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Rationale and barriers

In 2014 Toronto, the first Canadian sanctuary city, reaffirmed its commitment to improving undocumented migrants’ access to programmes and services from city-funded agencies. However, research shows that official policy has not been consistently realised in practice. Service providers experience difficulties such as unfamiliarity with the needs of undocumented migrants and lack of formal organisational policy. Moreover, confusion still exists as to the nature of and extent to which municipal programmes cohere with federal/provincial law. Consequently, fear of arrest, detention, and removal from Canada still result in the marginalisation of undocumented migrants, and susceptibility to exploitation and abuse. This chapter provides a critical analysis of the operation of sanctuary city policy in the Greater Toronto Area. Using the theoretical framework of ‘local governance’, this chapter offers a reflection on the importance of the municipal context in crafting policy responses to the legal, economic, and social marginalisation of undocumented migrants. The chapter maps the nature and extent to which formal policy effectively protects the human rights of undocumented migrants. Drawing on research conducted from 2015 to 2016, the chapter explores the insights and perspectives of city officials, civil society organisations, and practitioners in the Greater Toronto Area.

in Sanctuary cities and urban struggles
Between policy, practice, and politics

Sanctuary legislation is used in many different contexts. What the so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ have in common is that city authorities actively ignore people’s legal status when conducting business with their inhabitants. Thus, while drawing on humanitarian principles, sanctuary practices often have a pragmatic side. For example, the variety of legal and residency statuses of people living together in a city have often resulted in complicated organisational and social networks, the disruption of which by immigration authorities would endanger social peace. This tension has been framed as a contradiction between national requirements and a post-national local reality, a tension that sanctuary practices might be seen as responding to. This chapter draws on these contradictions between the national and the post-national to explore in metropolitan areas discussion of the future role of the local and of statehood is being made and remade in response to concerns around national identity and post-national populations. Sanctuary in these contexts emerges as an urban policy framing that results from such discussions. The chapter thus argues that if sanctuary legislation is a sign of political change in the perception and organisation of migration, it may also signal the changing nature and significance of the nation-state in an interconnected and increasingly urbanised world.

in Sanctuary cities and urban struggles

While immigration policy making has traditionally been the sole prerogative of nation-states, recent research has documented increased instances of migration policy making at sub-national levels across migrant receiving societies. These findings have begun to bring attention to the ways in which immigration policy is now being set through the actions of lower levels of government. This chapter extends these findings, arguing for attention to the role of sub-national actors in defining the politics of contemporary processes of migration, settlement, and incorporation. The chapter engages with these broader issues by discussing a group of sub-national actions, the implementation of migrant labour market regularisations (LRs) in the US. LRs are discrete arenas of policy making at the sub-national level that affect aspects of migrant workers' status and include laws and ordinances related to anti-solicitation, language access, local enforcement of federal immigration law, and employment verification. The chapter thus builds on findings from individual case studies, through an analysis of a unique national dataset of over 3,000 LRs passed in US counties and municipalities between 2001 and 2015. In doing so, the chapter provides a national perspective on the social, economic, and political processes influencing the adoption of LRs over time and across space.

in Sanctuary cities and urban struggles

Sanctuary cities exemplify the rescaling of citizenship, community, and belonging. This chapter sets the stage for the book by exploring urban sanctuary practices and policies in different countries. Drawing on the USA, the UK, and Canada the chapter shows how sanctuary policies and practices aim to accommodate illegalised migrants and refugees in urban communities. The concept of the ‘sanctuary city’, however, is highly ambiguous: it refers to a variety of different policies and practices, and focuses on variable populations in different national contexts. The chapter examines the international literature to show how urban sanctuary policies and practices differ between national contexts and assess whether there are common features of sanctuary cities. It uncovers legal, discursive, identity-formative, and scalar aspects of urban sanctuary policies and practices. These aspects assemble in ways that differ between countries. The chapter discusses these aspect in relation to urban practices in other countries, such as Germany, Spain, and Chile. It concludes by raising important practical and theoretical questions about urban sanctuary.

