Vincent Chetail on air at Azeri.Today
|Politics & Analytics team|
Azeri.Today interviews Dr. Vincent Chetail, Professor of International Law, Founding Director of the Global Migration Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Geneva).
- How relevant is the refugee problem in Europe? And what factors influenced the appearance of this problem?
- In contrast to the alarming picture drawn by mass media and politicians, the so-called “refugee crisis” in Europe is all but a crisis of numbers. Actual statistics speak for themselves. According to EUROSTAT, 1.2 million asylum seekers came to the European Union in 2015. Yet, even assuming that all of them were granted refugee protection, they would represent only 0.2% of the whole population of the EU. By contrast, according to UNHCR, during the same year, the Global South hosted 86 % of the world’s refugees, including 2.5 million in Turkey, 1.6 million in Pakistan, and 1.1 million in Lebanon (representing one quarter of its total population).
More than a crisis of numbers, the European Union is facing a crisis of solidarity among its Member States. This crisis of solidarity reveals in turn the failure of the Common European Asylum System established by the European Union and its structural flaws that have been well-documented since more than a decade. To give only one example, the Dublin mechanism governing the distribution of asylum-seekers is a fiasco because it follows a burden-shifting logic to the detriment of the Member States – like Greece and Italy – that are located at the external borders of the EU. As long as the other Member States are not willing to endorse their own responsibility, the Dublin mechanism is bound to fail.
- How is Europe going to solve this problem and protect the rights of refugees?
- The European Union has the logistical, administrative and financial means to tackle the so-called crisis. However, it still has to rethink its Common European Asylum System and devise innovative solutions based on a sound, rational and objective understanding of its limits and potentials. The Common European Asylum System is part of the problem but it can become the solution if the EU is able to learn from its own mistakes.
This requires a paradigm shift in the current political debate. The rhetoric of the “refugee crisis” paves the way for populism, xenophobia and electioneering. It obscures the structural causes of the current situation and the appropriate means to redress it.
The language of crisis not only distracts attention from the real issues at stake; it has also the side effect of undermining and threatening basic principles of international law and the foundational values of the EU itself. The EU must treat refugees as refugees, that is, as victims of persecution, war and terror whose human rights must be protected in line with the basic values of Europe.
- Why are some UN Security Council resolutions not being implemented? What do you see as the main reason?
- The blatant failure of the UN Security Council in Syria is clearly part of the picture. This calls for a more democratic, participative and efficient Security Council. Its reform has been subject to debate since two decades and no one contests that the Security Council must be adapted to the new world’s reality of the 21st century.
It is now time to move from rhetoric to action. The number of Security Council’s members must be enlarged to have a better geographical distribution. Likewise, the veto power held by the five permanent members must be drastically reformed. The veto power is an anomaly of the past that no longer reflects today’s geopolitical reality. It must be abolished or, at least, its use must be radically circumscribed.
As long as the Security Council will fail to ensure peace and security, victims of armed conflicts, terror and generalised violence will have no other choice than to leave their own country to find protection elsewhere. But humanitarian action remains a short-term solution that must work in tandem with a structural reform of the UN collective security system established more than 70 years ago. By their very existence, refugees epitomize the troubles of our world. Refugee protection calls for comprehensive and ambitious responses that should address both the root causes and the consequences of forced migration.
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