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Human rights vs state sovereignty

Jul 06,2019 - Last updated at Jul 06,2019

The case of the captain of the Sea-Watch 3 boat Carola Rackete carrying migrants or refugees or asylum seekers, and its brush with Italian law trying to regulate the entry of foreign people to Italy is a case in point about where and how to strike a balance between the rights of people, who could be either migrants or refugees or asylum seekers, genuine or otherwise, wishing to enter a foreign country illegally, and nations which want to protect their sovereignty and the national interests of their peoples.

Italy has been trying to control the flow of “such a group of people” after having experienced a large exodus of “such a group of people” into its territory during the past few years, with no end in sight for this cascade of foreign peoples.

Captain Rackete obviously disliked what Italy is trying to do and decided to ram her boat into the Italian port of Lampedusa on June 29, risking crashing her vessel against an Italian police boat, presumably out of deference to what she perceived as the right of emigrants, refugees and asylum seekers to flee their country out of desperation and seek refuge in European nations.

In the trial of the captain of the Sea-Watch 3, the judge reached at an interesting ruling when he decided first that the Italian security legislation is not applicable in this case because it is a “case of rescues!" The judge also ruled that Rackete acted "in the performance of a duty", to save lives. In other words, people can violate the laws of countries in order to perform a duty of their choice!

There must come a time when the broader picture related to the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and judges needs to be seen, and all stakeholders, including governments, human rights defenders and judges, are called upon to see this broader picture and try to strike a balance between the human rights of individuals with the rights of countries to protect their sovereignty, their laws and their own national security and stability.

Judges cannot go on acting in abstract upon rights of individuals without taking on board also the collective rights of peoples of countries for security and stability. The real issue facing nations when it comes to migrants, refugees or asylum seekers is the obvious fact that more than half of the populations of the developing countries would qualify as eligible for protection as either refugees or asylum seekers.

Governments which put the premium on the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in isolation from the compelling rights of the larger group of people affected by the uncontrolled flow of this group of people need to revisit their "humane" judgements and arrive at a more balanced judgement. Otherwise the cause of bona fide migrants, refugees and asylum seekers would be irreparably damaged. 

To be sure, there are hundreds of millions of people across the globe who are suffering from either the denial of their basic human rights or the lack of basic regard to their economic and social rights. The much sought-after and durable remedy does not lie in giving selective sanctuary to the few who manage to "escape” their desperate conditions aided by good intentioned people like captain Rackete, but rather in the application of a broader and holistic remedy, by applying more pressure on nations with poor human rights record to mend their ways or face retributions and "punishments”.

Otherwise, only a few of the millions of oppressed people across the globe would benefit from the exiting lax approach to the problem associated with migrants, refugees or asylum seekers, while the greater majority of peoples in desperate need for protection are left to stew in their juices.

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