Author: Vipasha Singh, Masters of Law, University College London
For centuries, the European continent, owing to its location, central both in terms of power configurations and geography, also touted as a bastion of human rights, has remained the hope for those fleeing conflict. The regions surrounding it has averaged one migrant crisis per decade, if not more. Migrants have made use of both land and sea routes to arrive at Europe over the years, the preferred route for the former has been through the Balkans and the latter through the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea.
The usual apparatus to receive such migrants is the 1951 Geneva Convention and the New York Protocol from 1967 that amended it. Generally, refugee status determination is done on an individual basis. However, in situations of mass influx, that massively overwhelm and slow down local asylum systems, temporary protection is relied upon wherein, the requirement of individual applications is waived.
Currently, the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive (2001) occupies the field, ideated as a stop-gap arrangement and as a mechanism for burden sharing. Peculiarly, it was never activated till 2022, despite massive crises like the 2011 North African crises of Tunisia and Libya and the 2015 middle eastern crises of Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In both these instances, there were calls for the TPD to be activated, however, the EU did not entertain these requests. More recently, there was the Polish-Belarussian crisis, which too failed to activate the TPD.
Scholars and activists largely attributed the inactivation of the TPD to its own internal flaws. However, this status quo changed in 2022, when following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the TPD was activated for the first time since its inception, that too within ten days of the crisis breaking out. While laudable, it led to the obvious questions of why the same had not been done before.