Dalhuisen, born in 1976, worries that Amnesty and Western liberals are harbouring a misplaced confidence in the irreversibility of human rights achievements. He is stunned by the careless self–assurance with which many proponents of open borders – and given their demands this de facto includes organizations such as Amnesty, Human Rights Watch or Doctors Without Borders - believe the right to asylum to be beyond the reach of political forces. They seem to consider the Geneva Refugee Convention or the asylum articles of European Constitutions to be something carved in stone, a kind of natural law. But that’s just not the case. Gravity cannot be abolished – but the Geneva Convention can be, as can the right to asylum enshrined in national constitutions. All things human–made can be destroyed by humans. “And this will eventually happen if we fail to protect borders by other, more humane measures than by abolishing the right to asylum,” Dalhuisen fears. Reduced to three sentences, his assessment is this: If you want an open Europe that continues to help those in need, you must counteract the emergence of political majorities that want to abolish or nullify the right to asylum.
This can only work if the political mainstream succeeds in removing the most important reason for the emergence of such forces – uncontrolled, or the perception of uncontrolled, immigration – by securing Europe’s borders more effectively. But Dalhuisen found that few within the human rights movement, including Amnesty, see things this way.
Is this scaremongering? Or kowtowing to populism? Dalhuisen rejects that. After all, he says, the writing is on the wall everywhere. In Germany, when Frauke Petry was still leading the AfD, she suggested to transform the right to asylum into a privilege awarded at the state’s direction. In Great Britain, many Tories, including Theresa May, think that the country should leave the European Convention on Human Rights. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is closing borders and rejects the admission of Muslim migrants in principle. When Orbán says: “We do not regard these people as Muslim refugees. We regard them as Muslim invaders”, you will find groups in all parts of Europe applauding him. Any human rights activist who has no sense of how far–reaching the dangers of such statements are, is making a serious mistake, warns Dalhuisen. “No one should assume that international human rights conventions are unalterable. They can be changed and will be changed if a majority wants it.”
26 March 2018
Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung article on ESI senior fellow John Dalhuisen: "If you don't compromise you lose"
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- 18 June 2018: Prague – Seminar on the future of European migration and asylum policy
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