The website for critical discussion about migration in Central and Eastern Europe.
11. 6. 04
Magdalena Miksova
Zdroj: migrationonline.cz

Czech Republic’s asylum policy in the context of international migration and EU’s asylum policy

The thesis is divided into three thematic parts. The first part discusses today’s international migration and presents major theories of the origin of migration and its current flows. While international migration is divided into types based on motives of migrants, emphasis is put on involuntary migration. Trends in today’s international migration are illustrated using statistical data. The second part follows the development of a common asylum policy in the European Union and covers the individual agreements and treaties. The last part focuses on the Czech Republic and especially the individual steps of the country’s asylum procedure which all asylum seekers must undergo.

Migration is as old as humanity. In the past, it was a source of human progress, while today it is the result of urbanization, economic and population developments as well as wars, human rights violations, poverty and natural and environmental disasters.
Today, there is no main and comprehensive theory of international migration. Owing to its complexity, the issue of international migration is considered multidisciplinary. Some theories analyze international migration at the macro level, while other theories do so at the micro level. Macro theorists are interested in structural conditions (economic, political and legal) influencing migratory flows.
Micro theorists try to explain international migration at the level of individual actors or households. They focus on the structural forces that influence the decision-making and actions of individuals and families or changes in communities. They also take into account the relations between individuals that can influence and shape migration.
International migration can have a number of causes – individual desire for a higher income, attempt to eliminate factors jeopardizing the income of a household, recruitment of people to fill low-paid jobs or the penetration of the global market into fringe areas. Often, one sees a combination of causes. But the conditions that gave rise to migration may change over time and new causes may appear that will help maintain or intensify migratory movements. In this respect, experts often talk about networks created by migrants, about institutions, for-profit and not-for-profit organizations that somehow support or influence migration and also about the conditions which will be changed by migration, therefore increasing the likelihood of further migration (this is known as the process of cumulative causes.) Migration gradually becomes independent of the factors that have caused it.
International migration brings economic, social and cultural changes in the country of origin as well as in the target country.
Social labeling of certain professions or jobs is often mentioned in this regard. Certain categories of jobs with a high share of immigrants are labeled as unsuitable for the domestic population which increases the demand for immigrants. Stigmatization of a certain job is therefore not based on its intrinsic characteristics, but on the fact that many immigrants perform this job.
According to the migration system theory, migration movements are the result of existing ties between target countries and countries of origin. References are often made to colonial history, political interests and influences (e.g. military intervention), business, investments, workforce recruitment or cultural ties. Systems develop over time based on how the political, economic and social conditions change in the individual countries.
What migration theories lack is the ability to explain the reasons for both types of migration, i.e. voluntary and forced, at the same time. Critics believe that these theories are more likely to explain the causes of voluntary migration than the causes of forced migration at a time when the number of refugees and people escaping natural or environmental disasters is rather significant.
The international refugee regime consists of many conventions, international and non-governmental organizations as well as well-established procedures. The regime supports and protects those who cannot count on the protection of their home country. By granting asylum to citizens of a certain country, the granting country basically presents its attitude and/or the attitude of the international community toward the internal situation in the country of origin.
Defining migrants as voluntary (economic) migrants or as refugees is problematic because “any migration entails elements of both choice and compulsion.” In practice, it is sometimes difficult to decide what category applies to a particular migrant as there may be more than one motive for his decision to emigrate. Categories may overlap and migrants may fall into different categories at different times. One form of migration may lead to another.
The categorization itself is a problem. How to categorize a person whose life may not be directly threatened in his home country so as to fall in the forced migration bracket, but whose living conditions prevent him from ever reaching an acceptable standard of living? The Geneva Convention defines a refugee as a person who, “as a result of events… and owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…“ The Convention also stipulates the minimum legal standards that countries that are parties to the Convention must apply in respect to refugees. The Convention should function as a framework for domestic asylum laws of signatory countries which as a consequence may not be in contradiction with it.
The distribution of international migrants is rather imbalanced. 60 percent of international migrants reside in developed countries, while 40 percent in less developed countries. Of the total 175 million international migrants in 2002, 56 million lived in Europe, 50 million in Asia, 41 million in North America and 16 million in Africa. In general, the current trends indicate migration flows from less developed and poor countries to the developed world. The chief target areas currently include Western Europe, North America and Australia. An important phenomenon is the feminization of previously male-dominated migration flows. Women usually fall into the family reunion category. Since the 1960s, women are an important group migrating because of work opportunities.
In 2001, the largest number of asylum applicants in the developed world came from Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, China (chiefly in the US), Russian Federation, Iran, India, Sri Lanka and Somalia. In some cases, the statistics covering asylum applicants do not correspond to the actual number of applicants. It is due to the nature of the system for filing applications in some countries where one application may be filed for more than one person.
The first signs of cooperation in the area of immigration and asylum policy appeared as early as in the 1980s. The Single European Act of 1986 signaled a turnaround with the establishment of intergovernmental working groups to deal with the issue. From the very beginning, the member states were for the most part rather skeptical toward the issue because they perceived it as a subject of decisions taken on the national level and were not willing to transfer power to EU bodies. The Treaty of Amsterdam transferred decision-making powers in the areas of external border controls, asylum policy, immigration and judicial cooperation in civil matters from the level of interstate cooperation to the level of the European Council, which is to decide on proposals prepared by the Commission or member states. This means that all rules do not have to be approved by a consensus and that a member state may be bound by a rule it did not vote for.
In the Czech Republic, international migration and its impact became relevant in 1990. Without warning and any previous experience, the country had to cope with inflow of migrants the number of which is continually rising. The Czech Republic’s current asylum policy generally corresponds to the standards of the EU. The majority of asylum applicants today are from Europe (59 percent in 2001), Asia (38 percent) and Africa (2 percent). Compared to the 1990s, the percentage of applicants from Asia fell, while the number of applicants from Europe is on the rise. European applicants increasingly see the Czech Republic as a target country. This groups includes in particular people from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. As regards nationality, the majority of asylum applicants in 2002 came from Ukraine (16 percent of the total 7,799 applicants), Vietnam (9 percent), Slovakia (8 percent), Moldova (7 percent), Georgia and Russia, China and Armenia. Statistical data of the Ministry of Interior show that the majority of applicants are middle-aged men without families. This is true especially for citizens of Ukraine, Moldova and Vietnam.
Since February 2002, when the amendment to the Act on Asylum entered into force (in order to finalize harmonization of the Czech asylum law with acquis communautaire), the number of applications fell by approximately 50 percent.
This institutionalized instrument attempts to deal with the results of international migration the causes of which, however, may be very diverse just as the groups of migrants concerned.
In connection with the ongoing migration flows and the approach of European countries, Jonas Widgren uses a simile borrowed from American scientists. He sees Europe like a shared house with front, side and back door through which migrants flow in – legal migrants use the front door, short-term visitors, skilled workers and transit migrants use the side door and illegal migrants use the back door. The harder the front door is to open for the incoming migrants, the more of them will try to enter through the back door.
(Abstract by Andrea Gerstnerová)
11. 6. 04
Zdroj: migrationonline.cz

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