Thursday, December 31, 2015

Italy's Struggle Processing Migrants

Photo and Video Courtesy of: Journeyman Pictures

This "Journeyman Pictures" and "Dateline SBS" documentary is not only interesting and on-topic, it juxtaposes the personal experiences of the many different kinds of migrant with on-site interviews and informative news segments.

It is so easy to become frustrated with the European reaction to the current Migrant Crisis, which has only gotten worse since Syrian War refugees began to increasingly join the already steady stream of people fleeing Africa and the Middle East seeing refuge from war, abject poverty, persecution, or death threats.  But as this video attempts to show, in Italy, at least, the people are trying to help the refugees, they are just completely unprepared to deal with such a huge influx.  Governments lack necessary infrastructure to deal with all the people that need to be processed, and refugee camps lack food, water, shelter, warmth, basic sanitation, or anything approaching even basic human rights.

As always there will be some people who will be xenophobic, who prefer to build boarders instead of relationships, who ignore this massive need of their fellow man instead of getting educated and getting involved.  Luckily this piece also highlights some of the wonderful nonprofit organizations on the ground helping refugees in Italy.

The big question no one seems to be asking: what is America doing about the Migrant and Refugee Crisis?

Italy's Struggle to Process Swelling Tide of Refugees:

The European Refugee Crisis and Syria Explained

Photo and Video Courtesy of: Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell

This YouTube Channel provides a simple, easy to understand video-infographic that is informative as well as framed in a interesting, possibly different, viewpoint.  Whatever your current view of the Syrian Refugee Crisis, I highly recommend this brief video... and hopefully you will be inspired to learn more.

Refugee Crisis:

Sunday, December 20, 2015

International Refugee Law

© Prazis / Fotolia

“Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”
(Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 14.1).

To understand the struggle of today's refugees crisis, forced migration, and human trafficking we need to understand the field of international law.


What is international law? 

International law is the set of rules generally regarded to be binding only in relations between states and between nations. Because of state sovereignty, much of international law is consent-based governance. However, there are other aspects of international law such as customary international law and peremptory norms (jus cogens) are obligatory upon state and non-state actors. These include private corporations and non-state actors, including nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). 

International law serves as a framework for organized international relations for sovereign states. One of the most important international organizations, the United Nations the development of international law one of its main mandates. The UN Charter, in its Preamble, sets the objective "to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained". More than 500 multilateral treaties have been deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Many other treaties are deposited with governments or other entities such as the European Court of Human Rights, the International Criminal Court (ICC). Treaties such as the Geneva Conventions may require national law to conform to respective parts

The domains of international law encompasses a wide range of issues of international concern such as human rights, disarmament, international crime, refugees, migration, problems of nationality, the treatment of prisoners, the use of force, and the conduct of war, among others. It also regulates the global commons, such as the environment, sustainable development, international waters, outer space, global communications and world trade.


What is a refugee in international law? 

According to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees a
refugee is someone who:
1. Has a well founded fear of persecution because of his/her
  • Race,
  • Religion,
  • Nationality,
  • Membership in a particular social group, or
  • Political opinion;
2. Is outside his/her country of origin; and
3. Is unable or unwilling to avail him/herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.
Read more from United Nations High Commission for Refugees. (2012). Text of Convention


Refugee Law is based on Human Rights Law

Most of the rights crucial to refugee protection are also the fundamental rights stated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Right to life, liberty and security of person
  • Right to seek and enjoy asylum
  • Freedom from torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • Freedom from slavery or servitude
  • Recognition as a person before the law
  • Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion
  • Freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention
  • Freedom from arbitrary interference in privacy, home and family
  • Freedom of opinion and expression
  • Right to be educated
  • Right to participate in the cultural life of a community


Refugee and Migrants: An issue of 'force'

International law distinguishes the rights of the migrant from those of a refugee. Unlike migrants, refugees do not choose to leave their countries; they are forced to do so. Economic migrants are persons who leave their countries of origin purely for economic reasons, to seek material improvements in their lives. The key difference between economic migrants and refugees is that economic migrants enjoy the protection of their home countries; refugees do not. Economic migrants do not fall within the criteria for refugee status and are therefore not entitled to benefit from international protection as refugees. 


How does refugee law relates to humanitarian and human rights law?

In her book The Human Rights of Migrants and Refugees in European Law Cathryn Costello has clearly identified the strengths and limits of international law and international human rights in relation to the 2015 EU refugee and migration crisis.

"The human rights of migrants and refugees are far from secure. Human rights and refugee law both contain strong norms of non-refoulement, or non-return to face persecution or serious human rights violations. However, those seeking refuge rarely have a legal route to claim asylum in the EU. To claim asylum, they must normally be on the territory, and usually this means a dangerous irregular journey. EU law requires the states where they arrive (predominantly Greece and Italy in 2015) to process their asylum-claims (unless they have close family elsewhere). However, that allocation mechanism would be unworkable if it was properly enforced. It creates many legal frictions, as people resist being transferred back to countries of first arrival, which often run weak asylum systems." (Read more here).


