Asylum Convention from Colonial era

Anna van Densky OPINION European suggestion to arrange illegal migrant ‘disembarkation platforms‘ outside the EU is a stillbirth, rejected by all Maghreb countries, insisting that the creation of migrant camps in not a solution for existing problems of Africa ravaged by conflict and poverty, but a translation of an existing difficulties into another form of challenge – ever-growing refugee agglomerations. Meanwhile European leaders insist on delivery upon ‘obligations‘ given by their ancestors towards asylum-seekers, however they prefer to ignore the fact that the entire international legislation on refugees dates from Colonial era – Geneva Conventions on Asylum 1951.

Looking at Kenya, one can imagine a scale of a problem of mass migration of population in modern Africa – huge numbers of people spending day after day,  year after year “camping” in tents. #Dadaab is an example of the failure even of the UN CHR to resolve problems of suffering from a conflict population through construction of permanent camps – the site hosting 300 000 Somalia refugees became an ever-growing hub attracting new arrivals, but failing to ensure return policies.

Refugee Convention 1951 is a genuine Colonial era document in the times when Africa had no single independent state, and the population of the entire continent was a half of European. Endorsing  Asylum Convention back in 1951 no one could imagine the entire populations of Africans would be moved to Europe, using the document created after the WWII for the devastated European continent. It was amended only once with a Protocol, declaring Convention ‘universal‘, but nobody outlined how the developed part of the world would host all asylum-seekers of the planet.

Refugee Convention 1951 remains a key legal document that forms the basis of international action. Ratified​ by 145 State parties, it defines the term ‘refugee’ and outlines the rights of the displaced, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them.

The core principle is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. This is now considered a rule of customary international law.

However with the spread of radical Islamic terrorism, and subsequently the threat to ‘life and freedom’ menacing the entire populations of African countries, opens a broad gate to migrant flows, claiming right to shelter in Europe.

Today African populations are the fastest growing, representing a huge challenge for the young states themselves, where deprivation is massive – half of the Africans live in poverty, without access to basic human needs, such as nutrition, clean water, shelter.

However the intense work of different aid, development, and charities, infant mortality is declining, leading to demographic explosion. With current trends – on average five children per woman – Africa will become the most populated continent, home to six billion people by the end of the century. The EU concept of hosting ‘all in need‘ is a total illusion, even with reforming the EU Dublin regulation, and relocation migrants all over Europe – the simple arithmetics shows that 500 million European have no capacity to deliver in accordance to obligations of their ancestors: African population has been growing from 221 million in 1950 to one billion in 2009.

Nowadays realties indicate to the only possible direction to resolve problems of Africa – in Africa, not outside. In cooperation with African governments, but not in waging wars against them, as it happened in Libya, where the Western “lesson of democracy” caused an ongoing tragedy, destabilising life of the continent.

#Dadaab, Kenya

Dadaab arial

Brussels to explore reception of migrants outside EU

European Council calls  the Commission to “swiftly” explore the concept of “regional disembarkation platforms”, in close cooperation with relevant third countries as well as UNHCR and IOM. Such platforms should operate distinguishing individual situations, in full respect of international law and without creating a pull factor, the conclusions of the meeting of heads of states and governments read.

In order to “definitively break” the business model of the smugglers, preventing tragic loss of life, the EU Council considers necessary to eliminate the incentive to embark on dangerous journeys along Mediterranean. The new approach to the problem is based on shared or complementary actions among the Member States to the disembarkation of those who are saved in Search And Rescue operations.

The new strategy of reception of illegal migrants outside the EU territory reminds experts an Australian systems, functioning both direction – saving lives of illegal migrants in sea, and the same time protecting national borders.

However Italian Interior minister Matteo Salvini announced his interest to see the EU passing for concrete actions, namely against those NGOs who help  smuggling illegal migrants in Europe: “STOP human traffic, stop helping accomplices! #stopinvasion!”, he wrote in his microblog.

The discussion over the text of conclusions about migration went through the last night, representing a challenge to reconcile positions of Italy, and southern European countries at forefront of migration flows, and Visegrad Four group, supported by Austrian upcoming presidency, insisting that instead of the change of Dublin regulation and relocation of migrants through the EU, the support and solidarity among member-states can be introduced on goodwill basis. The reform of Dublin is left to next EU Presidency to deal with. Austria Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has already announced a number of initiatives to curb illegal migration.

Anna van Densky, from EU Council, Brusssels

Will Puigdemont follow fate of Companys?

After the rigorous action of German police, stopping Catalan independence leader upon the EU arrest warrant, issued by Madrid, the major question arises: will  German judges condemn Puigdemont to follow the fate of President Companys (1882-1940), who was detained by Gestapo in France and handed to Spain?

