Friday, November 14, 2014

Phil Orchard's "A Right to Flee"

Phil Orchard is a Lecturer in International Relations and Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, and a Research Associate with the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. He holds a PhD from the University of British Columbia, and previously worked as the Assistant to the Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Internally Displaced Persons.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Right to Flee: Refugees, States, and the Construction of International Cooperation, and reported the following:
A Right to Flee focuses around a puzzle. Over the past thirty years, states in the developed world have introduced a range of policies to deter asylum seekers and to contain refugees in the developing world. But they haven’t taken the obvious step of just leaving the 1951 Refugee Convention, or otherwise stopping completely their support for the broader refugee regime. Even while the Australian government, for example, transfers boat people directly to Papua New Guinea and Nauru, it continues to resettle thousands of refugees a year. Instead, my book argues that a lot of what takes place today needs to understood in light of the long historical development of refugee protection and that a lot of today’s practices - and their durability – comes from this history. This isn’t necessarily a positive history. The Refugee Convention, for example, only gets negotiated after the complete failure of earlier efforts under the League of Nations in the 1930s to help Jews flee Nazi Germany.

By Page 99, the book is focusing on how states were dealing with refugees in the 19th century. The first group to be called ‘refugees’ – the French Huguenots – had fled in 1685 and throughout the next century we see states hesitantly accept in religious refugees. With the French Revolution, there is a major shift – suddenly political refugees also need protection, and states begin using domestic law to do this. Starting at the bottom of page 98, the book discusses the Galotti Incident of 1829:
Giovanni Galotti, a Neapolitan officer who had fled to France following the restoration of the Bourbons in Naples, was extradited to Naples for a number of common crimes. This occurred only after assurances were received by the French government that he would not be prosecuted for political offences. Following his extradition, however, he was prosecuted for his participation in the 1820 Revolution and sentenced to death. France not only revoked its extradition decree and requested his return, but threatened to declare war when Naples refused…

This case, and the start of the Polish refugee exodus in 1832, triggered a need in the French government to codify in law the rights of refugees. The result was the Loi Relative aux Etrangers Réfugiés Qui Résideront en France, passed on April 21, 1832. This law, as Grahl-Madsen notes, was pivotal because it offered the first definition of a refugee as “ceux qui résident en France sans la protection de leur gouvernement” (those who reside in France without the protection of their government). Thus, he argues “it would seem that here we have the origin of the notion that refugees are ‘unprotected persons’” (1966: 280; see also Haddad 2003: 307).
This is a critical shift for two reasons. France is only the second state after the United Kingdom to define refugee status in law, and it starts an important trend in continental Europe in which extradition treaties get linked to refugee protection, a system that worked well for the rest of that century. But this notion of a refugee as an unprotected person is still with us today. The refugee definition included in Refugee Convention notes that a refugee is someone “outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear,
unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
Learn more about A Right to Flee at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue