We are delighted to welcome this guest post from Leanne Caulfield, research assistant at Maynooth University on the IHREC-funded project “Integration Policy in Ireland Through the Lens of Human Rights and Equality”.
In January, Professor Mary Gilmartin and Dr. Clíodhna Murphy (Maynooth University) commenced work on an Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission funded research project which focuses on the development of a human rights-based integration policy framework for public bodies. One aspect of the research involves the collation and analysis of public bodies’ existing policies relating to migrant integration, diversity or interculturalism. In evaluating public bodies’ integration policies, it seems fitting to turn firstly to the Migrant Integration Strategy published by the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration in February of this year.
Underpinning Features of the New Migrant Integration Strategy
The central features underpinning the new strategy are its definition of integration as a broad-based, two-way conception; its focus on a mainstreaming, intercultural approach to policy enforcement; and its foundation on the EU Common Basic Principles for Integration. The strategy also centres on the idea that it is addressing a new phase in Ireland’s integration policy – moving beyond the initial phase of focussing on the needs of those newly arrived in Ireland, to that where many migrants have lived in Ireland for some time but may continue to have needs particular to their migrant status.
The strategy is much more focused on identifying actions rather than setting out guiding principles. The strategy identifies two types of actions. The first type of actions are those applicable to all Government departments which include making information available through signs and translated material, training on intercultural awareness and providing information on how to make a complaint about racist behaviour.
The second type of actions is those which are intended to address particular issues. Some of these are interesting and quite specific – such as the inclusion of a target of 1% for the employment of EEA migrants and people from minority ethnic communities in the civil service (in most cases civil service employment is not open to non-EEA nationals) and the monitoring of current school enrolment policies over time to assess their impact on the enrolment of migrant students. Other actions are broad and nebulous (for example, “encourage businesses to focus on integration”; and “migrants will be encouraged to participate in local and national politics to the extent that these areas are legally open to them”.)
A Human Rights and Equality Focus?
As the research project is focused on developing a human rights and equality-based migrant integration policy framework for public bodies, we were keen to establish the extent to which the Migrant Integration Strategy is either explicitly or implicitly human rights-based.
“Human rights” are not expressly mentioned in the Migrant Integration Strategy apart from a handful of references which are made only for the purpose of outlining the duty on the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. There are no references to upholding human rights standards or ensuring that human rights are enjoyed by all, and human rights principles are not expressly given as a rationale for any of the measures outlined in the strategy. However, there are a small number of express references to “equality” and equality principles. It is stated that the vision of the strategy is to enable migrants or persons of migrant origin to participate “on an equal basis” with those of Irish heritage. The strategy also expresses a commitment to ensuring “equality of opportunity” for second generation migrants although it does not proceed to explain how this will be achieved.
The strategy does contain some implicit references to human rights and equality principles and human rights issues. Commitments are made with regard to the right of participation, as the strategy outlines its vision of enabling migrants or persons of migrant origin to participate on an equal basis with those of Irish heritage. The principle of non-discrimination is also referred to implicitly in the outline of measures aimed at combating racism and xenophobia including intercultural training, ensuring representation of migrants on joint-policing committees, and other measures. However, the strategy also states that provision of generic training across the public service via the shared learning and development curriculum will address specific provision of antiracism and cultural awareness training only “where a need is identified”.
One of the core elements of the strategy’s vision is that “the basic values of Irish society are respected by all”. The strategy also states that integration recognises the right of migrants to give expression to their own culture in a manner that does not conflict with the “basic values of Irish society” placing an emphasis on the need for migrants to conform to Irish values without elaborating on what these values are. As Xanthaki argues, portraying values as simply “Irish” or “European”, as though Irish and European societies are beacons of democracy and fairness, and then expecting migrants to conform to these values, can serve to create a conditional one-way process of integration and to impose an artificial gap between the “host community” and migrant communities.
Positive Aspects of the Strategy
The Migrant Integration Strategy contains several positive features in its vision to achieve integration. The first of these positive points is that aside from some limited and under-explored references to “values”, the strategy does not appear to focus on “cultural integration”. It states that migrants should be enabled to celebrate their national, ethnic, cultural and religious identities (subject to the law). A second aspect is its participatory conception of integration: its vision is that migrants are facilitated to play a full role in Irish society. A third positive point is that the strategy recognises the need for better data on issues facing migrants (action 8).
A further positive feature is that some of the actions deal with long-standing issues of immigration law. Here, the strategy states that a statutory scheme for long term residency will be introduced (action 11). In addition, measures will be introduced to enable registration of non-EEA migrants aged under 16 years (action 14). These measures are to be welcomed. Related to this point is another positive in that the Department of Social Protection is to continue to take measures to ensure that the Habitual Residence Condition for welfare payments is applied correctly and consistently (action 21).
Points of Concern
While the Migrant Integration Strategy has strengths, there are also some points which cause concern. An initial point of concern is that the vision of the strategy includes, as its first priority, that “The basic values of Irish society are respected by all” and that it does not identify what these values are or might include. A second point of concern is that, as outlined above, there are no express references to human rights principles as such, although some reference to “equality of opportunity”. The limited nature of references to immigration law is a further point of concern. Access to family reunification and the regularisation of undocumented people are some important long-standing issues which are not dealt with in the strategy. The strategy’s commitment to examine the imposition of a citizenship and/or language tests (action 12) is a further point of concern, as such tests act as barriers to integration.