Rajoy Puigdemont
President of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont next to Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy

The President of Catalonia from 1934 and during the Spanish Civil War , Companys was detained in France, where he lived in exile,  and handed over by the Nazi secret police Gestapo in a formal procedure to Spanish state, where under the dictatorship of Gen.Franco the President Lluís Companys i Jover was tortured in prison, and executed by firing squad in 1940.

Carles Puigdemont at Lluis Companys i Jover tomb
Carles Puigdemont at Lluís Companys i Jover tomb

The lawyer of former President of self-proclaimed Catalan Republic said that highway police had stopped Puigdemont on Sunday (25.03.2018) after he crossed the border from Denmark to Germany. He also confirmed that Puigdemont had been on his way back to Belgium after his trip to Finnish Parliament. A spokesperson for Puigdemont made the following statement:

“1. President Carles Puigdemont was retained in Germany when he was crossing the border from Denmark, on his way to Belgium from Finland. 2. The treatment has been correct in every moment. At the moment he is in a police station and his legal defense is already activated. 3. The president was going to Belgium to put himself, as always, at the disposal of the Belgian justice.”

Madrid assess the independence movement in Catalonia as a ‘plot’ against Spain’s legal and constitutional order. The charges carry up to 30  years in jail. Catalan politicians are accused of rebellion, contradicting the principle of self-determination of people enshrined in UN Charter.

 

Leonardo as a Gastarbeiter

Josef et Mary

The comparison of modern asylum-seekers and migrants to Holy family, fleeing King Herod 2017 years ago, pronounced in the Christmas Eve prayer of Pontifex is at most extravagant allusion even in terms of Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s atypical for high clergy personality.

In first place as the ultimate authority in interpretation of The Bible, Pontifex should have known, that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were not looking for an asylum abroad, but were moving within the Kingdom of Herod, although this is not the essential criticism.

The Biblical episode can not serve as a model delivering a solution of a problem of refugees, because first of all they became too numerous in modern word to accommodate in ‘rich’ countries. Pontifex continuous reproaches of Europeans for not doing ‘enough’ for asylum-seekers and migrants do not lead to the root problems resolution – the poverty in the countries of origin, and protracted conflicts, some of which date to epoch prior to  Jesus birth.

A simple gesture of kindness of good Samaritans does not offer a key to the complex phenomenon of mass migration to Europe, neither does it help in their further integration. On contrary its simplification leads away from the effective answers.

The example of Sweden is a convincing evidence that the kindness Pontifex requires as a solution is an illusion.

Praised for its hospitality, receiving more than 160 000 migrants from Africa and Middle East since 2015, Sweden has been rapidly degrading into a Third world country, with a correlating  rate of crimes, and growing no-go zones.  Apparently Pontifex omitted that nowadays migrants do not always have the gentle nature of Joseph!

“The integration [of immigrants]  does not go as it should. We had a problem with it before the autumn of 2015, when Sweden accepted a wave of migrants. For me it is obvious that we cannot accept more asylum seekers than we can integrate. It will not be good either for people who come here or for the whole society,” said the Swedish Finance minister Magdalena Andersson. Her words are the epilogue to the mass-scale experiment of a promoted by Pontifex model.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus as a son of asylum-seekers. The parallels are far to simplistic and linear to respond to the unfolding demographic crisis in Africa with eight children per women born in poverty. The allusion  would sound grotesque if articulated by someone else than the Bishop of Rome: asylum-seeker Joseph… And Leonardo as a Gastarbeiter.

Welcome Gastarbeiters they will paint you smile of Mona Lisa! 🙂

Mona Lisa Duchamp

 

Ab absurdo: Puigdemont as asylum-seeker

Anna van Densky, OPINION The circulating in mainstream media hypothesis of President of Catalan Republic Carles Puigdemont escapade to Brussels in search of political asylum can’t be regarded otherwise as absurd.

First, if politicians have to flee Spain because of dissent, it will mean that Kingdom of Spain is not a democracy. (Political dissident from Span? Hmmm… It reminds me of something…)

Second, it would mean that organising plebiscite is a criminal activity, which will provoke a confrontation with the United Nations, being in contradiction with the most sacred part of international law – the human rights.

Third, the attack on human rights will torpedo the work of entire EU External Actions Service, discrediting their efforts to improve human rights situation outside the bloc.

Forth, it will reinforce the public sympathy for Catalans, and raise criticism against the European institutions for not respecting their own engagements, and principles. So many citizens will ignore the next elections to the European Parliament, which will be a blow to the EU credibility. Imagine if only 20% of Europeans come to drop ballots for EU?..

So there are some reasons for which Carles Puigdemont will be never charged for organising a plebiscite, and never arrested.