in Sanctuary cities and urban struggles
Staff Security and Civilian Protection in the Humanitarian Sector

In 2015, Action Contre la Faim launched a campaign calling on the UN to create a new post, that of a Special Rapporteur for the protection of humanitarian aid workers. Critics of the proposal claimed, inter alia, that creating such a post would imply that aid workers were a special category of civilians, worthy of protection over and above that accorded the wider population in the contexts in which they work.1 This raises an important issue which runs deeper than the campaign for a Special Rapporteur. The present article argues that, with or without such a post, the current situation is one in which humanitarian agencies treat aid workers as distinct and separate from the wider civilian population, and take significantly different measures for the safety of their staff from those they take for other civilians. For the most part, the distinction and associated differences are uncritically accepted, and this article sets out to challenge such acceptance by highlighting the nature of the differences, assessing possible explanations for the underlying distinction and considering its implications. Through this analysis, the article argues that this distinction not only reflects but also reinforces an unequal valuing of lives internationally.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs

A security advisor for Médecins du Monde France between 2012 and 2016, Emmanuelle Strub recalls her experience and some of the major shifts in risk management in the NGO sector in recent years. In particular, at a time of global normalisation of the aid sector, she describes her own efforts to streamline security management in her organisation: empowering field teams and, in particular, heads of mission, emphasising the crucial role of obtaining consent from the various stakeholders in the countries of intervention, and developing security trainings, crisis-management tools and a risk-management methodology. Yet, she warns, the trend today, with the advent of the duty-of-care concept, is to shift the use of risk management from enabling operations and facilitating access to populations to protecting the organisation from legal or reputational risks.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs

This article discusses the policy of absolute secrecy on abductions adopted by aid organisations. It argues that the information blackout on past and current cases is to a large extent a function of the growing role of private security companies in the aid sector, which promote a ‘pay, don’t say’ policy as a default option, whatever the situation. The article contends that secrecy is as much an impediment to resolving current cases as it is to preventing and managing future ones. It suggests abandoning the policy of strict confidentiality in all circumstances – a policy that is as dangerous as it is easy to apply – in favour of a more nuanced and challenging approach determining how much to publicise ongoing and past cases for each audience, always keeping in mind the interests of current and potential hostages.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Editor’s Introduction
Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Uses and Misuses of International Humanitarian Law and Humanitarian Principles

The rehabilitation of international humanitarian law (IHL) has become a priority for those who think that the horrors of contemporary wars are largely due to the blurring of the distinction between civilians and combatants and for those who think that campaigning for the respect of IHL could result in more civilised wars. Similarly, respect for humanitarian principles is still seen by many as the best tool available to protect the safety of aid workers. In this text, I argue that both assumptions are misled. The distinction between civilians and combatants, a cornerstone of IHL, has been blurred in practice since the late nineteenth century. In addition, humanitarian agencies claiming to be ‘principled’ have been victims of attacks as much as others. History and current practice tell us that neither IHL nor humanitarian principles provide safety or can guide our decisions. Accepting their symbolic value, rather than their unrealised potential to protect and solve operational dilemmas, would free humanitarian agencies from endless speculations.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
A Model for Historical Reflection in the Humanitarian Sector

This article describes the results of a pilot project on using historical reflection as a tool for policy-making in the humanitarian sector. It begins by establishing the rationale for integrating reflection into humanitarian practice. It then looks at the growing interest in humanitarian history among practitioners and academics over the past decade and sets out the arguments for why a more formalised discussion about humanitarianism’s past could result in a better understanding of the contemporary aid environment. The main body of the article focuses on our efforts to translate that potential into practice, through a reflective workshop on Somalia since the 1990s, held at National University of Ireland, Galway, in June 2017. Drawing on our experience of that event, the article puts forward four principles on which a workable model of reflective practice might be developed: the importance of the workshop setting, how to organise the reflective process, the value of pursuing a single case study and the careful management of expectations and outcomes. This article is not intended to be prescriptive, however. Rather, our aim is to put forward some practical suggestions and to open a conversation about how a model of historical reflection for aid practitioners might be developed.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs