12 September 2014

Compassionate Border Policies

This post offers a short commentary on ’Protection in Europe for refugees from Syria’. Cynthia Orchard and Andrew Miller wrote the paper, which is the Forced Migration Policy Briefing 10, as part of Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre. The paper criticises Europe’s generally inadequate response to the Syrian conflict (excepting Germany’s admirable solution). The paper’s criticisms evolve from a systematic, Europe-wide analysis and UK case study. After that evaluation, the brief proposes reform-guidelines. Orchard and Miller presented the paper (alongside Professor Roger Zetter) on 10 September 2014 and I refer to that presentation throughout.

1. The Paper’s Concerns

A diagram in the report depicts a staggering 96% of the 2.85 million Syrian refugees are forced to remain in Syria’s neighbouring states due to Europe’s retracted helping-hand. The presentation demonstrated these figures in representative circles-of-refugee-populations scattered about a map. The UK’s circle was embarrassingly small. The UK’s commitment suggests the circle will remain tiny. For example the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme may welcome ‘only a few hundred Syrian refugees [to the UK] over the next three years’ (pp 8, 13). That figure is so small it is even difficult to use in an analogy to reflect the actual crowds of displaced individuals; a number so comparatively minuscule that any suggestion of UK-compassion is negated.

Orchard and Miller are careful in their accusation of UK-inadequacy; the criticism is not directed at the UK’s political inability to stop the cause of the refugees’ status, but the UK’s reluctance to instigate the very possible humane and palliative treatment of Syrian refugees. The UK case study is important in the policy document because it is that analysis, framed critically against other European approaches, from which necessary reforms are inferred.

1.1 Intermediate Note for Students

As a note to any student-readers, this analogical technique is useful and powerful. In comparing the best examples with poorer or the worst instances, writers may highlight flaws much easier. The foregoing section demonstrates the technique’s use. The following paragraph demonstrates the integrity encouraged by the technique.

1.2 Return to the Paper: Its Conclusions

When the UK’s failures are cast in relief by Germany’s apparent successes, the UK’s next direction is clarified: improvements are required. The brief re-phrases the refugee’s requirements in an inclusive ‘Comprehensive Plan of Action’, which is summarised in the paper’s conclusion (p 77):
  • Europe must implement one of several options that actually and openly admit Syrian refugees through their borders;
  • A halted flow of refugees lives in stasis in the Middle East. These people should be resettled elsewhere--satisfactorily in Europe--to alleviate the region’s burden. This burden is exacerbated by the fact that ‘[a]pproximately 540,000 Palestinians (…) lived in Syria prior to the civil war (…)’, and these refugees also need European protection because Syria can no longer provide it (p 40).

2. The Writers’ Response to the Audience

Orchard responded to an audience-member’s remark with the restatement that Europe must arrange an ‘intermediate, immediate (…) protection regime (…)’ (quote from the panel discussion at approximately 1hr 30mins into the event). This follows from Orchard and Miller’s proposed strategy because it addresses an underlying premise to their action plan: it is abhorrent that hundreds of thousands of Syrians are forced to rest indeterminately in neighbouring states with insufficient security to plan for the future--especially when Europe’s wealth may be directed to improvising personal safety and individual stability. That solution should occur now--as soon as possible--and must be so permanent that it allows the displaced to live properly and freely once more, but also be temporary enough that settlers may return to Syria after the conflict, or emigrate wherever full integration is possible and desirable.

Granting such temporary protection is a pre-tried idea. The brief notes that ‘most European countries granted [persons displaced from the 1990’s Yugoslavia conflict] temporary protection rather than refugee status’ (p 29, fn 121). History and international provisions therefore support the paper’s conclusions. Moreover, if the negative connotations of the label ‘refugee’ can be avoided in a ‘temporary replacement’-rebranding, prospective host-nations may discover it is easier to persuade their masses of the accommodation’s sensible righteousness. That is, during the current time of world-wide economic struggle, dissatisfied voices have become loud in their demands that national interests be held paramount. And these claims have, in UK media at least, encouraged and continued a moral panic directed against asylum-seekers and other immigrants. Orchard and Miller’s brief tacitly accounts for this contention.

3. Conclusion

Orchard and Miller’s paper delves much more thoroughly than I perhaps suggest in this post. As such, it is worth reading by anyone with a statistical bent or an interest in Syrian displacement. That said, the paper’s message--due to its method and approach--transcends the Syrian problem and may therefore be useful to studies into wider refugee and human rights issues.

Created: 11 September 2014. Version 1.0.

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