The fact that the strategy does not apply to asylum seekers or undocumented migrants, as it only applies to “EEA and non-EEA nationals, including economic migrants, refugees and those with legal status to remain in Ireland” is unsurprising but nonetheless disappointing. This means that direct provision falls outside law and policy once again.
A final potential point of concern is the lack of any reference to relevant research reports, the ESRI’s Annual Monitoring Report on Integration, academic studies of integration and so on. Perhaps this is to be welcomed as it means that the strategy favours a pragmatic approach. However, this could also result in a lack of coherency and the lack of a developed vision of integration and its implications.
This post is authored by Dr Darren O’Donovan, Senior Lecturer in International Law, Administrative Law and Human Rights, in LaTrobe Law School, Melbourne.
A lot of Irish media discussion in the preclearance debate has begun to feature rhetoric such as Ireland can’t “let the United States operate preclearance given the new executive order”, or that “Ireland should make a statement and close preclearance”. Opponents (they would call themselves realists) would argue that as a small country with a small economy this is far too dramatic a foreign policy step. To debate the legality of preclearance fully however, we need to emphasise that United States obliged, under international law, to operate its preclearance in line with the bilateral agreement between Ireland and the United States signed in 2008.
In this post I want to therefore frame questions for the United States government, and for use by United State citizens. The big one is of course simply: Is the United States in breach of its international legal agreements with Ireland by applying the executive order in Irish airports? The key provision of the 2008 Agreement Article II (1) which states that:
“Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed as diminishing the rights enjoyed by individuals under the Constitution and laws of Ireland and, where applicable, the United States.”
As we have discussed in an earlier blogpost there are a range of potential, to be explored, arguments as to why the application of the executive order within Ireland’s jurisdiction may be unlawful under Irish law. What is significant however, is that we in Ireland cannot simply say that US law is a matter for US authorities. US law in fact sets the scope of their international legal obligations towards us, and it may even require us to give redress to some individuals (see question 4 below). We need to fold the United States’ bilateral obligations into the debates about preclearance.
Questions for the US Embassy/State Department:
As under the Article II of the 2008 Agreement, the scope of your authorisation under Article V to carry out preclearance cannot extend to actions which diminish the rights of individuals under Irish law, what steps have you taken to ensure that the application of the executive order does not exceed the terms of the 2008 Agreement?
As under Article II of the Agreement, the scope of your authorisation under Article V to carry out preclearance cannot extend to actions which diminish the rights of individuals under United States law, can you confirms what steps you have taken to confirm that the provisions of the executive order are compliant with United States law?
In the event you determine the executive order is not compliant with Irish law, are you willing to commit to not applying the executive order in preclearance areas at Dublin and Shannon Airport?
Given the close and abiding bilateral ties between the United States and Ireland, is it appropriate for the executive order to be applied in Irish airports while it is currently before the United States courts? We refer you in particular to Article IV(2) which appears to require Ireland to provide a system of redress in event of the “unlawful exercise of powers associated with the administration of preclearance“. This Article is not limited in its express terms to the unlawful administration of Irish law . Can you provide your view of the extent to which the Government of Ireland may be liable to provide redress for the actions of US government officials under this Article?
Ireland: The Supporters of the Preclearance System
What this post attempts to show is that being a supporter of preclearance means actually enforcing the agreement we made in 2008, and exploring potential United States’ breaches of it. It is difficult to imagine Irish parliamentarians not supporting the principle that preclearance only extends to the scope of the 2008 Agreement. Any Irish legislation which implements this principle does not ground any United States entitlement to immediately modify or withdraw from the 2008 Agreement. It would enjoy only its usual right to withdraw after one year. It should, however, be noted that in the event the United States is in material breach of the treaty, Ireland enjoys the right to suspend or withdraw from the 2008 Agreement after a brief period of consultation (as per Article 60 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties).
Q1: What is the effect of the Presidential Executive Order that bars refugees and citizens of certain countries from entering the United States?
A1: The Executive Order generally suspends issuing visas for 90 days for Iranian, Iraqi, Libyan, Somalian, Sudanese, Syrian and Yemeni citizens under the US visa-waiver programme. These are all pre-dominantly Muslim countries. This includes dual-nationals, as with some of these countries you cannot surrender your citizenship. Therefore, an Irish citizen, who was born in Iraq, whether she has Iraqi citizenship or not, will be impacted by the this ban. The Executive Order also suspends the US Refugee Admissions Programme, permanently excluding Syrian refugees, and limiting refugee in-take for 2017 to 50,000 (almost half of what it was supposed to be). As seen from the news over the last number of hours, many people are being caught up in transit from this ban. Dual citizens (who are not US citizens) but who may be lawfully living in the United States, but travelling for work, are caught up in this ban. The Executive Order is nothing more than discrimination based on religion.
A2: Yes, as reported yesterday, the Executive Order applies in Irish airports. The preclearance officers will apply this Executive Order. US preclearance screening operates in select locations globally (i.e. in Canada (specifically Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Winnipeg), the Caribbean (specifically Freeport, Nassau, Bermuda, Aruba), Ireland (specifically Shannon and Dublin), and the United Arab Emirates (specifically Abu Dhabi International Airport)).The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) gained a stay on deporting persons stopped from entering the United States due to the the executive order. This only impacts those on US territory.
“Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed as diminishing the rights enjoyed by individuals under the Constitution and laws of Ireland”.
This phrasing is not utilized in the Aviation (Preclearance) Act 2009. However, we would submit that as with any legislation, it must be interpreted considering the State’s obligations to protection human rights, in particular under the Constitution and the ECHR Act 2003.
