Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Illegal immigration

(October 9, 2013)

Here is one of the many discussions the BBC Arabic did regarding illegal immigration, stemming from the capsizing of a boat last week off the coast of Italy that led to the deaths of over 300 people coming from Africa.

I wanted to let you know right away that Sweden's decision to grant asylum to all refugees from Syria was mentioned, a message straight from the lips of this lovely lady:

Fida Bassil, fearless BBC Arabic presenter

This guest below said that in the past, Europe called illegal immigrants 'irregular immigrants', or 'non-systematic' immigrants. But recently this has evolved to 'illegal'.
Dr. Osaam Ghazooli, Director of the Arab Institute for Immigration Studies
Then he said that in the past, the numbers of illegal immigrants from the eastern and southern Mediterranean coast making their way to Italy had been about seven thousand to nine thousand per year. But there has been deep upheaval in the Middle East these past years! In this year alone, from January to September, thirty thousand illegal immigrants have arrived in Italy. And most of them are Syrian.
He said that in the past, Libya and Tunisia used to function as guardians of the southern European border. They would catch illegal immigrants before they left the African continent and convince them to work for Libya's oil sector (but how many oil jobs did Libya really have? Enough for whole companies of migrant workers?)
Then he tried to blame everything on NATO: "Now the situation in Libya has imploded. After NATO's operation, may God bless them (or did he mean may God damn them?), Libya became awash in terrible weapons, which have reached the hands of the anarchists and now there's nothing in place to police the gateway into southern Europe as there used to be."

Then Fida moved on to her next guest, Dr. Tariq, the one on the TV split screen wearing the blue tie:

The guy to the right of the split screen is Dr. Tariq Shendub from Beirut, professor of International Law

He said that in 2000, the UN passed a treaty against the smuggling of humans, and against the international trafficking of humans. That was probably a good treaty to pass; but it legislates against the maneuvers through which illegal immigrants try to transplant themselves.

On the other hand, the treaty also stipulates that countries should treat their refugees and illegal immigrants in a humane way, because, as Dr. Tariq puts it, no one leaves their countries unless they are forced to do so, because of wars, or from trying to find a better life. Also, countries should not treat their refugees and illegal immigrants as criminals, unless they actually commit a crime there. And finally, the only criminal investigations should be targeted not at the refugees/immigrants themselves, but at the underground networks that arrange the smuggling and the trafficking.

Then it was Mr. Osaam's turn again. He said that in spite of the United Nations treaty, immigrants get treated with less and less humanity. The sole example he gave was: the treatment in the US of immigrants from Mexico and further south. But since he is Arab, I really think he ought to have given an example of Arab countries treating immigrants and refugees poorly.

He mentioned Frontex. I've never heard of that before. Apparently, they are the border guards for the European Union. Mr. Osaam said: the budget of Frontex has shrunk from €118 million to €85 million over the last three years. In order to get more money, according to Mr. Osaam, Frontex exaggerates various crises to make out that they need much more monetary support. All this feeds into more and more scapegoating of immigrants.

Fida asked the professor of international law: suppose an illegal immigrant arrives in a country. We hear about military personnel placed on the borders, we hear that there are agreements to ship immigrants back to the countries they came from, where there are wars and human rights violations, but even so, the immigrants are sent back. So for such a country, a country that places military on its borders and misses any chance of treating people humanely, don't such countries get consequences from international law?  

The international law professor said: the UN treaty is above all things not a statutory commitment, but an ethical commitment. Some countries give lots of help to illegal immigrants. However, if any government breaks international law by sending immigrants back to a dangerous situation where they might be killed, in such cases, international law can criminalize those governments and will consider those officials responsible for carrying out the decisions in violation of international law. And they can be question in a criminal court over their role in deporting immigrants or refugees who might have been killed upon return. The specific example he later gave was that Lebanon had sent some Syrian refugees back to Syria, that this is clearly in violation of international law, and that the people who took the decision would be judged, perhaps not in an international court, but rather .... And I did not quite follow him to the end. He did not sound very definite, at any rate, as to what the exact consequences would be.

