Tom Arms’ World Review

UK

British Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s “Stop the Boats” policy is in danger of being torpedoed by the European Convention on Human Rights. But then Ms Braverman may have an answer to that problem: Withdraw from the convention and the jurisdiction of the administering European Court of Human Rights.

The Illegal Migration Bill – as it is officially called – is aimed at stopping the estimated 50,000-plus people who are expected to cross the English Channel in small boats this year. It is one of the five cornerstone goals of Rishi Sunak’s premiership.

A key element of the policy is that any small boat refugee crossing the channel to seek asylum in Britain will be detained for 28 days without access to the law. At the end of that period, if they are not granted asylum, they will be flown to Rwanda or transported back to their home country. There will be no right of appeal and anyone deported will be banned from future asylum applications.

Most legal eagles agree that the proposed law is a breach of the International Convention on Refugees and the European Convention on Human Rights which binds the British government to protect people (including refugees) from being killed or subject to inhumane and degrading treatment. It also exposes the Home Secretary to the charge of unlawful imprisonment and the denial of basic legal rights.

In anticipation of these obstacles, Ms Braverman has said that the European Court of Human Rights is “at odds with British values” and the “will of the British people,” thus raising the spectre of British withdrawal. It was British lawyers in the early post-war years who were largely responsible for drafting the European Convention of Human Rights and establishing the court. For their template they used Magna Carta and the 1689 English Bill of Rights with the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, the US Bill of Rights and the UN Declaration of Human Rights thrown in for good measure. Ms Braverman would appear to be “at odds” with legal history.

Ukraine

Russian missile attacks on Ukraine reached new levels this week and raised the danger levels at Europe’s largest nuclear reactor at Zaporizhzhia.  The missiles temporarily knocked out the outside power source which was needed to cool the reactors.

Power was restored on Thursday, but this was the sixth time that outside power has been cut off and workers have been forced to switch to emergency diesel generators to protect the reactors. Rafael Grossi, the head of the UN’s International Atomic Entergy Agency, said: “Each time this happens we are rolling the dice. One day our luck will run out.”

He accused the international community of complacency over the fate of the Zaporizhzhia power plant and urged the Russians, Ukrainians and all other interested parties to “commit to protect the supply and safety of the plant.”

Not all, nuclear experts agree with Senor Grossi’s dire warning. Some say that the reactors have been shut down to such an extent that they require little or no power to stay safe. They all agree that the ones in greatest danger are the Russian soldiers guarding the site and the Ukrainians working there.

Israel

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces problems on several fronts. West Bank settlers are killing Palestinians. Palestinians are killing settlers. The Biden Administration is pressuring him to change his settlement policy and thousands are demonstrating against his plans for the judiciary.

So far this year 70 Palestinians and 13 Israelis have been killed in West Bank violence. The cause is Palestinians fighting against Jewish settlements in breach of international law. In one incident hundreds of settlers rampaged through a Palestinian refugee camp burning dozens of homes in retaliation for the deaths of two Israeli teenagers.  Under pressure from the Biden Administration, Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition agreed to suspend the issuing of building permits for West Bank settlements, but this does not affect the estimated 10,000 already agreed and waiting to be constructed.

At the same time, Netanyahu’s proposals to politicise the judiciary by increasing the number of political appointments to the country’s Supreme Court has resulted in 10 weeks of anti-government demonstrations. Netanyahu says the changes are necessary to make the court more responsive to the will of the people. Opponents claim that it undermines the democratic cornerstone of an independent judiciary.

The latest protests blocked the road to the country’s main airport which disrupted a visit by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and delayed a Netanyahu flight to Rome. Army reservists also staged a demonstration outside the Jerusalem offices of a right-wing think tank and reserve fighter pilots boycotted a training session in protest against the proposed legal changes.

Georgia

Russia is worried about Georgia. Moscow has had its eye on the Caucasian state since before 2008 when it invaded and annexed the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But most Georgians want to be free from Moscow’s sphere of influence. They are keen to join the EU and – as protection against Russia – NATO.

The ruling Georgia Dream Party has to walk a tightrope between the wishes of its voters and the expansionist ambitions of its powerful Kremlin neighbour. To placate Moscow, the government proposed a “Foreign Agents Bill” modelled on a similar Russian law. The bill would have forced any media organisation or NGO which received more than 20 percent of its funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents.”

This would have been a breach of EU law and its passage would have ensured that Georgia stayed out of the Brussels/Washington orbit. Tens of thousands of pro-European demonstrators took to the streets of Tbilisi and for three days were met with tear gas, baton charges and water cannon. But in the end, the government caved in to the demonstrators and voted 38-1 to drop the law.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was furious. He drew a comparison between the Tbilisi demonstrators and Kyiv’s 2014 Maidan revolt which set the stage for the invasion of Ukraine. “It seems to me,” he warned, “that all the countries located around the Russian Federation should draw their own conclusions about how dangerous it is to take a path towards engagement with the US zone and the zone of its interests.”

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopaedia of the Cold War” and “America Made in Britain". To subscribe to his email alerts on world affairs click here.