A4: Preclearance officers have a significant number of powers set down in section 5 of the 2009 Act. These include search and detention (for a limited period of time) powers. Preclearance officers can refuse entry onto an aircraft to a person who is “found to be ineligible for entry into the United States.” This includes operating the discriminatory Executive Order.
A5: Yes. As provided for under the 2009 Act, Gardaí and members of Customs and Excise may be involved in supporting the exercise of powers and duties of preclearance officers in the preclearance areas.
The Irish Foreign Minister, Charlie Flanaghan, has issued a statement expressing concerns about the changes in US immigration policy. The claim that this is solely an issue of US immigration and refugee policy is wholly incorrect given Ireland’s involvement in pre-clearance procedures in Dublin and Shannon Airports.
A6: Where an individual is refused preclearance and not permitted to fly to the United States, then Irish immigration officials will accompany that person. The person refused is then at the “frontiers of the State”. Therefore, a person refused preclearance due to the US Executive Order then has rights to request entry to Ireland, including (of course depending on the situation) a potential right to claim international protection (refugee or subsidiary protection) in Ireland. Ireland also has an obligation not to return that person to a country (which may or may not be the country they boarded an initial flight to Ireland) where they face a serious chance of being persecuted or tortured. This is known as the duty of non-refoulement.
First, Ireland continues to have international legal obligations in relation to preclearance areas as they are within the jurisdiction and territory of the state. These legal obligations CANNOT be set aside by its Preclearance Agreement with the United States. These obligations may mainly emerge from the equality guarantees in the Irish constitution and Ireland’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Second, where the Executive Order impacts on EU citizens (including Irish citizens) with dual citizenship Article 18 TFEU may be engaged. This prohibits discrimination based on nationality for EU citizens, and likely prohibits the facilitation by state officials (including immigration officials) of discriminatory actions of US preclearance officers.
Third, it is arguable that s. 42 of the IHREC Act 2014 applies. This requires a public body “in the performance of its functions” to “have regard to the need to…eliminate discrimination…protect the human rights of its members, staff and the persons to whom it provides services”. The Act defines a public body as (inter alia) “a Department of State…for which a Minister of the Government is responsible” (excluding the Defence Forces). This, thus, includes the Gardaí and Customs and Excise, which as already noted assist in the administration of the preclearance areas and the application of their powers and duties by preclearance officers.
Here is a suggested text to the Irish Human Rights Commission for those who would like them to take steps available to them to assess whether the public bodies’ human rights duty under s. 42, IHREC Act 2014 is being complied with.
Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner
Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission
16-22 Green Street
Dear Ms. Logan and members of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission,
As you will be aware, the US Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” is applicable in US Preclearance areas in Dublin and Shannon Airports.
Both the Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Ireland on Air Transport Preclearance (2008) and the Aviation (Preclearance) Act 2009 make clear that an Garda Síochána and Customs and Excise officials of the Revenue Commissioners are involved in the administration of the preclearance arrangements and area.
I am writing to ask you to take the appropriate steps to assess whether all Irish public bodies involved in the administration of the preclearance area and agreement are acting in compliance with their duties under s. 42 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014.
We suggest below a draft letter that people concerned with the application of the Executive Order in US pre clearance in Irish airports might find useful should they wish to write to TDs in relation to it. Of course, people should adjust it to reflect their preferred language and approach to the issue, but we hope it might be useful.
I am writing to you [as a constituent [and] citizen] to express my deep concern about the continued operation of the Aviation (Preclearance) Act 2009 and associated agreements in Irish airports during the administration of President Donald J. Trump.
In the first week and a half of his presidency we have already seen Trump attempt to subvert the Immigration and Nationality Act 1965 in order to apply discrimination in immigration and undermine international refugee law through Executive Order. As a result of the preclearance agreement between Ireland and the USA, this Order is being applied on Irish soil and in Irish airports. As you will be aware, Article II(1) of that agreement makes it clear that Irish law continues to apply in those preclearance areas. The application of this Order may result in, for example, EU Citizens with dual citizenship with a listed country experiencing nationality based discrimination, facilitated by Irish law, in clear contravention of the TFEU. I remind you also that it is not possible effectively to renounce citizenship in Iran, Syria, Libya and Yemen.
I remind you that under the 2009 Act, those turned away at preclearance are at the frontiers of the state and must be treated in accordance with Irish law. The Irish state also has obligations of non-refoulement which may arise. Furthermore, any Irish officials including Gardaí who may be involved in any way in policing the preclearance area are obliged as always to act in full compliance with the Constitution and with the ECHR.
Even if Congress supports President Trump’s policies through legislation, thus amending the 1965 Act inasmuch as that is constitutionally permissible, Ireland must ensure that rights under the Irish Constitution continue to be protected in these preclearance areas, and that violations of international law are not facilitated through the application of the agreement.
Bearing all of the above in mind, I would be grateful if you could please seek from the Taoiseach and appropriate minister, and provide me with, details of the following:
A. Measures that are being taken to ensure that unlawful discrimination is not being undertaken or facilitated at Irish airports through the application of Trump policy in preclearance areas.
B. Measures that the Irish government is taking to ensure that international refugee law is not subverted through the application of Trump policy in preclearance areas.
C. Mechanisms in place to ensure Ireland’s obligations under the TFEU, the ECHR and other applicable international law are fully complied with in preclearance areas.