Fida noticed a surprised look on Mr. Osaam's face when the international law professor was saying all this. She asked him if he could see evidence in practice of these provisions in international law.

Mr. Osaam said: in fact, the main goal of countries with lots of immigrants is figuring out how to stop them. Either through positive ways, like helping economic and political stability in the immigrants' home countries, or in negative ways. For example, according to Dr. Osaam, right now in Lampedusa, the town in Italy near to where the boat with 300 dead people sank, they have a new rule for illegal immigrants. The rule is that you have to pay a €5000 fine. This is on top of the thousands each migrant paid to their smugglers to stick them on a rickety boat and be taken across the sea, and just barely survive the watery depths of death, to find yourself with a new €5000 fine. I wonder if anyone is going to pay? You can't exactly force anyone to pay anything when you have no money.
Mr. Osaam said that these fines, and the use of the word "illegal" in referring to immigrants show that the goal is not protection of immigrants, but rather in deporting and getting rid of them. 
On the other hand, a third guest said that even with the rise of far-right extremists wholly opposed to immigration, such political parties have not been able to get a grip on European parliaments and force many of their ideas through. In Great Britain, for example, he pointed out that there has not been a single law passed recently to restrict immigration. Fida pointed out that in spite of this, fewer political refugees are granted asylum in Great Britain today than in former years. The third guest said this was a security issue, and that some people who are not refugees at all, but instead of affiliated with Al-Qaeda, go around applying for asylum. He said it's not the fault of immigrants, nor the fault of the authorities, but the fault of people who are lying on their applications and making it more difficult for everyone.

Here is the third guest:

Adil Darwish, journalist at Britain's Daily Mail newspaper

He speaks with an Egyptian accent. How am I supposed to understand him when he slurs every word abominably?

Fida wanted a different point of view, so she turned back to Mr. Osaam: do you see a general movement towards greater strictness in how immigrants are treated in western countries?

Mr. Osaam: on a cultural level, yes. Wow, and he thinks the cause was the institution of a "cultural studies" program at Birmingham University in 1964, and since that moment, you have seen emerge the politics of identity, and looking at gender and ethnic perspectives, and other divisions. He thinks this led to exaggerated fears of Muslims and of people below the southern borders, and it was the creation of a culture hostile towards immigrants, and if you please, he would go so far as to call it a sickness, because there's a lot of exaggeration in it. However, he concludes, the general opinion in Europe is democratic in its government, cultures and history, and this is what leads most people to defend the rights of immigrants. Mr. Osaam said, getting very passionate and holding up his hands in a prayerful pose, that the general opinion in Europe is getting to be more and more humane regarding immigrants and this will stand in defense of immigrants in the coming years.

They started talking about migrant workers from Lebanon seeking visas to Gulf countries like UAE and Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Fida was hinting that Gulf countries will only grant visas to Lebanese of certain religions, and is this legal? I think she was hinting that Sunnis would get visas, but not Shias. Dr. Tariq of international law said that such favoritism would not be legal, but that he had not known of any such stories. The only thing he was aware of was that it was easier for Lebanese Christians to get visas than it was for Muslims, and that the Gulf countries treated everyone with respected, and made their visa decisions on an individual basis, not on a ethnic or religious basis. 

And the last point was Fida asking: with economic problems how should all these western countries be expected to take in so many refugees and immigrants?

Mr. Osaam said, but oh! these western countries are in dire need of refugees and immigrants to improve their economic positions, the only question now is how to bridge the cultural differences.

The end.

If you want to watch the program, you can find it on YouTube by clicking here.

New Arabic words:
رهيب = rehiib = terrible
فوضويون = fow-thow-ii-oon = anarchists
معاهدات = mo-aa-hidaat = treaties
تهريب = tih-riib = smuggling
يسهم = yu-sehim = contributes
معادية = mo-aa-diya = hostile

No comments:

Post a Comment