The Mediterranean island of Lampedusa (Italian Isola di Lampedusa) is the largest of the Pelagie Islands and is situated 205 km from Sicily and 113 km from Tunisia. Its population subsists on fishing, agriculture and tourism. The island is under invasion by illegal immigrants from North Africa. Even the EU bureaucrats can see that “whereas Lampedusa is a small island of 20 km2 located in the middle of the Sicilian Channel, with a population of 5 500, [it] has obvious limits to its capacity to receive and host the mass of (illegal) immigrants and asylum seekers who regularly land on its coast, often in desperate conditions.”
Illegal immigrants, eh? What then, is the Italian answer to this problem? Send them back where they came from. Which is Libya. Italy, surprisingly, has no law regarding refugees. In fact it is the only country in the EU that does not have such laws. What would be the point? The EU would simply overrule them anyway if it didn’t think them appropriate. Indeed the EU went to work on Italy after the Italians returned a load of these illegal immigrants to Libya between October 2004 and March 2005. Italy has a repatriation agreement with Libya, though the body of that agreement has remained secret since its creation. This too, is a thorn in the side of the EU. The EU cannot have independant thinkers in its midst can it? Whatever next? Sovereignty? Heaven forbid!
The EU parliament went into immediate discussion and came up with a text [P6_TA(2005)0138] to condemn Italy and to let everybody else know, that this sort of thing is unacceptable to the social democratic government of Europe and Italy had better stop this arbitrary behaviour at once. And the EU produced all the necessary articles and conventions they could find with which to back their edict up , including the Refugee Convention, the articles of human rights of everyone from the UN downward and their own version of European law. One of the points they make most use of is the principle of “non-refoulement” – or “no return”. This principle was founded in 1905 and was meant to protect any individual asylum seeker from repatriation. Over the last century this principle was expanded and broadened and is now a blanket under which thousands, and not merely one individual, can use to solidify their position as refugees. Which is why 300,000 illegal immigrants a year, every year, are coming to Europe and are not being turned away. We can’t merely repatriate them. That is to say, we could, but we mustn’t. Read the following from Jessica Rodger of the Faculty of Law, Victoria University, Wellington. She puts it better than I can:
1951 Refugee Convention
The Convention itself deals with various aspects of law relating to refugees, and remains the primary instrument of refugee law. It was intended to consolidate the various international laws and practices impacting on refugees and asylum-seekers. It was also recognised that certain countries bore a much bigger burden than others with respect to the refugee flows, therefore it was imperative that an international approach to the problem be taken. The Convention defined who exactly was to be viewed as a refugee, and spelled out what rights these people would have. In 1967, by way of a Protocol, the Convention was amended and signatories were given the opportunity to remove the geographical and temporal restrictions present in the original document.
For our purposes Article 33 of the Convention is of primary relevance. The first paragraph of this article states that:
No Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
Although this was intended to be an absolute right, states remained concerned about the erosion of their sovereignty that this could create. Therefore a second paragraph was tacked on, providing that the right of non-refoulement could not be claimed by someone who was seen as a risk to the security of the country, or who had been convicted of a ‘particularly serious crime’.
Since 1951, 137 states have signed the Convention, thereby accepting the principle of non-refoulement expressed therein. However problems have arisen regarding the interpretation of Article 33. Debate continues to surround the issue of whether or not a refugee must be inside the state in order for the right to accrue to them. If so then states would be perfectly within their rights to turn away asylum-seekers at the borders or ships at sea. There was also discussion as to whether a refugee had to meet the strict requirements of the Convention before they could be granted the right of non-refoulement. However, through the work of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, and general state practice, it has been accepted that Article 33 applies to all refugees, whether or not they fit the prescribed definition.
“Whether or not they fit the prescribed definition”. Which renders the definition of refugee useless. What point can such a definition serve if it is immediately rendered void by acceptance of refugee status by default? Jessica continues:
The non-refoulement principle has clearly undergone substantial development since its emergence as a vague morality-based rule. Not only is it described as the foundation of the foremost international legal instrument relating to refugees, but it has also been transplanted into other treaties. Although this indicates the importance of non-refoulement internationally, its expression in so many different ways and in so many different instruments, also serves to undermine its effectiveness. As things currently stand, refugees are in a position to shop around to see which state has the most obliging refugee laws and in particular the widest interpretation of their non-refoulement obligations. This problem, as well as others caused by the differing definitions of non-refoulement in the various instruments, may be overcome if it could be shown that the non-refoulement principle had attained the status of a customary rule.
Which I believe has been done by the EU’s chastisement of Italy. “Non-refoulement” has become a blanket customary rule.
In which case it should be repealed and a new strategy to deal with thousands of illegal immigrants coming to our shores with absolute impunity should be developed and immediate repatriation should be put in place. Illegal immigration is piracy.
We are being plundered.
P6_TA(2005)0138 (EU Adopted Text)