Tag Archives: UN Refugee Convention

Articles: European Journal of Int’l Law and Goettingen Journal of Int’l Law

Fighting Maritime Piracy under the European Convention on Human Rights, European Journal of International Law, Volume 22, Issue 3, by Stefano Piedimonte Bodini, Head of Division at the Programme and Budget Department of the Council of Europe (author’s opinions are strictly personal).  (subscription required)

Abstract: “On the basis of real examples of anti-piracy operations conducted in the Indian Ocean by European navies, the article examines the legal implications of such military actions and their judicial medium- and long-term consequences in the framework of the European Convention on Human Rights. The only existing authority directly addressing maritime piracy, although from the sole perspective of state jurisdiction, is the recent Grand Chamber judgment in Medvedyev and Others v. France. The Court’s approach and conclusions in Medvedyev will be analysed in section 2. Section 3 will explore other important issues likely to be raised under the Convention by anti-piracy operations. Section 4 will consider the question of state responsibility, i.e., jurisdiction and attribution, in the context of anti-piracy operations carried out on the high seas or on the territory of third states.”

Refugees on the High Seas: International Refugee Law Solutions to a Law of the Sea Problem,” Goettingen Journal of International Law, by Killian S. O’Brien. (open access)

Abstract: “Following in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Europe’s southern marine borders have been the showplace of human tragedies previously unseen on this scale and the issue of refugees on the high seas has assumed a newfound importance. This article examines the flawed system provided by the ‘Constitution of the Oceans’, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea for the protection of the lives of migrants at sea. It submits that international refugee law is well-equipped to assume a greater responsibility in ensuring the protection of those involved. Although the concept of non-refoulement cannot be stretched ad absurdum, it may still be reasonably interpreted as providing a temporary right to disembark for the purpose of processing possible asylum applications. In the long-term, a system of burden-sharing and permanent, yet flexible, reception agreements remain the only sustainable solution.”

Rights at the Frontier: Border Control and Human Rights Protection of Irregular International Migrants,” Goettingen Journal of International Law, by Julian M. Lehmann. (open access)

Abstract: “In light of recent events causing people’s movement into Europe, continued misuse of the term “migrant” in policy making and public discourse, and at the occasion of events celebrating the international regime of refugee protection, the human rights protection of irregular migrants is explored in relation to irregular migrants’ entry/admission and expulsion/deportation. The term “migrant” has, in contrast to the term “refugee”, no bearing on whether or not an international migrant has a need for international protection. While many irregular migrants have no such need, other migrants may be refugees or be in need of international protection “outside” the framework of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The paper analyses the international human rights law framework applying to individuals with and without need for international protection, when their claims have a socio-economic dimension. The principle of non-refoulement remains the most important source of protection for irregular migrants; it is not concerned with the irregular status of a migrant and also has a bearing on procedural rights in status determination. Socio-economic motivations for flight are not a bar to being a refugee within the meaning of the 1951 Convention, if their underlying cause is persecution, or if motives are mixed. Refugee law can accommodate such claims and overcome a strict dichotomy but is currently only rarely and restrictively applied in this regard. In expulsion cases, virtually only the prohibition of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment is relevant. For individuals that have no need for international protection there are mitigating individual circumstances which a state has to take into account. All pertinent norms of international human rights law apply without distinction and irregular migrants may have, just as refugees may have, humanitarian needs that states should meet.”

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Filed under Analysis, European Court of Human Rights, European Union

Moreno-Lax, Int J Refugee Law, “Seeking Asylum in the Mediterranean: Against a Fragmentary Reading of EU Member States’ Obligations Accruing at Sea”

The latest edition of the International Journal of Refugee Law, contains an article by Violeta Moreno-Lax (PhD Candidate at Université catholique de Louvain; Visiting Fellow 2010-11 at Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford) entitled “Seeking Asylum in the Mediterranean: Against a Fragmentary Reading of EU Member States’ Obligations Accruing at Sea.”

Abstract: “Although both international and EU law impose a number of obligations on the EU Member States with regard to persons in distress at sea, their effective implementation is limited by the manner in which they are being interpreted. The fact that the persons concerned are migrants, who may seek asylum upon rescue, has given rise to frequent disputes and to episodes of non-compliance. Frontex missions and the Italian 2009 push-back campaign illustrate the issue. With the objective of clarifying the scope of common obligations and to establish minimum operational arrangements for joint maritime operations, the EU has adopted a set of common guidelines for the surveillance of the external maritime borders. On the basis of the principle of systemic interpretation, this article intends to contribute to the clarification of the main obligations in international and European law binding upon the EU Member States when they operate at sea.”