D. Procedures for withdrawal from the preclearance agreement and bases upon which withdrawal would be contemplated by the Irish government
All over the United States this weekend lawyers and others have protested against this unlawful, cruel, Islamophobic and xenophobic attempt to undermine the rule of law. I ask the Oireachtas and the Irish government, in my name, to stand with them. I also ask you to ensure that Ireland provides protection to people seeking asylum from Syria, in particular, who President Trump seeks to preclude from receiving refugee status in the United States.
Given the evident urgency of the matter, I look forward to your swift response.
On April 10th 2016 the system of Direct Provision will be 16 years in existence. For the last few years this date has been marked by many people contributing to an open call for submissions (see www.humanrightsireland.ie or#DirectProvision15). These submissions have been varied and came from many different people, sectors and angles. They all served to highlight and explore the failings of Direct Provision and the detrimental impact it is having, and has had, on the men, women and children forced to live within it. The date has been marked retrospectively up until now. This year we want to look forward and concentrate on what could be.
The Government say that there is no alternative.
They say that alternatives have never been put forward.
They say if they end Direct Provision it will mean over 4,000 people will become homeless, as if that is what those who campaign for an end to this inhumane system are advocating for.
Alternatives are possible, they are achievable, but unfortunately there has been no political will from our successive governments to address Ireland’s current and ongoing form of institutionalised living.
Last year saw thousands of people across Ireland offer rooms, houses and other practical solutions for the initial reception of refugees.
The principles of initial short term reception for people in need of asylum have been talked about for quite some time. Based on these, and perhaps more focused areas or groups that may be of interest to you, we are this year not focusing on the legacy of Direct Provision. Instead we are looking forward and we are making a public call for submissions on what alternative models could look like.
Your idea may be for a general initial reception system, a community cooperative scheme, housing collectives or for schemes that enable people to live with people in the community. Perhaps you have something in mind for a particular group of people? We are seeing different models being tried out in other European countries, e.g. for the LGBTIQ asylum seeking community; Female only housing; Specialised accommodation for people who have particular vulnerabilities; Family only accommodation; Perhaps you think there should be special provisions for young people who turn 18 and are removed from their foster carers as they are now considered “aged out minors”? The only thing restricting your submissions is your own creativity in developing a humane and open reception system for people.
Submissions can be written, visual, a blueprint, design based, or simply links to other initiatives happening across the world that you believe we can replicate here. The online campaign will hopefully culminate in plenty of food for thought for our soon to be Government. Let’s make #DirectProvison16 something that we can build on and move forward with. Let’s create political will by offering practical solutions that counter the current government line.
~ cap on length of time in initial reception
~ embodies the best interests of the child
~ allows for self-determination
~ is based on care, not profit
~ identifies & supports individuals with special needs & vulnerabilities early on
~ makes early legal advice available
~ includes independent complaints (to the national Ombudsmen)
Materials should be forwarded by Wednesday 6th April at 6pm (late arrivals can’t be guaranteed to go live but we will try our best!). The material must relate to alternatives to the direct provision system, it may simply be your thoughts or reflections.
A number of organisations and individuals have already been invited to contribute; with growing support for an end to Direct Provision this is an excellent opportunity for you to demonstrate your support for this call and to show that you stand in solidarity with the people failed by this inhumane system.
For those not wishing to submit a blog post, but wishing to other wise engage, please let others who may be interested know about this blogathon:
Call your local TD (or their office) and let them know about direct provision; ask your TD what they are doing on your behalf to highlight the failure of the direct provision system. You can find contact details here.
Write or email your local TD on 10th April 2015 asking them to explore and support alternatives to Direct Provision (email addresses available here).
On Twitter, use the hashtag #directprovision16 , please share posts, engage in debate and discussion, raise awareness with friends, family and colleagues.
All of the submissions will be available on www.humanrights.ie or on a Tumblr page set up to mark 16 years of direct provision and what the future could look like if there was political will to change what has become a profiteering system of reception.
Please share this information on your own Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr page and aim for a Twitter storm for the hashtag #directprovision16
#COP21 in Paris has produced a global legal agreement to address climate change which allows governments and world leaders to celebrate their “historic” and “landmark” commitments, all while delaying the action that is necessary to address climate change. The Agreement, although framed in terms of “high ambition”, provides only a slight moderation of “business as usual”. The Paris Agreement fails to meet all the elements of the “Peoples’ Test“, the criteria that social movements, trade unions and environmental groups agreed would need to be meet for a fair and effective agreement. It fails to catalyze an immediate, urgent and drastic emission reductions; provide adequate support for transformation; deliver justice for impacted people; or focus on genuine effective action rather than false solutions. It thus, breaches multiple climate justice “redlines”. The Paris outcome has been called a “fraud”, “fake” and “bullshit” by eminent climate scientist James Hanson and was described by Global Justice as a text that “undermines the rights of the world’s most vulnerable communities and has almost nothing binding to ensure a safe a livable future for future generations”. Others pronounced that the talks had “failed humanity” with negotiations focused more on “commercialization of nature” than “saving Mother Earth”.
These scathing assessments however sit uneasily with the celebratory tone of the mainstream press, political leaders and large environmental NGOs who have heralded the deal as “landmark”. The UNFCCC proclaimed it a “historic agreement to combat climate change and unleash action and investment towards a low carbon, resilient and sustainable future.” International lawyers have been more measured in their reactions, but prominent commentators have assessed the Paris Agreement as a “triumph” that “strikes a fine balance between ambition, differentiation and finance”, while another international lawyer described it as “potentially pivotal”, a “solid outcome” that satisfied a modest criteria of success. In this context it is critically important to interrogate both the substance of the Paris Agreement, but also its reception, given it is, as the Director of Global Justice writes, “outrageous that a deal is being spun as a success”. The disjuncture between these highly divergent perspectives can perhaps be explained by George Monbiot’s pertinent assessment that “by comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster”. In a similar vein, other NGOs have welcomed the Paris Agreement, while acknowledging its very real shortcomings as “a hook on which people can hang their demands” and a “new tool to work with” as they continue to mobilize to build the peoples’ power that will be necessary to hold world leaders to the commitments they have publically made.
The highly divergent and irreconcilable responses to the Paris Agreement however are primarily reflective of the differently situated standpoint of those assessing it. It is the people who are on the frontlines of climate change who have been the loudest in condemning the agreement whilst it is those who have the most to lose by the radical transformation of the status quo that climate change demands, that have been most vocal in its praise. Further, the contradictory assessments of the Paris Agreement reflect different understandings and framings of the “problem” of climate change and nature of the social, economic, cultural and political change addressing it demands. The voices who have praised the Agreement are primarily those who conceptualize climate more narrowly as a technical and regulatory challenge that can be addressed within existing capitalist social and economic relations, in many case through an expansion of “green capitalism”, markets for environmental services and pollution trading. In contrast those most critical of the Paris Agreement are groups and individuals with a climate justice analysis that see climate change as embedded within and both reflecting and reproducing global structural inequalities. A media briefing put out by Oxfam during the Paris talks highlights “extreme carbon inequality”. Their analysis suggests that the poorest half of the global population, approximately 3.5 billion people are responsible only for 10% of global emissions from individual consumption, 50% of emissions can be attributed to the richest ten percent, yet, cruelly, it is those who have least caused the problem who are most vulnerable to its effects.
From a perspective attentive to the global distribution of responsibilities and vulnerabilities produced by climate change the Paris Agreement is not only inadequate in its ambitions but further accentuating of these inequalities. It puts in place a “bottom-up” voluntarist framework for climate governance that allows for the abrogation of responsibilities for mitigation and financial support for mitigation, adaptation and addressing already exiting climate change by the most polluting countries. Moreover, the Agreement is structurally unable to contest the logic of economic growth and persistent accumulation driving the crisis given the continual reliance upon and expansion of market-mechanisms and the commodification of the atmosphere as central to its mitigation methods.
Gap between rhetoric and commitments
A key failure of the Paris Agreement is the gap between the stated objectives of “holding the increase in the global average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue effects to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels” and the actual emission reduction pledges made by countries. While the inclusion of the 1.5°C was a major symbolic victory pushed for by the most vulnerable countries, given that exceeding 1.5°C warming entails unacceptable impacts for billions and people and risk exceeding irreversible tipping points, the actual pledges submitted by 187 countries (called “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) in UNFCCC-speak) have been assessed by independent monitors and the UNFCCC to put the world on track to 2.7 – 3.4°C warming. The INDCs of key polluting countries propose only minimal reductions of 1% per year, while others propose reductions compared to “business as usual” and thereby lock in actual increases in emissions. This graph, from a UNFCCC report shows how the properly implemented INDCs will still see a steady growth of aggregate global emissions to 2030. Overall emissions are expected to continue to increase for the next 15 years by significant amounts: an estimated 8-18% increase from 2010 levels by 2025 and a 11-22% increase from 2010 levels by 2030.
Given that the actual pledges made by Parties effectively lock in a catastrophic future, there has been significant focus on the provisions in the Agreement for a “global stocktake” (Article 14) to “racket up” ambition. The first such review is scheduled for 2023 (and every five years thereafter). However at current rates of emissions we could blow the global “carbon budget” we must stay within in order to have a reasonable chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C in six years. That is, by the time the emissions reductions commitments in the Paris Agreement are revisited the window on limiting warming to 1.5°C could already be slammed closed. As such, the lofty language of “ambition” and laudable objectives and promises of future action has operated as dangerous panacea at Paris masking delays with some commentators suggesting that optimism could be call the “new denialism”.
Paradigm shift to a new voluntarist architecture for climate governance
This gap between intention and action is however not the most problematic aspect of the Paris Agreement, rather it is the inequitable framework for action and the sidelining of climate justice demands that are of key concern. The Paris Agreement “completes a paradigm shift” from the top-down model of the Kyoto Protocol, structured around the differentiated obligations of nations based on the developed/developing bifurcations, to the more voluntarist “bottom-up”, “pledge and review” approach of the controversial Copenhagen Accord (2009). This shift has several consequences. Firstly, there is no mechanism beyond peer pressure in the review process to ensure that the voluntary emission reduction commitments made by countries match what the levels of action the science tells us is necessary. Secondly, this voluntarist framework imposed no obligation that countries accept responsibility for meeting at least their “fair share” of the global mitigation effort. Countries, due to their differential wealth and income levels have differentiated capacity to take mitigation action, while the differentiated levels of continued per capita and historical emissions imposes differentiated moral responsibilities to take mitigation action. A recent civil society assessment of the INDCs stressed that “the operationalization of equity and fair shares must focus on historical responsibility and capacity, which directly corresponds with the core principle of the UN climate convention of “common but differentiated responsibilities – with respective capabilities”. The assessment found that “all major developed countries fell well short of their fair shares” while the “majority of developing countries have made mitigation pledges that exceed or broadly meet their fair share”. As such, a third consequence of this “paradigm shift” is that while the principle “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” is articulated in the Paris Agreement (Article 2(2)), there is much less scope for its operationalization in a meaningful way.
