Episode three: When Asians were expelled from East Africa

In this episode, I explain how the European Convention on Human Rights was not meant to reach colonial subjects.

 

I use the example of the East African Asians case. After Uganda and Kenya became independent, the governments of these countries started to make the life of the Asians who lived there increasingly difficult. Many Asians had British passports. In order to prevent them locating to the UK, over the course of three days in February 1968, the British Government introduced legislation specifically designed to take away their right to enter.

A case was lodged at Strasbourg. As the case was proceeding, a voucher system was put in place which made it possible for a relatively high number of East African Asians to gain entrance into the UK, but not without long delays and many difficulties.

The European Commission of Human Rights considered the UK’s actions to be degrading and inhumane treatment. Noteworthily, the case did not proceed to the European Court of Human Rights. Moreover, its effects on the ground were a far cry from the recognition that the people affected were British passport holders with a right to enter the UK.

The East African Asians case is mostly remembered by lawyers for its affirmation that inhuman and degrading treatment can encompass racial discrimination. In many ways, however, the case also demonstrates that the ECHR failed to protect the rights of all humans equally.

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Episode two: What did the Convention say?

In this episode, I go back to the early history of human rights law in Europe in order to understand the foundations of the Strasbourg migrant case law.

 

The European Convention on Human Rights was created in 1950 in the aftermath of the horrors of World War II. It was a remarkable development in the history of human rights and aimed to protect all citizens in Europe from a new descent into dictatorship.

In the process, the question arose as to who should benefit from the protection of the Convention. In particular, those who negotiated the Convention addressed the question of whether foreigners should have the same rights as citizens. The answer they gave was that, in at least two respects – freedom of expression and association and immigration detention – “aliens” should not have exactly the same rights as “citizens”.

It is difficult to think that this fundamental assumption did not impact the development of the Strasbourg migrant case law.

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Episode one: Do migrants have human rights too?

In this first episode in a series of podcasts about migrants’ human rights, Professor Marie-Bénédicte Dembour discusses whether the European Court of Human rights is striking the right balance when it comes to protecting the human rights of migrants.

 

While some politicians and sections of the media give the impression that migrants have too many human rights, Marie argues that despite high profile cases like Abu Qatada, the reality is that there are a multitude of migrants in Europe who are left with little human rights protection.

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