This is a revised and updated version of the paper presented at the 12th IASFM Conference held in Nicosia, 28 June-2 July 2009.  [The article was written and sent for typesetting before the various uprisings in North Africa – IJRL Editor, 4 March 2011]

Click here for link.  (Subscription or payment required.)

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Filed under Analysis, Eastern Atlantic, European Court of Human Rights, European Union, Frontex, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Mediterranean, Senegal, Spain

More on Libya’s Decision to Expel UNHCR

Libya’s decision to expel the UNHCR from Libya was made public during the seventh round of Framework Agreement talks between the EU and Libya.  The talks concluded yesterday in Tripoli.  “[Libya’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Tahar] Sayala said the main stumbling blocks to progress were illegal immigration and the International Criminal Court (ICC), which Libya does not recognise.  [Sayala] said Libya wanted financing and equipment [from the EU] for the surveillance of its borders, both on land and sea.”

Amnesty International criticized the decision to expel the UNHCR and called on Libya to reverse the decision:

“[***] The move to expel the UNHCR came against the backdrop of the 7th round of negotiations, which started on 6 June in Tripoli, between Libya and the EU over a Framework Agreement, which addresses bilateral cooperation in the control of irregular migration, among other issues, including potential readmission agreements for third-country nationals, who have transited through Libya on their way to Europe. EU member states, most notably Italy, have been seeking Libya’s assistance in decreasing the flow of arrivals of asylum-seekers and migrants to European shores. The expulsion of the UNHCR further casts doubt on Libya’s commitment to respect its obligations under the Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. It also shows how essential it is to include effective human rights safeguards and adequate standards of protection in any bilateral agreements with Libya in the field of the control of migration. [***]”

The European Commission also expressed “concern” with Libya’s decision “but sees it as one more reason to engage in ‘dialogue’ with General Gaddafi’s country on immigration and asylum.”

And as noted by Michèle Morel on International Law Observer, even though Libya is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, Libya is bound by customary international law which prohibits refoulement to countries where there is a risk of torture, “[t]herefore, while Libya itself has no asylum system for the examination of asylum seekers’ situations, refusing to allow UNHCR to carry out its activities in Libya would amount to a violation of international human rights law.”

Click here, here, here (EN), and here (AR) for articles.

Click here for Amnesty International’s statement.

Click here for link to ILO post.


Filed under European Union, Libya, Mediterranean, News, UNHCR

EU-Libya Resume Partnership Talks

The seventh round of negotiations on the EU-Libya partnership accord began on 8 June in Tripoli.  According to the AFP, EU negotiators hope to have a final agreement with Libya signed by the end of 2010.  The current EU delegation is led by Hugo Mingarelli, deputy head of the European Commission for foreign affairs.  The negotiations have been slow for a variety of reasons, one of them being disagreement over immigration topics and the reported pressure on Libya by the EU to sign the UN Refugee Convention.  (See my previous post on Libya’s sudden decision to close the UNHCR office in Tripoli.)

Click here and here (AR) for articles.

Click here for EC External Relations web page on Libya.

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Filed under European Union, Libya, Mediterranean, News

Libya Orders UNHCR Office Closed – Possible Link to EU-Libya Talks on Partnership Accord

The Libyan government has ordered the UNHCR office in Libya to halt all activities and to close it office.  UNHCR has been working in Libya since 1991 even though Libya is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention.

The UNHCR said it was not given a reason for the Libyan decision.  Reuters reported that Libya’s Foreign Ministry considers the UNHCR presence within Libya to be illegal since Libya is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention.  Reuters also says that JANA, the Libyan news agency, accused a UNHCR official of carrying out an unspecified illegal activity.

The Libyan newspaper Oya and other reports say that the EU is pressuring Libya in the ongoing EU-Libya Partnership Talks to sign the Refugee Convention and that illegal immigration is one of the main areas of disagreement in the current negotiations.

The UNHCR said in a press release “[i]n the absence of a national asylum system, UNHCR has carried out registration and refugee status determination, visiting detention facilities and providing medical and humanitarian assistance to detainees.”  Among the asylum seekers detained in Libya over the past year are persons who were forcibly returned to Libya by Italian authorities pursuant to the Italy-Libya migration agreement.

Click here for UNHCR press release.

Click here for Oya article (AR).

Click here, here, and here for articles (EN).


Filed under European Union, Libya, Mediterranean, News, UNHCR