WHEN PEOPLE BECOME PAWNS

WHEN PEOPLE BECOME PAWNS

A political outcry over migrant children separated from their families at the United States’ southern border. Germany’s coalition government on the brink of collapse. Italy squabbling with its neighbors over who should accept boatloads of asylum seekers. The searing politics of immigration policy are all over the news again in recent days.


And yet around the world, increasingly anti-immigrant governments are taking differing approaches to coping with unwanted arrivals — each has its political upsides and pitfalls.​

The US approach is based on deterrence: The Trump administration believes that a get-tough policy on prosecutions at the border — the grounds for the recent separation of migrant children from their families — will discourage other migrants from attempting to enter the country illegally. Time will tell if it has worked, but the downside is a moral backlash at home against an inhumane policy and a loss of (already tenuous) credibility in making human rights claims against other countries abroad. Trump, for his part, seems unconcerned about either — his administration has doubled down, and a majority of GOP voters support him.

Meanwhile in Europe — where the idea of setting up camps for people brings dark echoes of the not-so-distant past — governments are looking to outsource the problem. In the face of a growing anti-immigrant backlash in some countries, EU leaders are considering a proposal to house migrants in special “hubs” outside of Europe, where their asylum claims would be processed. The proposal emulates earlier deals between the EU and Turkey, and Italy and Libya, aimed at corralling migrants before they reach EU borders. The upside for European governments is that migration becomes someone else’s problem. The downside is being at the mercy of the goodwill (as in Turkey) or political fragility (as in Libya) of their outsourcing partners.

On the other side of the world, Australia combines the two approaches. A zero-tolerance migrant policy diverts so-called “boat people” — largely refugees from Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan — to internment camps in other countries: one on the tiny island nation of Nauru nearly 2,000 miles from Aussie shores and, until its recent closure, another on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. The grim outposts are a deterrent of their own, but they are out of sight, out of mind for Australian voters. In ruthless political terms, Australia’s strategy — which the UN High Commissioner for Refugees last year called contrary to “common decency” — has worked. Boat arrivals have plunged after Australia began its offshoring policy and aggressively turning back migrant voyagers. As in the cases above, apart from the sheer human cost, the political downside is lost moral authority.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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