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New EU Asylum Rules: Even the Bare Minimum Will Require Radical Politics – World – ReliefWeb

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BY
Claudia Meier
Julian Lehmann

For the past five years, European Union leaders have tried but failed to reform the block’s rules on asylum. The main bone of contention was the Dublin Regulation, in particular the rule of first entry, which specifies that the first EU member state that an asylum seeker enters is responsible for hosting them and processing their asylum claim. Because of fundamental disagreements on how to reform ​“Dublin”, all other reform proposals have gathered dust on shelves in Brussels. Meanwhile, thousands of asylum seekers still languish in dangerous camps at Europe’s borders.

On Wednesday, the EU Commission finally unveiled the Union’s new reform ideas. On responsibility for asylum applications, they aim to replace the rules of the Dublin Regulation by – drumroll – the rules of the Dublin Regulation. In other words, the basic rules will continue to apply, with some tweaks like member state cooperation in the event of numerous asylum seekers arriving at one member’s borders at the same time. Fundamentally, the proposal cements the sad truth that the EU’s asylum policy has become a sinister race to the bottom on who manages to host the least asylum seekers. Even this lackluster proposal on distributing responsibility was met with immediate and fierce opposition in some member states – including by Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who declared it dead on arrival.

But the EU has few alternatives to reform. In 2015 and 2016, when the numbers of asylum applications spiked, illiberal political parties all over Europe were swift to exploit them for political gain. And they will do so again if member states fail to break the deadlock and sensibly reform the Dublin Regulation. Indeed, the current system leads to frustration everywhere: the EU’s border states like Greece will repeat their mantra of being left overburdened, while others like France or Poland will complain that most asylum seekers who end up further north should have been accommodated in the countries of their first arrival.

Given this protracted situation, the upcoming negotiations on the proposed new laws will have to address two questions: What is the bare minimum that would make a reform better than no reform? And how can the champions of this bare minimum mobilize a majority for it? We think that, above all, a new governance would have to stand the test of being a more solidary system. But reaching – and salvaging – such a compromise will require radical political action.

Call the bluff with a different resettlement option. The EU Commission proposes that states who are unwilling to host asylum seekers as part of a relocation effort ​“in times of crisis” can instead contribute to collective effort by organizing returns of asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected (“return sponsorships”). This idea could prove a slippery slope into a situation where virtually every member state wiggles out of a commitment to admit asylum seekers – a recipe for more disasters and human rights violations like the ones the world is currently witnessing in Moria, Greece. To prevent this, the EU should cap the total number of such ​“return sponsorships” to 10 percent of all asylum seekers who are being relocated in the EU. Member states that still refuse to accommodate asylum seekers could be offered the alternative to accept the equivalent of their share of recognized refugees from outside the EU. Refugees are recognized as such by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, so that this compromise would call the bluff on the argument that redistribution creates a ​“pull factor”, as well as popular claims that only the most resourceful people manage to reach the EU.

Push through a low threshold for mutual support. The pact is vague on the criteria that would trigger any new mechanism in support of an overburdened EU state. For instance, it does not define the kind of ​“crisis” that would oblige member states to support each other. To address this flaw, the EU should set a threshold for each member state, depending on its economic power. This would send a signal of serious intentions to the states at the EU’s external borders. In addition, any mechanism for mutual support would have to kick in automatically. Anything else would be an invitation for anti-EU governments to blame the European Union once the numbers of asylum seekers go up.

Up the stakes for spoilers. The single most important leverage the EU has over its member states is its budget. EU leaders have just adopted a new budget for the next seven years, following a 90 hour-long summit. The ball is now in the European Parliament’s court – MEPs have yet to accept the carefully hatched proposal. One of the main points of contention is budget conditionality: many parliamentarians want the EU to be able to withhold funds when a member state does not comply with the principles of democratic rule of law. The EU parliament should explicitly include systematic violations of the rights of foreigners under EU jurisdiction – including during returns procedures – as part of its definition of democratic rule of law. This would finally give the EU leverage when a member state undercuts its minimum standards on asylum. It would also help to address the perverse incentive structure of the current system in which member states are ​“rewarded” for sub-standard asylum systems, because such systems bar the returns of asylum seekers who have traveled onward to other EU states.