Unfortunately, the crisis government of prime minister Mariano Rajoy created will continue, however the EU can not afford to let it rub off its own image and activities, subsequently the EU will not allow Puigdemont to become Europe’s Nelson Mandela. The Brussels has many faults, but giving in to Madrid in human rights abuse means to agree to look like a theatre of absurd – a suicidal move for an already shaken by Brexit project. Ab absurdo!

 

Catalonia in limbo

Anna van Densky, OPINION  The indecisiveness of the Catalan leadership, and seemingly endless diplomatic maneuvering of Carles Puigdemont opened a broad way to Mariano Rajoy government to launch an offensive. Rajoy has an advantage over Catalans – he is clear, but his opponent are not. If in the aftermath of the referendum the sympathies of the international community to freedom-aspiring Catalans were high, the following confusion about status declaration, and  a step back  in suspension took away large portion of this sentiment, drowning in doubt over region’s clarity of vision for its future. What do Catalans want?..

One can not spend month marching in the streets, waving flags, expressing will to become free, without considerable damages to economy, scaring business away with instability,  and in this regard Rajoy’s intention to go back to blacks restoring calm is understandable in essence, although unacceptable in form from a democratic perspective – restoring order by military means is at odds with so often proclaimed “EU values.”

However today Rajoy’s government is winning grounds, while Catalans losing, because of a protracted ‘limbo’  situation Catalan leaders have chosen for. Economic interests of majority of Europeans prevail over Catalan ideals of freedom, hovering high, but unable to materialize.

Carles Puigdemont received power from Catalans, but lost it in vain attempting to settle the argument with Madrid in ‘European” style of “velvet” revolutions – poor judgement of application of examples of other cultures within the Spanish context of post-Franco era. Too much time wasted on an illusion awaiting a ‘dialogue’, allowing Madrid diplomacy to advance…

Great Spanish protagonist Don Quixote tries to bring justice to the world, revive chivalry high ideals, but is doomed, when confronted with the realities of life. Classics are great due to their universal dimension – apparently there are also Don Quixotes in Catalonia nowadays. We sympathize with them, we feel compassionate towards them, but we don’t understand them: the moment we think we do, Catalan Don Quixotes surprise us, contradicting our premise.

 

 

Catalonia: rise or fall?..

Anna van Densky, OPINION On contrary to what many in Madrid and Brussel hope, the aspiration of independence of Catalans, and problem it poses to Kingdom of Spain, and a number of European countries concerned with separatists movements, this dream of independence will not fade away. There were around 70 states after the WWII, and now at the UN there are more than 200, and their number is continuing to grow, so independence is clearly a world trend to stay.

The trend which insures that Mariano Rajoy and all successive governments will be facing a constant pressure from the Catalans, both citizens and political class, aspiring freedom. The only viable solution is in following Czechoslovakia model of separation, known as ‘velvet divorce’ diminishing related damages of all kinds, and removing combustible of a potential conflict in future.

In case of unconditional recognition of Catalan independence by Spain, the breakaway region can stay in the EU, NATO and continue to cultivate close economic ties with Madrid. It would be a mutually beneficial relationship between two countries, and also for the larger EU community.

However it is highly unlikely that Rajoy government will accept this ‘velvet’ way of dealing with the issue, as the entire world have seen his choice of repression as a method of resolving the political crisis. Usually gurus avoid to speculate on the future, pointing at the absence of a crystal ball, but in some cases the forecast is easier to model, because the situation is typical, occurring many times before.

In Catalan case there are three possible scenarios, and among them one is highly hypothetic, mentioned above ‘velvet divorce’.

The two other are rather standard: or Carles Puigdemont without delay declares independence based on the results of the plebiscite, and moves on with the state construction agenda outside the EU, with support of some of the European countries, and some of EU member-states, recognising free Catalan Republic, or he loses momentum.

In case Catalans lose the momentum,  Rajoy would go into offensive with multiple Court cases, accusing Catalan politicians of coup-d’état – the blame already articulated by Spanish diplomats in mass-media. In this case, Puigdemont will face 14 Stations of the Cross literally, not allegorically, because Spanish courts will charge him with treason.

The most active members of political elite would face the similar fate, and the independence movement would be ‘beheaded’, which is a rather standard scenario repeated many times through history.

The other practical step would be taken into direction of undermining the economic base for independence, with the removal of key financial and industrial players from Catalonia. (The process has already started with the relocation of offices of Spanish banks). Is is already clear that Madrid would prefer to sacrifice economy and living standards of the population, punishing Catalonia,  for the sake of the unity of the Kingdom.

Logically, facing the betrayal of the EU, rejecting to protect human rights of Catalans, denying them the right of self-determination, and referring to the situation as to an home affair of Spain, Puigdemont has no much space for maneuvering  horizontally, but only between raise and fall vertically. The clock is ticking, so are the risks of postponing the independence declaration for tomorrow, that might never come…