Law, Dignity & Socio-Economic Rights: The Case of Asylum Seekers in Europe

EuropeBelow are my speaking notes for the  European Database on Asylum Law (EDAL) conference, Reflections on the Current Application of the EU Asylum Acquis. My full paper can be accessed here: “Law, Dignity & Socio-Economic Rights: The Case of Asylum Seekers in Europe“. My very brief slides  for this presentation are available here:  Law Dignity & SER Asylum Seekers.

The treatment of aliens…has become a defining challenge to an important aspect of the moral identity of the emerging European polity and the process of European integration.[1]

Introduction 

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to Aoife and all at the European Database of Asylum Law for this invite, and congratulate EDAL and the Irish Refugee Council for such a stimulating and challenging conference over the last two days. All I can do over the next 15 or so minutes is present to you a skeleton of my arguments, as regards the protection of the socio-economic rights of asylum seekers.  The full  paper is available here:  Law, Dignity and Socio-Economic Rights: The Case of Asylum Seekers in Europe.

Definitions 

My use of the terms ‘asylum seeker’ and socio-economic rights are deliberate. The phrase asylum seeker, properly communicates the process of fleeing for protection, but awaiting determination of the protection application within the receiving state. This includes application for recognition of refugee, subsidiary protection or other human rights protection status. The phrase socio-economic rights includes those human rights protected under international and European human rights law, that recognises the right to social security; right to work; right to an adequate standard of living; right to education; right to shelter etc. I shy away from the language of ‘reception conditions’, I feel that language seeks to separate ‘us’ and ‘them’ and seeks to make it seem wholly natural and automatic that fundamental social rights be differentiated on the basis of legal status.

The Core Argument 

Now that we have definitions out of the way, the key argument of my paper is this: In spite of the plurality of legal regimes that protect, to some extent the socio-economic rights of asylum seekers, the end result of this legal plurality, has been to deny asylum seekers access to mainstream social supports that are considered fundamental to ensuring all those within a state can enjoy a minimum, if basic, standard of living.

WE might disagree as to whether citizenship or nationality or residence should form a coherent basis for distinguishing socio-economic rights between asylum seekers or citizens or other residents. However, international and European human rights law has not yet been so definitive, despite the exhaustive plurality of legal measures. In fact, as I will seek to now trace: the status of asylum seeker still seems to permit fundamental differentiation between asylum seekers and say citizens or residents. So, asylum seekers DO NOT under international and European human rights law enjoy all the rights that citizens or permitted residents in a State enjoy. However, given the cosmopolitan promise of human rights, contestations exist in this area, and the issue is not overly clear cut.

Legal Plurality & the Socio-Economic Rights of Asylum Seekers 

International human rights law: While human rights seek to protect the weak, marginalised and vulnerable, there is often a presupposition amongst Continue reading “Law, Dignity & Socio-Economic Rights: The Case of Asylum Seekers in Europe”

Law, Dignity & Socio-Economic Rights: The Case of Asylum Seekers in Europe