Daniel Trilling

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‘In Poland, the government has passed an emergency law allowing authorities to turn back refugees who cross into the country “illegally”.’ Border guards are seen guarding Afghan refugees at the Polish and Belarusian border, August 2021. Photograph: Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/Rex/Shutterstock

It is bad enough when states break their own rules and mistreat people – but it’s when they start to change the rules that we really need to worry. Three recent stories, from three different corners of Europe, suggest that governments are crossing a new threshold of violence in terms of how they police their borders. These developments are harmful in their own right, but they also set a disturbing precedent for how countries in rich parts of the world might deal with future displacements of people – not just from war and persecution, but from the climate crisis as well.…  Seguir leyendo »

A dinghy carrying refugees from Gambia and the Republic of the Congo approaches Lesbos, Greece, in February 2020. Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

A vital part of international refugee law is the principle of non-refoulement: the idea that states should not push people seeking asylum back to unsafe countries. In a country like the UK, which does not sit next to a war zone, advocates of “tougher” policies to deter asylum seekers will claim that the principle does not apply, since people who reach Britain’s shores will have passed through several peaceful countries before they get there.

But if every country looks only to its own interests, and behaves as if asylum seekers are someone else’s problem, then you very quickly end up with a system that traps people in situations where their lives are at risk.…  Seguir leyendo »

How we respond will most likely come down to whether we see these people as refugees in need of protection, or as people who are playing the system for a better deal. But the uncomfortable truth is that they are both. Photograph: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

It takes about two hours to burn off your fingerprints. You find a piece of metal pipe, stick it in the fire until the end goes red hot, then rub the tips of your fingers quickly but firmly along the glowing end – and repeat. Such is the body’s ability to repair itself, the damage only lasts a few days; but long enough to make it impossible for border police to enter your details into Eurodac, the European Union’s fingerprint database for asylum seekers.

This technique, described to me recently by a Sudanese refugee who spent five months living rough in Calais last year, was an attempt to dodge the EU’s Dublin regulation, which insists that refugees claim asylum in the first member state they set foot in.…  Seguir leyendo »