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EU Affairs - International Affairs - Irish Politics

Ireland’s capacity to control migration in a sustainable way is broken

I was intrigued by a recent correspondent’s report on BBC World Service that Israeli citizens are applying as asylum seekers for international protection in Portugal.

The report stated that an increasing number of Israeli citizens who were displaced by Hizbullah shelling of Northern Israel or felt threatened in Israel from the Hamas rocketry from Gaza were travelling to Portugal claiming international protection under EU and Portuguese law. They were apparently not conscientious objectors objecting to conscription. The contrast between their EU asylum claims and the situation of Palestinians in Gaza could not be starker. Some might even call it grotesque.

That report puts into stark focus the sustainability of existing EU asylum and international protection law – and the proposed EU migration pact – as a response to the surge of mass economic migration by people seeking a better life in Europe than is available to them in countries ranging from Vietnam to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kurdistan, the Middle East, Mediterranean Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.

It raises the very legitimate question as to whether the Geneva international convention on asylum seeking dating back to 1951, as amended and expanded, was ever intended to deal with the phenomenon of mass economic migration on the scale and in the circumstances that now exist.

It is perfectly rational for underprivileged people in countries facing huge economic, social, and political challenges to aspire to migrate to more developed democracies, where they hope to be afforded social and legal protection and economic opportunities not available in their countries of origin.

Likewise, it is equally rational for developed countries to afford opportunities to migrate there in pursuit of their own political, economic and demographic interests. The case for migration policy is obvious and undeniable in developed countries.

But a fundamental problem arises where, under the guise of claiming asylum and international protection, would-be migrants travel to developed countries wholly outside established migration laws and policies of those countries.

In an era of mass international transport and financially lucrative human trafficking, economic migrants are offered the opportunity to move to other countries and establish a right to remain by asserting entitlements to asylum and international protection.

Elaborate and generous systems of legal assessment of such claims, involving – in Ireland’s case – initial assessment, administrative appeal procedures, rights for refused applicants to seek ministerial leave to remain, and the right to legal aid to to seek judicial review in relation to refusal or proposed deportations, mean claimants can establish de facto presence on Irish territory of a lengthy and often irreversible kind. The State is floundering to control that phenomenon.

Combined with legal requirements to provide shelter and subsistence, and a judicially established right to work during lengthy asylum processes, the simple fact is that our capacity to control migration in a policy-driven sustainable way is broken. In this, we are not alone or unique.

Apart from Denmark, the EU has collectively failed to deal with economic migration posing as asylum seeking. The EU assumed competence legally where it is incompetent legally and administratively.

The EU could successfully operate internal economically driven migration; it wrongly assumed that it could preserve freedom of movement guaranteed for EU citizens under treaty and decide on workable common systems and standards for asylum-seeking by non-EU migrants. EU institutions have evolved a migration pact that is, sadly, doomed to failure because of the core problem – conflation of economic migration with asylum rights under the Geneva conventions.

There is an ideological left-wing viewpoint that international migration is a human right. Banners flown by migrant rights protesters in Brussels recently proclaimed, ‘Borders Kill’. While such a viewpoint may reflect internationalist and Marxist ideology which sees nation states as fundamentally bourgeois concepts opposed to human rights, there is another – and I suggest far more credible – view. This is the view which holds that nation-state democracies remain the only reliable, viable, and cohesive defenders of human rights.

The political and diplomatic spat over the Common Travel Area is an inevitable consequence of our borderless island. While the Rwanda regime remains on UK’s statute book, Irish courts will be obliged by ECHR and other grounds to refuse deportation of migrants refused asylum to the UK.

The Irish public knows that its Government is floundering in the face of predicted future annual asylum claims of 20,000, projected for this year, to 30,000*. They may query how a State with an expanding population and deepening housing shortage can hope to address the migration surge. They may wonder just who replaces removed street tents with brand new ones, allowing encampments to proliferate in other areas.

But, in truth, the core problem lies in collective EU failure to distinguish between economic migration and outdated and unsustainable Geneva convention asylum protections. Until that is done at EU level, chaos will continue. The beneficiaries will be malign political actors, domestic and external.

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