The issue of climate finance was controversial at the Paris summit, with the US angering developing countries by proposing that the costs of climate finance should be equally born by developed and developing countries. The Paris Agreement states that “(d)eveloped country Parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation” (Article 9(1)) but fails to specify amounts or impose obligations on specific states. (Developing countries are “encouraged” to provide such support voluntarily (Article 9(2)). The related COP decision reiterates an intention to continue the existing mobilization goal of USD 100 billion annually by 2020 (first articulated in the Copenhagen Accord) until 2025. To date, much of this promised climate finance has failed to materialize. Although a recent OECD report argued two-thirds of this has been transferred, developing countries accused its methodology as being “deeply flawed” raising concerns this money is neither new nor additional. Given that the United Nations Environment Program has estimated that the cost of climate adaptation could reach $210-300 billion annually by 2050, even if temperature rise was limited to 2°C, these pledges, even if delivered fall horrifically short of what is necessary.
The Paris Agreement further restricts rights of those who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change in another critical way. The question of compensation for the impacts of climate change has been pushed by small island states since a Convention was first envisioned in 1990. The Paris Agreement included provisions for “loss and damage” (Article 8) for already occurring climate change impacts, however, the COP decision accompanying the decision specifically
Agrees that Article 8 of the Agreement does not involve or provide any basis for any liability or compensation (Decision -/CP.21, para 52).
Reports have claimed that the discussion of compensation for loss and damager were shut down by the US through a mixture of bullying and bribery, which these discussions considered “off limits” as the US “categorically refused to consider any proposal for reparations for the damage rich countries’ emissions have already caused”. The impact of already happening climate disasters is enormous, both the human and economic costs, as demonstrates by the devastation of deadly floods in Chennai, the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and Tropical Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu. A 2013 World Bank report found that natural disasters cost $200 billion annually, three-quarters of these costs from extreme weather. The issue of compensation for already existing climate impacts is not a question of charity or aid, rather it is accepting the legal and moral obligations of the rich world to repay debts accrued due polluting activities that have caused the climate crisis which is disproportionately devastating those already impoverished by historical and ongoing relations of colonial plunder. Even as climate change disproportionately and devastatingly hits those least responsible for causing the problem and who are already impoverished the hardest, the Paris Agreement fails to impose responsibilities upon those who have transformed the climate to repay their “climate debts” and establish proper mechanisms of international co-operation and support.
Failing to drive necessary structural transformations
Although major newspapers have reported that “200 nations sign in the end of fossil fuel era,” the Paris Agreement does not mention the words “fossil fuels”, “coal” or “oil”. It contains no commitments to leave fossil fuels in the ground, despite the fact that over 80% of proven fossil fuel reserves must remain underground extracted to have reasonable chance of restricting warming to 2°C. Nor does it contain any commitment to remove the over US$500 billion annually in subsidies for fossil fuels (a figure that dwarfs what governments give in climate finance or support for renewable energy technologies). In the immediate aftermath of the Paris Agreement, Australia’s environmental minister approved the controversial Abbott Point coal port, which if built would be one of the world’s largest coal export terminals while the US repealed its crude oil exports restrictions. The same leaders who made speeches about “ambition” at Paris in domestic policy decisions continue to lock-in a fossil fuel intensive future that will fry the world. It is clear that the Paris Agreement, in itself, will not mobilize and galvanize the structural transformation away from fossil fuel that is urgently necessary, instead pressure to keep coal and gas in the ground is coming from increasingly transnationally organized grassroots climate justice movements and frontline communities fighting for land, water, clean air and a habitable future.
Further, rather than addressing a key root cause of climate change, namely fossil fuel extraction, the Paris Agreement aims “to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century” (Article 4(1)). This language of “zero net emissions” has been described as a “dirty secret” of this deal by the ETC Group. The climate emergency requires urgent action be taken to “keep oil in the ground” but also to draw down carbon from the atmosphere through agro-ecology and reforestation. The danger of “net zero” approaches is that they “may prove to be a trap that delays real climate action” and “could allow for business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions, offset by massive-scale mitigation through the land sector”.
Reliance on neoliberal market-based approaches
The Paris Agreement represents a further consolidation of the deeply neoliberal market-driven approach towards climate mitigation that has proven to be so problematic in the Kyoto Protocol. The Agreement envisions the use of carbon trading as a key means by which mitigation is achieved. Although these words “carbon”, “trading” or “markets” do not directly appear in the text, Article 6 recognizes “voluntary cooperation in the implementation of their intended nationally determined contributions” and the use of “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes” and establishes a mechanisms to support such approaches. Over half the international nationally determined contributions put forward by countries state that intend to use carbon markets to achieve their mitigation promises. The Agreement has been welcomed by Carbon Pulse as “ring(ing) in a new era of international carbon trading”, and similarly celebrated by the International Emissions Trading Association as having a “clear role for markets“. The World Bank response to the Paris Agreement promise to “explor(e) ways to create incentives for large scale cuts in emissions by widening and deepening carbon markets“. These highly neoliberal responses of the climate crisis operate to further commodify and financialize the atmosphere and create a “spatial fix” whereby the emission reduction obligations of the rich world can be displaced through a form of post-modern environmental indulgences. The Kyoto Protocol’s market-mechanisms and the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) have been heavily criticized for creating perverse incentives and providing a dangerous distraction from the social transformations that are urgently necessary. The Paris Agreement fails to learn from the many flaws of market-based approaches and instead envisions an expansion of these highly problematic mechanisms.
