Published: August 2016Contents
i) What are the hot topics?
The past year has seen immigration issues dominate political agendas and news cycles around the world in an unprecedented fashion. In particular, three stories have grabbed international attention. First, the past 12 months have seen the most significant movement of war-related migration since the Second World War. More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in the last few months of 2015, sparking a crisis as countries struggled to cope with the influx, and creating division in the EU over how best to deal with resettling people. Governments and their electorates were forced to identify their approach to humanitarian protection and their willingness to open their borders and societies to large numbers of migrants in genuine need of sanctuary and settlement. The policy approach to humanitarian migration then fed into the wider debate about border policy and skilled migration in many countries.
ii) Tell us about any key legal developments – recent or pending – and their international impact.
In the United States, Donald Trump’s highly controversial rhetoric on immigration issues was the big political story of the year. The anti-immigration rhetoric was a major applause line at Trump rallies; however, at the same time Hispanic leaders in the Republican Party considered that he made it much harder for any Republican candidate to win an election. Their concern not only relates to the debate about policy, including Trump’s widely scorned threat to deport 11 million people, but his claim that Mexican immigrants are responsible for a crime wave and suggestion that speaking Spanish is un-American.
Security continues to be a major concern for all nations. Events in Paris and Brussels particularly have caused European governments to apply strict checks on applications for entry to their countries. Biometric identity cards have become a norm in most jurisdictions.
iii) What are the biggest opportunities and challenges for practitioners and clients?
The conflict in Syria was by far the biggest driver of humanitarian migration. Similarly, the ongoing violence in Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea, as well as extreme poverty it Kosovo, lead people to look for new lives elsewhere. The impact of migration flows from Turkey to Greece has resulted in a new EU agreement with Turkey enabling visa-free movement into the Schengen area for Turkish nationals in return for controlled returns of Syrian migrants from Greece. This is perceived in some quarters as a preliminary step to full EU membership for Turkey. Equally, the issue has engendered significant debate in Germany, where Angela Merkel imposed a generous policy for the resettlement of Syrian migrants. Her open approach to humanitarian protection was striking and earned her international plaudits. However, consequent problems of social cohesion with allegations of crime, have made the political situation at home for the Chancellor much more difficult.