Hammer home the message of international credibility. The EU’s current treatment of asylum seekers is harming its international standing when advocating for principles like cooperation on migration policy, democratic rule of law and human rights. In several African states, EU officials have had to deal with rebuttals and accusations of hypocrisy when trying to argue for upholding the human rights of migrants. In private, German Chancellor Merkel has shared how China’s President Xi – of all people – has also confronted her with the failings of EU migration policy. A new, more humane compromise on asylum policy is a crucial step for the EU to regain some of its credibility on the international stage.

The chances are slim that the ​“pact’s” proposal on the Dublin Regulation will lead to concrete reforms worth fighting for. But the moment is more promising than it has been for a long time. The numbers of asylum applications in the EU have shrunk by almost 50 percent when compared to their peak in 2015. Since then, governments should have learned that the EU cannot afford a perpetual political crisis on asylum – and asylum seekers even less so.

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Students learn provincial politics in mock vote at Saskatchewan schools – Global News

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They are too young to vote in Monday’s provincial election, but Saskatchewan elementary and high school students have learned how to cast a ballot when the time comes.

A total of 420 schools across all 61 provincial ridings took part in Student Vote Saskatchewan 2020 ahead of election day on Oct. 26.

Non-partisan Canadian charity, CIVIX, provides teachers with the necessary materials for its civic education program, which has been running since 2003.

“The purpose of our project is to get engaged now, so that when they turn 18, we hope that they not only vote then, but that they will always vote,” said Dan Allan, CIVIX director of content.

Read more:
Ridings to watch in the 2020 Saskatchewan election

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Grade 12 student Brenna Metz said before the program, her class did not know much about who was running for election in their local riding.

“Realizing we need to be informed when making these decisions because they are really big decisions about our lives,” Metz said, adding her biggest takeaway was learning how the provincial government relates to important issues.

“I know mental health was a huge thing that we discussed in our classes because it definitely affects everyone in the school and for many students it is a large problem in Saskatchewan.”

After learning the ins and outs of provincial politics, students from as early as Grade 4 cast mock ballots on Oct. 22 and Oct. 23.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools were offered the option of online voting. CIVIX noted, however, the majority still chose to use paper ballots with added precautions.

Teacher Lyle Morley said classes at Dr. Martin LeBoldus High School in Regina voted at their desks using paper ballots sealed in envelopes — akin to mail-in ballots.

Read more:
Next Saskatchewan government will have to juggle budget, pandemic economy

“In past years we’d have them bring ID and go to the library and vote like you would usually vote,” Morley said, adding students are looking forward to seeing the provincewide results.

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“They want to know what the schools did and they’re definitely interested to see who won,” he said.

CIVIX will release the final student vote results, broken down by riding and school, on election night Monday at 8 p.m. CT.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Politics Chat: Trump And Biden Reach Final Stretch Of Their Presidential Campaigns – NPR

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It’s nine days until Election Day, and a historic number of Americans have already voted. More will do so in the coming days.



LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

We are almost there, people. Just over a week until Election Day and a new reminder of just how unprecedented and unpredictable this campaign is. Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff is now in quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus. That’s on a weekend where a record number of Americans have also been confirmed positive. Let’s check in now with our own Mara Liasson, NPR national political correspondent.

Good morning to you, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Marc Short is considered a close contact of the vice president’s.

LIASSON: Yes, he is, and the White House said that the vice president and Mrs. Pence both tested negative. They’re in good health. Pence – even though he is considered a close contact of Marc Short’s, he’s also classified as an essential employee, and the White House says he’s going to keep on traveling, maintain his campaign schedule. Per the CDC guidelines, essential workers who have been exposed to COVID can continue to work if they monitor for symptoms and wear a mask at all times. We know that Short himself is quarantining.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. As we know, it can take some time, though, for there to be enough virus to show up on a test, so obviously, we’re going to keep a close eye on this. But let’s zoom out a little bit now and look at both campaigns. Where are the candidates going in these final days, and what does that tell us about the state of the race?

LIASSON: Well, it tells us a lot. Donald Trump was in North Carolina and Ohio and Wisconsin yesterday. North Carolina and Ohio aren’t states that are usually considered battleground states. They’re states that Republicans should be able to take for granted. Wisconsin – obviously a big, important swing state.

Joe Biden was in Pennsylvania, so it shows you that he’s not taking his birth state for granted. That’s a state that Donald Trump won last time. The Democrats want to get it back. And the Democrats are sending Barack Obama to campaign in Miami. They sent him there. That – he is the most popular person in the Democratic Party, and Florida is a state that Donald Trump has to win to get to 270 votes. So it shows you that Democrats are trying to at least force the Trump campaign to spend a lot more time and money in Florida.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. And there are a lot of statistics being passed around about how many votes have been cast already and by whom and how all that compares to 2016 and other elections, so I’m going to put this to you. What’s your take on all those numbers?

LIASSON: The numbers are really interesting. Right now, 50 million votes have been cast so far. That’s early voting and by-mail voting. That is a third of the total votes cast in 2016, so I would say we are on our way to a historically high turnout election. In Florida and in Texas, the votes cast so far are greater than the number of total votes cast for Donald Trump in those two states in 2016. We don’t know by whom.

We also do know that a Tufts University study of young voters aged 18 to 29 in Florida, North Carolina and Michigan show that they are voting early by – in multiples of the numbers they voted four years ago. And, of course, we do know that young voters tend to split for Democrats 2-to-1. So it’s hard to say what early voting means.

There was an early advantage for Democrats in the states that do report party ID, but now we’re hearing from Florida that Republicans are turning out to vote early in numbers that could offset that advantage. And it’s hard to draw conclusions about early voting because we don’t know if it’s a sign of greater turnout advantage or is a party just banking votes early that they would get anyway on Election Day?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. And speaking of big numbers, let’s talk about money. I mean, we’ve seen just huge sums of money being paid out during this election. Is a cash advantage that – like the Democrats have as important as it used to be? And where are the candidates spending all that money?

LIASSON: A cash advantage is important. Money doesn’t equal votes, but it really helps. And what’s interesting about this year is that it is very unusual that an incumbent president, especially a Republican incumbent who – there are just more deep pockets on the Republican side – is being outraised and outspent by the Democrats.

Now, plenty of rich people are also giving to Joe Biden, but his average donation is $44. That’s a sign of enthusiasm. He also has much more cash on hand right now than the Trump campaign. It shows you how much money the Trump campaign has kind of blown through. And we also know that big donors are now – on the Republican side are now sending their money to Senate races, not to Donald Trump. They’re trying to build that firewall, and that’s going to be – he’s not going to be able to raise a lot of money in the last couple of days.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. You mentioned Senate races. There’s a big race in South Carolina between Senator Lindsey Graham and his Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison. Just briefly, what other big races are you watching?

LIASSON: Well, watching Maine and Colorado. Those are the two blue states won by Hillary Clinton where there’s a Republican Senate incumbent up for reelection. In both those states, the Republican has been trailing. The next state I’m watching is Arizona – again, a Republican incumbent who’s been polling behind the Democratic challenger. And then there are all sorts of sleeper races. South Carolina is one of them, as you mentioned – Alaska, Kansas. There’s a lot of – I would say the Senate is a jump ball right now.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That’s NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Thank you so much.

LIASSON: Thank you.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Showdown on Parliament Hill pushes tension between science, politics into the spotlight – Global News

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OTTAWA — Monday’s vote on a Conservative motion to launch an in-depth review of the Liberal government’s COVID-19 response highlights a key challenge of pandemic politics: how to hold a government accountable for decisions based on science, when the science itself is changing nearly every day.

The opposition wants a committee probe into everything from why regulators are taking so long to approve rapid testing to an early decision not to close the border to international travel, and what concerns the Liberals is how that probe is being framed.

“One of the narratives that I find most distressing coming from the opposition, is that somehow because advice changed at some point that the government was hiding information or that the government was giving misinformation,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said late last week.

“And nothing could be further from the truth.”

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Read more:
O’Toole blasts Liberals, praises Alberta’s pandemic response at UCP AGM

It’s not the science itself that’s up for debate, said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.

“In a pandemic, borders, since the Middle Ages, have been part of a stop of spreading of the virus and that was a failure of elected officials to put the health of Canadians first,” O’Toole told reporters last week.

“There has been conflicting information on masks and other things. My concern is that the Trudeau government relies more on open source data from China than our own science and intelligence experts.”

The relationship between a nation’s scientists and their senior politicians is a challenging one, said Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides the scientific evidence there is, but at the end of the day, it is the politicians who make the call, he said.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

A decision on whether or not to close the borders is a good example, he said.






2:07
Tories want Liberals’ pandemic response investigated


Tories want Liberals’ pandemic response investigated

In the early days of the pandemic, the World Health Organization cautioned against widespread border closures. Scientific research has suggested there’s little medical benefit to them and the economic impacts can be severe and wide-ranging.

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But the optics of border closures, the idea that if countries can keep out a virus out they will be immune, creates political pressure to act, Culbert said .

“The tension between what is in the public’s good, as opposed to all of the varying political considerations the politicians have to take into consideration — there’s always a tension there,” Culbert said.

Read more:
Liberals will not view second Conservative committee motion as confidence vote

While heated, the interplay between Liberal government and Opposition Conservatives is a far cry from the hyper-partisanship around pandemic response in the U.S., where even the president has circulated misinformation and challenged that country’s top scientists.

Canadian researchers studying the response of political elites here in the early days of the pandemic found no evidence of MPs casting doubt on the seriousness of the pandemic, or spreading conspiracy theories about it. In fact, there was a cross partisan consensus around how seriously it needed to be taken.


Click to play video 'Singh says NDP doesn’t want ‘witch hunt’ with WE Charity investigation'



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Singh says NDP doesn’t want ‘witch hunt’ with WE Charity investigation


Singh says NDP doesn’t want ‘witch hunt’ with WE Charity investigation

“As far as we can tell, that story hasn’t changed,” said Eric Merkley, a University of Toronto political scientist who led the study.

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Both he and Culbert said a review of the Liberals’ pandemic response is warranted, but a balancing act is required.

READ MORE: Liberals survive confidence vote, avert imminent election with NDP help

“Everyone has 20/20 hindsight and thinks that they can go, look back, and and point to points at which bad decisions were made,” Culbert said.

“But that’s with the knowledge that we have today. We didn’t have that knowledge back in March.”

The Liberals have sometimes hit back at criticism by pointing to how the previous Conservative government handled the science and health files, including budget cuts and efforts to muzzle scientists.


Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Trudeau defends making Tory committee motion a confidence vote, risking election'



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Coronavirus: Trudeau defends making Tory committee motion a confidence vote, risking election


Coronavirus: Trudeau defends making Tory committee motion a confidence vote, risking election

But critics can’t be painted as anti-science for asking questions, Merkley said.

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“There’s plenty of scope for democratic debate about proper responses to the pandemic, there’s plenty of scope for disagreement,” Merkley said.

“And just because there’s that disagreement and an Opposition party holding government accountable, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, that’s a sign of a healthy democracy.”

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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