Further, Article 5 of the Paris Agreement provides for “action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases” through the controversial Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanism. Although many of the details of the REDD+ framework have yet to be finalized, it envisions allowing “offsets” produced from “additional” forest protection in the global South to be used towards achieving the emission reduction targets by countries in the global North. These schemes have been criticized as a “false solution“, that fails to reduce aggregate global emissions, that could promote a new “landgrab” over forest areas and violate the rights of the 1.6 billion people, many of whom identify as indigenous, that live in and around forested areas. Indigenous activists have argued that REDD+ promotes new forms of “carbon colonialism” or CO2lonialism. Indigenous groups, social movements have vocally opposed the “false solutions” such as carbon trading that are part of the Agreement and “called on movements to continue to build their own, just alternatives to the political and economic systems that have caused the climate crisis”. In response to the Paris Agreement, Tom Goodtooth, Director of the Indigenous Environment Network said:
Instead of cutting CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions, the UN, the US, the EU, China, Norway and climate criminals like BP, Total, Shell, Chevron, Air France and BHP Billiton are pushing a false solution to climate change called REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). REDD is a carbon offset mechanism which privatizes the air that we breathe and uses forests, agriculture and water ecosystems in the Global South as sponges for industrialized countries pollution, instead of cutting emissions at source. REDD brings trees, soil, and nature into a commodity trading system that may result in the largest land grab in history. It steals your future, lets polluters off the hook and is a new form of colonialism. NO to Privatization of Nature!”
The promotion of these carbon offset schemes was a key reason why indigenous rights activists were so concerned about the removal of any reference to human rights and indigenous peoples rights from the final agreement. Bracketed text that addressed human rights, indigenous rights and gender equity was removed from the Agreement’s objectives and included only in the Preamble, after pressure from Britain, Norway and the US. In response Indigenous “kayactivists” paddled down the Seine River to protest this exclusion, continuing the struggle activists have fought since 2007 to ensure UN climate projects respect indigenous rights.
Where to now?
The failure of the Paris Agreement come as no surprise to climate justice social movement groups, many of whom were highly skeptical of the talks and the hope that was being invested in them. The UNFCCC Conference of the Parties have in recent years quite literally become Conference of the Polluters “serving as exhibitions and promotional fairs for the world’s biggest environmental criminals.” In Paris activists targeted the corporate capture of the talks, by staging protests at the “Solutions COP21” side event where companies such as Engie (formerly GDF Suez), Carrefour, Veolia, Sofiprotéol and Schneider Electric promoted corporate responses to climate change, where they were dragged out by police.
There are however, as Jess Worth and Danny Chivers write, reasons to feel positive about Paris, not because of the Summit or its outcomes, but because of the organizing and vibrant protests of social movements in the streets outside. Despite the repressive conditions state of emergency imposed by the French state, grassroots groups affirmed they would take to the streets despite the ban, many facing violent repression from French police who attacked, tear gassed and arrested hundreds of protestors. On the 12th of December people took to the streets, depicting visually the “redlines” that the Agreement crossed, thousands marched condemning the failures of the Agreement. A Declaration put out by the group It Takes Roots reads:
We leave Paris only more aligned, and more committed than ever that our collective power and growing movement is what is forcing the question of extraction into the global arena. We will continue to fight at every level to defend our communities, the earth and future generations.
It is this spirit of defiance and dedication to disrupting that status quo that holds the best hope for still minimizing the devastating impacts of climate change. After the Copenhagen climate summit ended disastrously in December 2009 with global leaders failing to reach a legally binding climate agreement climate activists in Newcastle, Australia took action into their own hands, stopping a coal train headed to the largest coal export terminal in the Southern hemisphere and unfurled a banner: “Greed wreaked Copenhagen. Now its up to us”. Six years later, global leaders are celebrating a “landmark” agreement that nonetheless fails people and the planet. Substitute “Copenhagen” for “Paris” and the message is the same, and the same spirit of continuous struggle will be necessary to contest the vested interests and the drive for accumulation that has brought us to the brink of planetary disaster.
Julia Dehm (Postdoctoral Fellow, Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice) email@example.com
 See also Lucas Chancel and Thomas Piketty, “Carbon and Inequality: from Kyoto to Paris” (3 November 2015, Paris School of Economics) <http://piketty.pse.ens.fr/files/ChancelPiketty2015.pdf>.
International Human Rights: Perspectives from Ireland examines Ireland’s engagement with, and influence of, the international human rights regime. International human rights norms are increasingly being taken into account by legislators, courts and public bodies in taking decisions and implementing actions that impact on human rights. Featuring chapters by leading Irish and international academic experts, practitioners and advocates, the book combines theoretical as well as practical analysis and integrates perspectives from a broad range of actors in the human rights field. You can access the full table of contents for this book here. Egan’s collection explores:
The philosophical development and challenges to/of human rights;
The international human rights framework (UN human rights council; UN Treaty system; EU and ECHR);
Implementing human rights in Ireland (Magdalenes, socio-economic rights, rights of the child; human trafficking; religion; privacy; refugee definition; criminal justice, policing and conflict).
Implementing human rights abroad (Irish foreign policy and obligations of Irish organisations).
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Bríd Ní Ghráinne is a lecturer in International and Refugee Law at the University of Sheffield. She holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford and an LLM for Universiteit Leiden. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. A shorter version of this article is available at the Oxford Human Rights Hub blog.
