Legal status, rights and belonging: International symposia

The analysis of the relationship between legal status, rights and belonging is the central theme of two symposia jointly organised by the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) and the Oxford Institute of Social Policy (OISP) at the University of Oxford.

The symposia are convened by Dr Roberto G. Gonzales  (University of Chicago) and myself .

Main Themes of the International Symposia

The events will be held respectively in Oxford in April 2013 and in Chicago in October 2013 and will address two interrelated aspects of the relationship between legal status, rights and belonging:

The symposium will investigate the interplay between forms and modes of contemporary membership, migration governance (both immigration and emigration), and the politics of belonging. This will be achieved through in-depth examinations of a range of experiences of membership including, but not limited to, those of:  ethnic minorities; citizen children of undocumented migrant parents; former unaccompanied asylum seeking children; people with dual citizenship; ‘failed’ asylum seekers; and stateless people. Participants are invited to discuss issues such as the position of the non-citizen in contemporary immigration and emigration states; the nexus between human mobility, immigration control, and citizenship; the tension in policy and practice between coexisting traditions and regimes of rights; and the intersection of ‘race’ and other social cleavages and legal status. The Oxford symposium is organised by Dr Nando Sigona (Refugee Studies Centre), Vanessa Hughes (COMPAS) & Dr Elaine Chase (Oxford Institute of Social Policy).

  • Illegality, youth and belonging  (Chicago, October 2013)

This second symposium will explore the confusing and contradictory experiences of belonging and illegality that frame the everyday lives of undocumented immigrant youth. Over the last two decades in the United States, non-citizens have experienced a shrinking of rights while immigrant communities have witnessed an intensification of enforcement efforts in neighbourhoods and public spaces. In effect, these trends have sewn fear and anxiety and narrowed the worlds of youth—such that even mundane acts of driving, waiting for the bus, and traffic stops can lead to the loss of a car, prison and deportation. But these young people have also benefited from local and national efforts to widen access—particularly in the realm of education—providing young immigrants important opportunities to establish connections, form relationships, and participate in the day-to-day life of their communities. The experiences of undocumented immigrant youth teach us about the two-sided nature of citizenship—such that persons can be removed from spaces, denied privileges and rights, but can experience belonging too.

Collectively this joint initiative aims to break new ground through analyses that are empirically informed, theoretically engaged and ethnographically rich and drawing on the expertise of scholars from a range of disciplinary backgrounds and state contexts. As immigration has become a topic of great visibility among scholars, policy makers, and the media, this endeavour holds appeal to a range of audiences. Read the Background paper & Call for Papers

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A missed opportunity: the EU’s response to the Arab Spring

In 2011, the EU missed a historic opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the foundations it is built on. It is as if we’d said to them “It is wonderful that you make a revolution and want to embrace democracy but, by all means, stay where you are because we have an economic crisis to deal with here” (Cecilia Malmstrom, EU Home Affairs Commissioner)

The quote comes from a lecture EU Commissioner Malstrom gave today at the Center for European Studies on the EU’s and EU member states’ responses to the Arab Spring, addressing in particular the challanges of building a EU migration and asylum policy. To read the full text of the lecture is available here. The words of the Commissioner echoe some of the concerns I had pointed to in a recent blog post. I am currently working with Hein de Haas to a joint commentary piece to be published on the forthcoming issue of Forced Migration Review on  North Africa and Displacement 2011-2012 in which we further develop our understanding of the complex relationship between human mobility, forced displacement and political uprisings in the MENA region.

France, Italy and the renationalisation of EU borders

The political support behind the EU project is slowly but steadily fading away. The recent bilateral summit between the president of France and Italy’s prime minister while the latest of a series of signs of this trend, is also particularly relevant because involves two wealthy and (relatively) populous founding members of the EU. The preference for bilateral vs. multilateral negotiations is by itself symptomatic of the crisis. No one is surprised if a UK prime minister is EU-sceptical, that’s part of the game. It is a different story if France goes on war almost unilaterally, suspends Schengen preventively and Italy questions the very existence of the EU. And let’s not forget that no long ago Angela Merkel was reported threatening Germany withdrawal from the Euro. The revolutionary movements in North Africa and Middle East are providing yet another stage on which the EU drama is unfolding. Real, perceived or imagined human migration is at the core of the current tensions within the EU and among EU members. Can what should be a manageable flow of 30,000 migrants from Tunisia lead to the abolition of Schengen? The renationalisation of EU borders is in full motion. Cui prodest? Who benefits from this?

