrants. The refugees in need would be allowed to stay, and the economic migrants would be returned home.

The countries—Germany especially—are also asking the EU to release a list of “safe countries of origin,” which would theoretically allow asylum applications to be more quickly registered based off of specific nationalities. Such a list could also free up resources to help those most severely in need.

In a joint statement, the countries called on Luxembourg to convene an emergency meeting between the home and the interior ministers of each member state within the next two weeks. At this proposed meeting, proposals could be discussed and then later voted on at the next scheduled meeting in October.

Establishment of “hot spot” detention centers in Greece and Italy would be at the head of the emergency meeting’s agenda. Discussions would center on methods of ensuring that migrants are fingerprinted and registered in a timely manner, allowing authorities to distinguish those most severely in need of protection.

Angela Merkel, Germany Chancellor, made a statement calling on other member nations to follow Germany’s lead by taking in more asylum seekers. Germany has indeed played a leading role throughout the crisis, as evidenced by the country’s pledge to receive 800,000 migrants this year alone.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls echoed Merkel’s message, explaining that migrants who “are fleeing war, persecution, torture, and oppression must be welcomed”. Unfortunately, leaders urging this type of progressive, inclusive message are facing intense opposition.

Theresa May, the British home secretary, recently said that the current levels of migration are unsustainable and that only European migrants with a job lined up for themselves should be allowed into the United Kingdom.

May argued that the migrant crisis puts pressure on infrastructure, like housing and transport, as well as public services like schools and hospitals. While her argument is not invalid, her attitude is certainly counterproductive in such a time of crisis.

It is true that intensified migration has put pressure on European infrastructure and public services, which is why every capable member state must work together to divide and conquer more efficiently. If every European nation were to take on the attitude of Mrs. May, the crisis would not only remain unsolved but would worsen.

At upcoming talks, all European participants must acknowledge this simple fact. Looking ahead, member states must assume positions of cooperation and humility. Developed nations need to collaboratively rise up to meet the challenge of the migrant crisis, and to address the needs of citizens fleeing war and persecution.

Sarah Bernard

Sources: Haaretz, Breit Bart, Irish Times
Photo: Wikipedia