As the European refugee ‘crisis’ worsens, the Hungarian government is resorting to more extreme border control measures that test the parameters of international law. The Guardian reported on 17 September that Hungary had fired gas canisters and sprayed water at crowds of frustrated refugees who had briefly broken through the fence that separates Hungary and Serbia. It was also reported that asylum-seekers’ claims were being assessed and rejected ‘within minutes’. These reports have ‘shocked’ the international community, and the purpose of this brief piece is to give an overview of the legal issues engaged.
There are three separate legal regimes that bind Hungary in respect of these events. International law, and in this case, the 1951 Refugee Convention, takes primacy for reasons that will not be discussed in detail here. European Union Law as well as the 1950 European Convention of Human Rights are also relevant as Hungary is party to the EU and the Convention.
Regretfully, history has shown us that rejection at the frontier is not an uncommon response in cases of mass influx of refugees, such as in April 1999, when Macedonia closed its border to Kosovar refugees at the Blace border crossing. Article 33(1) of the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Hungary became a party in 1989, provides that no-one shall be expelled ‘in any manner whatsoever’ to the frontiers of territories where their lives or freedoms may be in danger. This provision applies to recognised refugees as well as asylum-seekers, and there is strong academic consensus that this provision applies to those presenting themselves at the border, as is the case in Hungary. However, whether the lives of the refugees who have been pushed away from the border with Serbia are now in danger is difficult to tell and therefore it is unclear if Article 33(1) has been engaged on this occasion. If they eventually have to return to Syria (if that is where they came from), then there has certainly been a breach.
A stronger argument can be made that Hungary’s ‘pushback’ actions are in breach of EU and European Human Rights Law. The Dublin III Regulation, which provides that the first EU country in which an asylum seeker arrives has responsibility for determining that asylum seeker’s status, does not render Hungary’s actions legal. Thus if another EU country has been entered prior to arriving at the Hungarian border, Hungary does not necessarily have the right to refuse asylum. Under international law (as opposed to EU law), there is no obligation incumbent upon a refugee to make an asylum claim in the first country of arrival. Further, many of the asylum-seekers trying to cross the Hungarian border would have first arrived in Greece, which does not have a functioning asylum processing regime. Thus Hungary would be responsible for deciding the claim, as set out in the Dublin III regulation. Moreover, the European Court of Human Rights found in the case of MSS v Belgium and Greece  that sending an asylum seeker from Belgium to Greece (in the application of the Dublin Regulation) was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. This was because the conditions in Greece violated Article 3 of the Convention, which prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Hungary’s argument that Serbia is a ‘safe third country’ also fails upon scrutiny. The safe third country concept provides that asylum need not be granted in the state in which the application was made, provided an alternative state is willing to accept the refugee. Whether sending refugees to a third country is a breach of international law depends on whether effective protection is available in that country. A report by Amnesty International from July 2015 indicates that this is not the case in Serbia, where amongst other factors, refugee recognition rates are extremely low.
The reports of asylum claims being dealt with within ‘minutes’ as reported by the Guardian are also worrying, particularly because there seems to be no effective appeals system and refugees are given information only in the Hungarian language. These actions are arguably a breach of both the 1951 Refugee Convention and the EU Asylum Procedures Directive (Council Directive 2005/85/EC). Although the 1951 Refugee Convention does not formally set out the procedures involved in the determination of refugee status, Goodwin Gill and McAdam in their text The Refugee in International Law (OUP, 2011) argue that the Refugee Convention’s object and purpose of protection and assurance of human rights strongly support an obligation to adopt of effective internal measures. This was the position of the Executive Committee (ExCom) of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which in its Executive Conclusion No. 8 (XXVIII) (1977) set out a range of procedural guarantees to be followed in the determination of asylum proceedings; including that (i) Applicants should receive the necessary guidance as to the procedure to be followed; (ii) Applicants should be given the necessary facilities, including interpreters and contact with the UNHCR, to submit their case; (iii) failed asylum-seekers should be given a reasonable time to appeal and they should be allowed to remain in the country while appeal is pending.
Similarly, the Asylum Procedures Directive guarantees access to a fair and efficient asylum decision and it explicitly applies to applications made at the border. It mirrors the standards set out by the ExCom above, and goes into significant detail regarding the content of the rights granted, such as the conditions under which an interview must take place and the scope of legal assistance and protection. If the allegations of asylum applications being rejected ‘within minutes’ are true, it is highly likely that Hungarian authorities have not complied with these EU and international legal standards.
Finally, it is necessary to examine the legality of the use of tear gas as reported by the Guardian to force migrants back from Hungary’s border. According to the European Court of Human Rights case of Abdullah Yaşa and Others v. Turkey , the use of tear gas in itself is not necessarily a violation of the Convention where a gathering is not peaceful. In the Yaşa case, the gathering was deemed to be ‘not peaceful’ as the demonstrators were throwing stones, as was reportedly the case with the migrants at the Hungarian border. However, the European Court of Human Rights also found that the use of tear gas can be a violation of Article 3 of the Convention where excessive force is used, for example, where tear-gas grenades are launched (Yaşa), or where tear gas is used on someone deprived of their liberty (Güneş v. Turkey ). As the exact circumstances surrounding the use of the tear gas at the Hungarian border is not clear, it seems difficult to come to a conclusion whether the Hungarian authorities’ actions in this respect were unlawful.
In sum, the actions of the Hungarian authorities in allegedly dismissing asylum applications ‘within minutes’ and in rejecting refugees at the frontier are appropriately condemned as a violation of International, EU, and European Rights Law.