Nation building and the others

I’m on my way to Cyprus where I’m giving a paper at the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration conference (IASFM: www.iasfm.org) . My paper is about RAE in Kosovo, but I’m not going to look into the appaling living conditions of the communities, as there are several detailed reports on this, rather I would like to use the situation of the RAE as a lens to look into tensions and conflicts in the process of nation building in Kosovo. In particular, i want to explore the tension between ‘colonial’ EU protectorate policy and practice and ‘colonial’ responses of  Kosovo ruling elite. Two chapters of the RAE integration strategy and some pilot interviews carried out last year are the empirical basis of the reflections. More work will follow next year when I’m planning a 2 weeks trip to Kosovo.

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Flag / Bandiera


Questo video sembra un manuale di storia per le scuole kosovare, tre minuti di musica racchiudono tutte le parole e le immagini chiave del nazionalismo kosovaro, con i soldati dell’UCK, le citta’ storiche, le bandiere, la religiione, il machismo. Ancora una volta il messaggio non e’ a mero consumo interno. Il ritornello con i sottotitoli in inglese e lo stesso titolo della canzone lanciano un messaggio chiaro. Date uno sguardo al 1’13” del video, c’e’ una cartina dei balcani interessante e che dice molto!

This is not just a videoclip. It seems more an history manual with all the key words and images of Albanian nationalism in Kosovo. Have a look at the map that appears in the video at 1’13”…

Former Leader in Kosovo Acquitted of War Crimes

War crimanal and/or national hero
By MARLISE SIMONS (New York Times, April 4, 2008) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/04/world/europe/04kosovo.html
PARIS — The United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague on Thursday acquitted a former commander of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army of all charges of war crimes in a decision that could inflame anti-Kosovo sentiment in Serbia just weeks after Kosovo unilaterally declared independence.The commander, Ramush Haradinaj, who also briefly served as prime minister of Kosovo three years ago, was found not guilty of murder, persecution, rape and torture of Kosovo Serb civilians. The crimes were said to have been carried out by men under his command in 1998, when the rebels fought to free their largely ethnic Albanian region from Serbian rule.Another rebel commander, Idriz Balaj, was also acquitted, while a third defendant, Lahi Brahimaj, was sentenced to six years in prison for torture and cruel treatment of prisoners.

The men who were acquitted may return home as early as Friday, and they are expected to be given a hero’s welcome. But in court, in summarizing their verdict, the judges said that the case presented had many flaws. They cited vague evidence and widespread fear among witnesses, suggesting that the full version of events had not been told.

The complete text of the judgment was not available, but in their summary, the judges gave much weight to the fear and the evident intimidation of witnesses. Lawyers said that in no other case before the tribunal had witness intimidation been so widespread.

The judges said that they had serious difficulties in getting many of almost 100 witnesses to testify freely. They said that they had to permit 34 witnesses to hide their identities from the public, that 18 were subpoenaed because they refused to testify and that others said they dared not talk once they were in court.

The case against Mr. Haradinaj was fraught with difficulties from the start. Western diplomats tried to dissuade Carla Del Ponte, who was the chief prosecutor, from indicting Mr. Haradinaj, arguing that he was a respected political leader who played an important role in stabilizing Kosovo.

Within the prosecutor’s office, some lawyers also had warned that the case against Mr. Haradinaj was weak because it would be hard to link him to the crimes.

Prosecutors complained repeatedly about pressure on the witnesses, saying that those most afraid were former rebel fighters who had been expected to testify as insiders. At least three designated witnesses were killed before the trial, prosecutors said.

In November, the trial ground to a halt when the defense lawyers for all three accused unexpectedly announced that they would not call any witnesses because they considered the prosecution case so weak.

For Serbs, the acquittal of two of the former rebel commanders, whose forces were backed and supported by the West, was likely to be viewed as one more insult.

Kosovo has long been portrayed as a victim of Serbia. Only one other case at the tribunal has focused on the abuses and killings by fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Human rights groups have documented numerous killings and instances of mistreatment of those not siding with the rebels.

Oliver Ivanovic, who represents Kosovo Serbs, told the FoNet news agency in Belgrade that the acquittals would make it even more difficult to demand that the Serbian government arrest Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, wartime Bosnian Serb leaders who remain fugitives.

Serbs will now see the tribunal as even more of a political, rather than a legal, institution, Mr. Ivanovic said. He added, “It will be now very difficult to convince any Serb that this is not an anti-Serb tribunal.”

In Thursday’s ruling, Mr. Brahimaj was sentenced to six years for the abuse of prisoners detained in a camp where he was in charge. It said that he had personally participated in beatings and torture.

Mr. Brahimaj, who has already served three years, is likely to be freed in a year if he gets the usual reduction for good behavior that is common in European countries where he may serve his time.

After Mr. Haradinaj surrendered to the court, in 2005, he was allowed to return to Kosovo to await his trial. Much to the frustration of Ms. Del Ponte, he was treated favorably when the court permitted him to play a limited political role at home, a privilege granted to no other detainee.

It was not clear if prosecutors would appeal.