11 June, 2023
The Dutch government run by Prime Minister Mark Rutte collapsed on the 7th of July, 2023 following a disagreement between the four parties that formed the four-party coalition government, on the country’s immigration policy. As reported by NDTV India, the collapse followed a push by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD Party to limit the immigrant flow into the country by capping the number of family reunions for refugees from war zones at 200 per month, after two years; and to create a two-tier asylum system, temporary one for those fleeing conflict, and a permanent asylum system for those facing persecution as reported by Vox. However, this suggestion was denied support by the two progressive parties of the coalition, the D66 and the Christian Union.
This collapse of the Dutch four-party coalition government over the country’s immigration policy makes us want to revisit the various immigration policies adopted by various European countries and South Asian countries that witness a great influx of refugees every year from the middle eastern countries of Syria, Israel, or from countries like Afghanistan, from where refugees migrate to Europe as well as Pakistan, and India. Furthermore, the influx of refugees from Bangladesh and now from Myanmar following the coup in South Asian countries demand greater attention to the South Asian immigration policy. And, finally, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has further added to the pressure on European countries, making us revisit their immigration policies.
The current immigration policy in the Netherlands states, “Asylum seekers may be given asylum in the Netherlands if they need protection from persecution in their own country on religious or ethnic grounds, for instance.” As reported by the Dutch government website, homosexuals are also included in the criteria if they face persecution in their home country. Furthermore, the Dutch immigration policy also includes a list of countries of the same origin and states that asylum seekers from such countries are often not granted a residence permit as they are not eligible for protection. However, the policy states that if an application from a country of safe origin may need protection then they must specify this during their asylum procedure and must provide sufficient evidence for their claim to be granted a residence permit. According to a report by World Data, around 35,381 refugees were received in the Netherlands in 2022, and 89% of them were granted asylum. However, while North Korean refugees are facing persecution in their country the report showed how the Netherlands refused to give asylum to 5 North Korean refugees in 2022. A report by Al Jazeera claimed that North Korean refugees are often asked to prove how their families in North Korea will be persecuted if the refugees are deported to South Korea, something that a mere piece of paper cannot prove.
United Kingdom -
The United Kingdom has been making attempts to make the UK seem less attractive to the refugees who illegally find a way to the county. According to a report by the University Of Oxford, the United Kingdom has been adopting measures wherein “People who pass through safe countries on the way to the UK would be removed without having their asylum claim heard to deter others from coming here. And since, in some cases, removing people and deporting them back to their countries of origin is often not possible as the government has determined that most people who have claimed asylum in recent years are refugees who would be at risk if they were sent home. Thus, government policy has largely focused on removing people to safe third countries.” The current conservative government of President Rishi Sonak has also been pushing for the illegal migration bill according to which, “Anyone who enters the United Kingdom through an illegal route will be detained and swiftly deported to a safe country such as Rwanda and banned from ever stepping foot in the U.K. again.” This idea of the Uk government of diverting asylum seekers to third world countries has met with great criticism from various human rights activists across Europe and have claimed of it having “rippling effect across the whole of Europe.” Furthermore as reported by the Foreign Policy, this illegal migration bill seems to conflict with the 1951 Refugee Convention, according to which “no asylum seeker be punished for entering a country illegally.”
Ukraine’s neighbouring country and NATO member, Poland has become a haven for thousands of Ukrainian refugees escaping war in their home country following the Russian invasion in 2022. The Polish government has opened its borders welcoming the refugees into their country. The Polish government has even adopted an act to aid Ukrainian refugees. The newly adopted act on assisting Assisting Citizens of Ukraine in Connection with the Armed Conflict in the Territory of That Country states that “every citizen of Ukraine who has come to Poland from Ukraine because of the hostilities there can legally stay in Poland for a period of 18 months, with an option to extend their stay for up to three years. Furthermore, Ukrainians who were legally in Poland before the Russian invasion may stay until December 31, 2022.” The Library of Congress further reported that the statute establishes a deadline for Ukrainian nationals to submit applications for temporary residency permits, and if approved, then Ukrainian refugees would be able to work in Poland without a work permit which will be valid for three years.
While Poland has become an open border for Ukrainian victims and has adopted such policies to help them, the same cannot be said about its eastern border which it shares with Belarus. As reported by Social Europe various refugees fleeing persecution in the middle east have been denied access to the European country. This trend of following a closed border policy for the refugees trying to enter through Belarus to Poland has been justified by Polish officials as they claim that it is a political strategy being orchestrated by Belarus to destabilize Poland and the European Union.
In South Asia, India has witnessed a great influx of refugees from its neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and Myanmar. However, it still lacks a proper framework to address the issue of refugees in the country. Despite not being a signer of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 protocol, India has accepted refugees over the years and has provided them with the needed protection and shelter. Moreover, to ensure the safety of the refugees in the country, the Supreme Court has established that, “While all rights are available to citizens, persons including foreign citizens are entitled to the right to equality and the right to life, among others.” The Article 21 of the Indian constitution enforces the right of non-refoulement according to which no refugee fleeing persecution may be forced to return to their home country. However, the absence of a proper legal framework to deal with refugees has allowed the Indian government to declare any refugee as an illegal immigrant, thus, under the Foreigners Act of 1946, the government may deport them. It must also be noted that with the new amendments to the Citizenship Act, the Indian Government seeks to provide citizenship to Hindu, Christian, Jain, Parsi, Sikh, and Buddhist immigrants persecuted in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan only.
Thus, the various immigration policies around the world, some paradoxical, and some questionable, are of vital importance for the safety of refugees fleeing conflict and persecution. Thus, while countries with high GDP try to deflect refugees it is of vital importance for us members of the international society to ensure that the policies implemented by our governments are just and fair to every asylum seeker.
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