Refugee Non-Refoulement in Customary International Law: An Asian Perspective

Human Rights in Ireland welcomes guest contributor, Sonya Donnelly. Sonya is currently working as a Staff Attorney with the Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre Limited (HKRAC.) HKRAC is the only NGO that provides pro-bono legal aid for asylum seekers undergoing the UNHCR refugee status determination process in Hong Kong.  Sonya has written extensively on human rights issues and co-wrote a legal text for first year barristers, The Devil’s Handbook.

The week sees an important case on international refugee law argued before the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. Central to the case is whether non-refoulement of refugees has attained the status of jus cogens. C, KMF and BF v Director of Immigration and Secretary for Security (FACV Nos. 18/19/20 2011) (the C case) opened in the Court of Final Appeal on Tuesday and is due to run until today with the UNHCR acting as an intervener in the case.

Article 33(1) of the Refugee Convention contains a prohibition against refoulement, which is a prohibition against returning a refugee to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened.  The 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.

The four main issues before the court in the Court of Final Appeal are:

  1. Is there a norm of customary international law (CIL) requiring non-refoulement of refugees?
  2. If this is so, is it a part of the domestic law of Hong Kong?
  3. If it is not part of the domestic law of Hong Kong, has the Director of Immigration (the Director) as a matter of practice exercised his discretion such that it has de facto recognised that concept?
  4. If it is part of the law of Hong Kong, is the Director obliged to determine the claims for refugee status, or are they delegable to the UNHCR?

As a brief background note, Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China (HKSAR). China resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong in Continue reading “Refugee Non-Refoulement in Customary International Law: An Asian Perspective”

Refugee Non-Refoulement in Customary International Law: An Asian Perspective

UNHCR #do1thing Campaign

From October 10th to October 24th, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Do 1 Thing campaign will be running. UNHCR Ireland, along with all other UNHCR agencies, are urging people to Do 1 Thing to show support for refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland and abroad. UNHCR estimates that in 2010, there were 43.75 million people worldwide who were displaced due to conflict and persecution. The developing world hosts 80% of the world’s refugees and asylum seekers. Ireland received 1, 939 individual applications for recognition of refugee status from asylum seekers in 2010. UNHCR is asking people to show their support in a number of ways:

  1. By learning a fact about refugees, meeting a refugee , watching a movie or read a book, get to know another culture, find out more about the history of refugees in Ireland and/or by donating to UNHCR.
  2. By writing a blog post, tweeting, posting a comment on Facebook or Google +. On Twitter use the hashtag #do1thing and on Facebook tag UNHCR Ireland.
  3. Letting friends know about UNHCR Ireland’s campaign and adding a twibbon on Twitter.
  4. Keeping up to date with UNHCR Ireland’s work on Facebook and Twitter.

Over the next two weeks, Human Rights in Ireland will be posting regularly on refugee and asylum issues as part of the #do1thing campaign. These short posts will highlight some key issues in relation to the refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland and internationally. It should also be noted that while these posts seek to contribute to the Do 1 Thing campaign, the opinions contained therein, do not necessarily represent the views of UNHCR or UNHCR Ireland.

UNHCR #do1thing Campaign

Universal Periodic Review and Reception of Asylum Seekers

Human Rights in Ireland is pleased to bring you this guest post from Claire McCarthy, Policy & Campaigning Officer, at Nasc, The Irish Immigrant Support Centre.

Ireland’s human rights record will be examined by our peers in the UN this coming October, when our turn comes up in a new UN process called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Human rights organisations have submitted their concerns and recommendations for the consideration of the country representatives who will examine our record. Having examined most of them, the reception of asylum seekers appears to be by far the most widespread concern, affecting as it does children’s rights, women’s rights, mental health, social inclusion and general civil liberties. A range of organisations concerned with Ireland’s human rights standards have already made  submissions that will inform the country representatives who will ask questions, and make recommendations to Ireland about how we might improve our human rights record. Some of those organisations have taken the opportunity presented by the UPR to consult with as many concerned citizens as possible in order to prepare truly representative submissions. You may have Continue reading “Universal Periodic Review and Reception of Asylum Seekers”

Universal Periodic Review and Reception of Asylum Seekers

Foreign Islamic Marriages at Irish Law

In November, Mr. Justice Cooke considered two family reunification cases in the High Court which shed some light on the status under Irish law of Muslim marriages contracted abroad. The cases are Hamza & Another v. MJELR [2010] IEHC 427 and Hassan & Another v. MJELR [2010] IEHC 426. Dr. Hamza and Mr. Hassan had obtained refugee status in Ireland, and sought to have their wives join them and reside in Ireland, under s. 18 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended). Both applications had been refused because of doubts concerning the validity of the applicants’ marriages. Dr. Hamza’s application was refused because his Sudanese marriage was considered to be a proxy marriage (because the bride was not present at the ceremony but was represented by a male relative).  Mr. Hassan’s application was refused because it was considered that his Somali marriage, as a religious marriage contracted abroad, could not be recognised as valid at Irish law. The High Court has now confirmed that both marriages could in principle have been treated as valid for family reunification purposes – a question quite apart from that of the applicants’ marital status at private international law.

Continue reading “Foreign Islamic Marriages at Irish Law”

Foreign Islamic Marriages at Irish Law