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With the Ukraine war and the arrival of many Ukrainian refugees into European countries, as well as Canada/USA, there has been talk of double standards when it comes to refugee admissions.

Russia-Ukraine war exposed human rights ‘double standards’ | Human Rights News | Al Jazeera

“Generous reception of most people from Ukraine stood in sharp contrast to the often violent rejection and abuse of refugees and migrants at Europe’s external borders,” Amnesty said in the report.

“This double standard revealed the racism inherent in EU external border policy and practice,” it said.

There may very well be some some hard truths to that. But it gets me to wonder: when they move out-of-region to richer countries, refugees typically make headlines by moving to either Europe or the US. So while it is easy to criticize Europe and the US (as well as Australia/New Zealand), how do some of the other attractive states handle refugees that aren't from their immediate neighborhoods? Are they more tolerant? Less tolerant?

For the purpose of this question, I'll include China, for its economic dynamism, which ought to be make it attractive as well. And basically, any rich country that is not majority European-ethnic, since that is after all the racism criticized by Amnesty.

Out of scope: cases where countries have political reasons to admit/reject refugees: South Korea's general admission policies are of interest, but not those specific to North Korean refugees.

The reason I am not including poorer states is that

  • a lot of them are already bearing an undue burden of refugees (ex: Syrians in Lebanon)
  • they are often receiving refugees from neighboring countries, so cultures they are already familiar with. rich countries's immediate neighborhoods are usually safer as well.
  • economic, rather than safety, motivations for migration can be more easily dismissed.

To be a little more specific: the notion of wealth, while important, is less important to this question than the criteria that the refugees arrive from out-of-region: a poor country that is very accepting to refugees from far away (rather than those from neighboring countries who crossed their border by land) would be an example to us all. Are there any?

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  • This is going to vary very widely depending on individual circumstances. A country like Turkey which borders an active war zone is going to handle it very differently to somewhere that's hard for refugees to reach. Add to that the lack of definition of "rich" and you're just going to get anecdotes.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 25, 2023 at 14:44
  • I'm wondering if you meant "non-Western countries" rather than "non-European/American countries". For example, are you interested in the policies of Australia and New Zealand?
    – J-J-J
    Aug 26, 2023 at 9:17
  • @J-J-J No, I am not. "Western" can mean different things, and at times is seen to include Japan or S Korea. This accusation of systemic racism is often leveled at European countries, at North American countries, and yes, Australia as well. These are all primarily countries from a European/Caucasian background. Now, I am not saying they are not engaged in racism wrt refugees. I am asking what other countries, not of European background, that happen to be rich, are up to in that regard. Aug 26, 2023 at 21:01
  • Generally speaking, you should have a look at the submissions of the UNHCR to the UN Universal Periodic Review (you can find that on refworld.org, along many other documents about the situation worldwide). It gives an outline of the legislation about refugees/asylum seekers in UN countries, and an account of the actual situation. I mentioned it in my answer about Singapore, but for example you might be interested in the report on Uruguay (not sure if you count South American countries as having "European background" though). refworld.org/pdfid/5c52caf17.pdf
    – J-J-J
    Aug 27, 2023 at 6:03
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    @J-J-J it's certainly reasonable to include Australia and New Zealand in "European" even though they are geographically not in Europe, but for many readers of the question it may not be obvious that this broader sense of "European" is the one intended. "Western" is often used for this broader sense, but is also ambiguous and ill defined (the Wikipedia article on "Western World" is a huge mess, or at least it used to be). But, Italian Philosophers, if "European" includes AU/NZ then why list "American"? Aren't they as European as AU/NZ, or are you interested in Latin America as well as US/CA?
    – phoog
    Aug 27, 2023 at 12:12

4 Answers 4

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Turkey, which is notable for having the largest number of refugees worldwide, has a "geographical limitation" clause. Essentially, non-European citizens (including Turkey's neighbouring nations like Syrians) get a "conditional refugee" status which means the preferred durable solution is to relocate them to a third country, not to let them settle in Turkey. In practice, resettlement quotas are low, but the prospect of resettlement does make their legal status in Turkey less certain. Another important difference is the access to the job market: while EU refugees get automatic right of work in Turkey, conditional refugees must wait for at least 6 months before applying for a work permit.

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Just from some searching on China:

In the absence of domestic asylum laws in China’s mainland, UNHCR registers asylum-seekers, carries out refugee status determination and seeks durable solutions.

Quoted from the UNHCR, ie the UN refuge agency. So it seems China has no legal procedure for someone to claim asylum in China.

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As this other answer explains in more details, Japan's policy is often criticized as extremely harsh, with a rejection rate above 99%.

Japan definitely meets the criteria here, as it is clearly not European or the US, yet it is on-par economically. And due to its aging population, in the absence of these harsh laws it would be a good destination for economic migrants.

So, of all the G7 members, Japan has the most strict policy, and yet the Amnesty report condemns the other 6 members. Racism? I'd say on Amnesty's side.

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  • Can you add a little more on what the Japanese policies actually are?
    – quarague
    Aug 25, 2023 at 12:21
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    The last paragraph doesn't meet our standards for unbiased language. Can you point the Amnesty's report that "condemns the 6 other members" of G7 besides Japan ? Meanwhile, Amnesty does criticize Japan's refugees policy : 2023: amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/03/… 2022: amnesty.org/en/location/asia-and-the-pacific/east-asia/japan/… 2020 : japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/12/10/national/… ...
    – Evargalo
    Aug 25, 2023 at 15:06
  • @Evargalo The link I quoted in the Q did originally come from Amnesty so while this answer is somewhat inflammatory it is not wrong either in calling out Amnesty's criticism as selectively one-sided. Which, to requote, hardly sounds less inflammatory as this: revealed the racism inherent in EU external border policy Aug 25, 2023 at 15:57
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica : AFAICS, the link in the Q goes to Al-Jazeera. While they claim to report Amnesty's criticism: 1. This media has a record of distorting facts in the past 2. They don't provide a link to any Amnesty's report 3. Even their text never claims that Amnesty would be purposefully targetting Europe while giving a pass to Japan or other countries. So this source is very far from enough to support the claim that "Amnesty's report "condemns the 6 other members" of G7 besides Japan" (and my links prove the opposite)
    – Evargalo
    Aug 26, 2023 at 20:51
  • @Evargalo what media organization doesn't have "a record of distorting facts in the past"? A stronger and more meaningful criticism would be some current indication of bias or other reason for suspecting distortion of facts in the present. I don't follow Al Jazeera closely enough to know whether such indications might exist, but as far as I've seen their bias is shown more in the choice of topics to cover than anything else. I haven't seen much evidence of questionable practices in the coverage itself.
    – phoog
    Aug 27, 2023 at 12:18
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Singapore is not a party to major international refugee conventions, and there is no legal status for asylum seeker or refugees there. Hence, there is no public statistics provided by Singapore about asylum seekers, and it's the 1959 Immigration Act that applies to people in this kind of situation, like they were "standard" immigration candidates. So unless they are under another permanent status or unless they transit quickly and legally through Singapore, asylum seekers possibly risk imprisonment, fines, and caning - no matter the merit of their claims.

This situation makes refoulement more likely, even if non-refoulement is supposed to apply to all States, including those not part of refugee conventions. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR):

[...] unless and until the 1951 Convention is acceded to and there is a sound legal framework for granting international protection, there are currently insufficient safeguards against refoulement. In the absence of any national asylum systems or corresponding adjudication structures in Singapore, it is likely that some asylum-seekers may have been deported or refouled upon arrival in Singapore. During 2019-2020, UNHCR has recorded three incidents where individuals were denied entry and deported without being afforded the opportunity to have their international protection needs assessed

The UNHCR also points out various problems with this situation - including increased risk of human and child trafficking.

As you seem to imply that there is some sort of double standard regarding the denunciation of how migrants are treated in Western countries vs. the rest of the world, you should note that human rights organizations (including Amnesty International) denounce the treatment of migrants in Singapore - as well as other human rights violations in general.

References

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  • It is possible that the double standard comes more from media coverage rather than Amnesty. For now though I note that no one has really cited any country that is particularly selfless in admitting refugees (the Turkey answer, though I upvoted it, is not that applicable as a huge proportion are just from neighboring countries that crossed a land border). Aug 26, 2023 at 21:11
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica Geographical bias in media is a well-known phenomenon. Similarly, wars and conflicts in developing countries where Western countries don't have a lot of economic or political interests are often not well-covered in Western media - unless it creates a flow of refugees partly directed toward developed countries, e.g. the Bosnian war or the Syrian civil war.
    – J-J-J
    Aug 27, 2023 at 6:19
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica A good part of rich countries outside Europe/North America/Australia generally don't have a good track record on human rights (e.g. Arabian Peninsula). Governments or leaders mistreating their own population are unlikely to treat asylum seekers well, so I think you'll hardly find examples of what you're looking for. Maybe among the couple of "rich" countries in South America (by rich, I mean above or on par with China relative to GDP per capita), but I don't know the situation well there.
    – J-J-J
    Aug 27, 2023 at 6:37
  • "non-refoulement is supposed to apply to all States, including those not part of refugee conventions": is this principle formally articulated anywhere? More to the point, is it articulated in any instrument of international law to which Singapore is a party?
    – phoog
    Aug 27, 2023 at 12:21
  • @phoog Good question. This is a principle of international customary law (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Customary_international_law if you don't know what customary international law is). You can find a legal articulation of non-refoulement as a customary norm on this page refworld.org/docid/437b6db64.html, I suspect you might be interested in particular in the 5th point. If you want something more synthetic/less "legalese", you can have a look at the Wikipedia article on non-refoulement, or otherwise ask a more specific question on law.stackexchange.com.
    – J-J-J
    Aug 27, 2023 at 21:15

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