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10 Comments

  • Mel Borthwaite 12th Mar '23 - 10:09am

    The Tory ‘stops the boats’ policy is raising some difficult questions for opposition parties. It seems clear that British public opinion supports genuine asylum seekers but does not support people misusing the asylum system as a way of trying to circumvent immigration controls. We know that, currently, almost half of those coming to the UK across the channel in small boats are Albanians – and Albania is a safe country. So the challenge for opposition political parties is: do we believe in open borders and, if not, how do we prevent people who are not genuine asylum seekers from abusing the asylum process to stay in the UK when they have no right to be here. I do not believe in open borders so I am willing to discuss ways of identifying and speedily removing from the UK those who have entered the country without legal authority.

  • Hello Mel, I think your statistics are a bit dodgy. According to the stats on the BBC show that out of 43,000 boat people in 2022, just over 12,000 were Albanian – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-63473022. That’s 28% not almost half. A substantial number – YES. A significant problem -YES. An issue that needs something doing about it – YES. But “Nearly half” – NO.

    To me the big challenge for opposition political parties is: how to overcome dodgy statistics used to undermine reasoned debate. I hope it is the same for you.

    David

  • Suggest plan of action on boat people: A government initiative at domestic and international level. At the domestic level employ more Home Office officials and base them in the camps at Calais and elsewhere to swiftly, efficiently and fairly deal with asylum applications. Those judged not to be genuine asylum seekers are either returned to their home country or another country which is prepared to accept them. They do not remain in France (unless France wants them) which is an incentive for French cooperation.
    Part two: Convene an international conference on immigration and asylum seekers to work out a quota system around the world. There is a precedent for this. Such a conference was successfully organised in the aftermath of the Vietnam War to deal with the boat people.

  • Mel Borthwaite 12th Mar '23 - 5:53pm

    @David Evans
    Allow me to provide more recent statistics. While you are correct that the proportion of Albanians over 2022 averaged 28%, official statistics published on 2nd November showed that the proportion of Albanians in the 5 months from May to September was 42%.

    I would suggest that 42% is “almost half”.

  • David Evans 12th Mar '23 - 6:57pm

    Hello Mel,

    Thanks for the extra information. It’s curious that when the BBC seems to have access to the full year stats, your stats appear to only go up to September.

    Can you provide a link to your data source?

    Cheers,

    David

  • Mel Borthwaite 12th Mar '23 - 8:44pm

    Hi David

    https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/factsheet-small-boat-crossings-since-july-2022/factsheet-small-boat-crossings-since-july-2022

    Of course, the fact that these statistics are from the government does not mean they are not ‘dodgy’ in some way, such as being deliberately selective in timeframes used to seek to make a point. However, the fact that the total number of Albanians in the 5 month period of 2022 was 11,102 when the total for 2021 was only 815 must be significant.

  • David Evans 12th Mar '23 - 9:38pm

    Thanks Mel,

    Looking at the data set, it seems that quarterly figures show that in 2022 Albanians comprised 5% of small boat arrivals in Q1, 24% in Q2, 45% in Q3 and 8% in Q4. So over the Summer period, it could have been 45%, but most recently it was only 8%.

    All in all, I would suggest that the 42% was emphasized by the government statistically to demonstrate a spike, but also politically to cause consternation.

    Next summer we will find out if it is a major factor or a one off.

    One thing that is also true is that based on the most up to date available data (Q4), currently the percentage of Albanians is 8%, or over the last half year it was 30%. Still a lot but not nearly a half.

  • Peter Hirst 13th Mar '23 - 4:41pm

    International law needs clarifying around entering a country to claim asylum. If entering a country without permisssion is illegal then all claims for asylum must be made from outside that country and nternational law must reflect that. Otherwise claiming asylum takes precedent so freedom of movement to do so must be allowed.

  • Changing technologies etc can make existing laws redundant or dysfunctional as circumstances change requiring new laws to address the new realities.

    That’s what’s happened with migration. Travel costs have plummeted, and the Internet has shrunk distance making economic migration to a richer country look like a good option.

    But it’s wildly unsustainable and, from a practical POV, it’s impossible to know a migrant’s true status. Some conclusions:

    Firstly, would be migrants should apply at an embassy close to their home country which should have some expertise in regional events. The definition of ‘close’ can be relaxed because applications can be referred to the regional lead embassy. Eg Syrians applying from Jordan or Iraq might be processed in Turkey.

    Secondly, would-be migrants should self-declare if they are ‘economic migrants’ or ‘refugees’ and get different rights accordingly. Refugees would only get temporary leave to remain (which might last decades). Economic migrants would have to demonstrate a needed skill not available from a UK citizen.

    Thirdly, all migrants (NOT the natives) must carry identity cards with status details and biometric data to make policing feasible.

    Finally, any migrant committing a crime (including illegal entry) should be expelled with the legal test the very soft one of ‘reasonable suspicion’.

    This would give legitimate migrants a safe passage saving many lives, it would put the gangs out of business and be sustainable. I expect it would soon be widely copied to become the new normal.

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