Read more on International Law and Refugee

  1. International Refugee Law
  2. Refugee Protection: A Guide to International Refugee Law
  3. International Journal of Refugee Law
  4. Free access to Oxford University Press resources on refugee law

The human rights of migrants and refugees are far from secure … The figure of the ‘migrant’ sits uneasily with the basic human equality than underpins human rights law. - See more at:
Cathryn Costello, is a Andrew W Mellon Associate Professor in International Human Rights and Refugee Law, Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford Department of International Development. She is the author of The Human Rights of Migrants and Refugees in European Law. - See more at:
Cathryn Costello, is a Andrew W Mellon Associate Professor in International Human Rights and Refugee Law, Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford Department of International Development. She is the author of The Human Rights of Migrants and Refugees in European Law. - See more at:

Friday, December 18, 2015

International Migrant Day and Migrant Rights

Today is the International Migrant Day. We still have a way to go to promote social inclusion and global citizenship based on human security... Let's reflect for a moment on the humanity journey through global migration and on the human rights implications and international obligations in forced migrations. 

"On International Migrants Day, let us commit to coherent, comprehensive and human-rights based responses guided by international law and standards and a shared resolve to leave no one behind.""

Ban Ki-moon
Message for International Migrants Day,
18 December 2015

The following is a United Nations reflection and invitation to remember the victims of forced migration. 

"Throughout human history, migration has been a courageous expression of the individual’s will to overcome adversity and to live a better life. Today, globalization, together with advances in communications and transportation, has greatly increased the number of people who have the desire and the capacity to move to other places.

This new era has created challenges and opportunities for societies throughout the world. It also has served to underscore the clear linkage between migration and development, as well as the opportunities it provides for co-development, that is, the concerted improvement of economic and social conditions at both origin and destination.

Migration draws increasing attention in the world nowadays. Mixed with elements of unforeseeability, emergency, and complexity, the challenges and difficulties of international migration require enhanced cooperation and collective action among countries and regions. The United Nations is actively playing a catalyst role in this area, with the aim of creating more dialogues and interactions within countries and regions, as well as propelling experience exchange and collaboration opportunities.

To mark this year’s International Migrants Day, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is calling on the international community to come together and remember the refugees and migrants who have lost their lives or have disappeared while trying to reach safe harbour after arduous journeys across seas and deserts.

IOM invites people all over the world to hold the first global Candlelight Vigil on December 18 to commemorate the migrants whose lives have been lost this year. Each of them has a name, a story and left their homelands seeking better opportunities and safety for themselves and in many cases for their families - aspirations that all of us strive for." Read more about the vigil.

The United Nations Human Rights Council has issued an important report on the rights of migrants. Check their work on migrant rights at and The UN Special Rapporteur on #MigrantRights:

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Migration Justice: A New Master Program at USF

The University of San Francisco (USF) has recently launched a Master Degree Program on Migration Studies. As we are faced my growing crises of forced migrations in Europe and worldwide, programs like this are becoming even more relevant for developing appropriate and competent leaders for the present and future global needs. International migration, along refugee crises, and human trafficking are some of the most pressing global challenges, international responsibilities and societal opportunities.

The Master in Migration Studies at University of San Francisco (USF) has been created in collaboration with the Universidad Iberoamericana, the Jesuit university in Mexico City (UIA). USF’s Master in Migration Studies combines its interdisciplinary approach with field experiences with migrants and with a particular attention to Mexican and Central American migration. In an article to the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), Dr. Lois Ann Lorentzen, USF Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, highlights the Latin American and Jesuit values of the program: "Mexicans make up roughly half of all unauthorized migrants to the U.S. In addition, half a million Central Americans cross Mexico annually, many of them making the dangerous journey north on top of a train known as “la Bestia.” The new USF program will benefit from Jesuit programs in support of migrants in Mexico, Central America, the U.S. and other parts of the world. For example, the Jesuit Service for Migrants in Mexico was founded in 2002 to address the urgent needs of migrants within Mexico, and several Jesuit groups staff comedores (food distribution centers) and shelters along the migrant route as well as the country's northern and southern borders."

Dr. Marco Tavanti has been instrumental to develop other programs similar to this and the AGI-Rome that aim at preparing adequate leaders and managers to address the challenges and opportunities of people on the move. He was instrumental for the creation of a Master degree program at DePaul University in Chicago focused on Refugee and Forced Migration Studies. He also developed the Intercultural Refugee Service Management Program in Jordan, in collaboration with UNHCR, UNRWA, IOM and other agencies with the purpose of helping nonprofit voluntary agency refugee resettlement workers (VOLAGs) to understand the global struggles and international procedures linked in migration. The Refugee Studies Centre at University of Oxford has been a pioneer in the study of forced migration and has been offering substantially contributing to the field. The educational challenges of such innovative program is to combine the understanding of international legal environments, with cultural normative and other interdisciplinary aspects with managerial skills for developing, running and assessing projects, programs and organizations.

The USF- School of Management AGI-Rome program along the USF Master in Migration Studies aim at preparing professionals to meet the needs of migrants and refugees. They aim to prepare professionals to adequately and competitively address these global challenges. They aim at understanding the intersection and complexity of forced migration with refugee and human rights responsibility, and with criminal activities linked to modern forms of human trafficking. They exemplify what former Jesuit Superior General Rev. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. envisioned in these professionals who can change the world by becoming “women and men for others."

Read more about the USF Migration Studies program here.