EU Decision: All citizens with a home larger than 60m2 will have to take in a migrant

AFP

As of January 2017, all European citizen with housing over 60m2 will have to take in a migrant.

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Of course, this is totally false news. But if you are reading this, It means that you’ve clicked and you may even have believed it…

These days many rumors and misrepresentations circulate about migrants.

For the International Migrants Day of 18 December, we wanted to shed light on this tendency to spread disinformation on this serious issue.

European leaders and some media help convey received ideas about European migration policies and the situation of migrants arriving or living on European territory.

We wish to reinstate the truth about the crisis of European migration policies.

1. Europe is facing a migration crisis. FALSE

The crisis concerns the migration policy of the European Union and its Member States.


Despite the increases in the migratory flows to Europe since 2015, the number of migrants entering the EU territory is far smaller than for other countries. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that out of the 4.8 million Syrian refugees, 2.7 million are in Turkey, 1 million in Lebanon and 655,000 in Jordan [1]. Between April 2011 and September 2016, fewer than 860,000 Syrians applied for asylum in the 28 countries of the European Union (plus Norway and Switzerland) [2]. In other words, Europe has admitted less than 18% of the total number of Syrian refugees.

For several years, the European Union has demonstrated both its inability to organise the reception of migrants, even those fleeing war, persecution and poverty, and to guarantee them the international protection within its territories to which they are entitled. The reaction of the EU and its Member States has been to block the borders and use all possible means to prevent migrants from reaching Europe. FIDH is calling on Europe to replace its present security-based migration policy with an in-depth reform based on respect for the human rights of migrants. FIDH denounces policies that prevent migrants from entering the EU and recommends building up the EU’s capacity to receive migrants and to open legal and safe migration channels to Europe.

2. Europe receives asylum seekers with dignity. FALSE

They are made to live in very precarious conditions.


In Greece, the situation facing migrants is catastrophic, especially in the island detention centres (hotspots) which are frequently overpopulated, short of food, and unable to provide healthcare for men, women and children or adequate information on asylum application procedures. In France, an allowance of 204 euros per month is provided for a single asylum seeker housed by the State, while a “homeless” asylum seeker receives 330 euros. The number of accommodations is far from adequate with only some 50,000 available for 80,000 applicants registered by OFPRA in 2015 [3]. These conditions do not allow the asylum seekers to live decently. In Vintimille (last Italian city before the French border) migrants who are prevented by the police from crossing into France sleep on the beaches or in the parks. Throughout Europe, their campsites are regularly demolished. They usually are not allowed to work and have to rely on the local populations and associations for food. FIDH urges EU Member States to improve the reception conditions for migrants, namely by a better sharing of responsibilities among the EU Member States.

3. Immigration can be controlled by detaining migrants. FALSE

Detaining migrants is ineffective and violates international law.


In recent years, European states have increasingly used the extended detention of migrants as a tool for “controlling” their borders or for “national security” reasons. Since the European Union and Turkey signed an agreement to expel migrants arriving from Turkey, Greece has been systematically locking them up. Elsewhere in 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights denounced the policy of the Czech Republic where migrants were often detained for up to 90 days in conditions which have been described as “degrading”, however, according to international law, immigration detention must be strictly a measure of last resort [4]. Some countries, like Bulgaria, also hold minors, even unaccompanied, in detention centres [5]. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants stressed that whether it [illegal migration] falls under criminal law – and thus is prohibited in the 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees, – or under administrative law, "there is no empirical evidence that detention deters irregular migration or discourages persons from seeking asylum" [6]. FIDH advocates against the application of criminal or administrative detention for the sole reason of “irregular” migration. FIDH appeals to the EU Member States to refrain from detaining asylum seekers who are awaiting a decision on their asylum application.

4. Securing borders prevents migration and contributes to saving lives at sea. FALSE

Securing borders displaces migrants’ routes, contributes to the traffickers’ networks and causes deaths


The EU and its Member States allocate a colossal budget for the protection of their borders, as demonstrated by the constantly increasing budget allocated to Frontex, the agency which was recently renamed the “European Border and Coast Guard Agency” to protect Europe’s external borders. The agency’s 97.9 million euro 2014 budget grew to 143.3 million in 2015 and to 254 million in 2016 [7]. In 2015, Europe launched a naval operation called “Sophia” whose assignment was to destroy the vessels of smugglers providing transport between Libya and Europe [8]. Several States are building visible or invisible walls to protect themselves against the “threats of migration”: barbed wire fences now separate Hungary from Serbia and Croatia, Spain from Morocco, Greece and Bulgaria from Turkey. These measures do not alter the migratory flows nor do they discourage migrants from trying to reach Europe. As long as there are wars, persecution, and other human rights violations, people will continue to flee their countries and head to Europe in search of a better future. Security and exclusion policies essentially displace migratory routes and force migrants to embark on increasingly dangerous routes, and, furthermore, they feed the networks of human traffickers and people smugglers. In 2016, for instance, since they had no legal, safe access to European lands and because of the European closed-border policy, 4,655 people died, or disappeared at sea, while trying to reach EU territory. The figure rose (3,771 in 2015) despite EU and NATO military resources deployed in the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas, which were supposed to help save lives [9]. FIDH encourages the EU and its Member States to focus their policies on the protection and reception of migrants and to strengthen their capacity for maritime search and rescue in order to reduce the number of victims. FIDH urges the European authorities to abandon their security and policing approach and rhetoric, and denounces the military and surveillance operations designed to prevent or restrict the movement of people heading to Europe. As long as European States fail to establish legal, safe access routes to their territories, migrants will continue to use dangerous routes and smugglers’ networks will continue to prosper.

5. Europe trades off migrants as though they were merchandise. TRUE

For every migrant expelled from Greece and sent back to Turkey, one Syrian is admitted into Europe.


A March 2016 deal between the European Union (EU) and Turkey creates a shameful system of human trade: for every migrant expelled from Greece to Turkey, the EU would accept one Syrian. Between April and November 2016, 2,217 Syrians from Turkey were resettled in Europe [10]. This deal treats people like goods that can be traded among States on the basis of various criteria. More notorious still, in May, the EU complained that the Syrians sent from Turkey were sick and with a "very low level of education" [11]. The implementation of the deal, moreover, violates asylum-seekers’ rights. In fact, according to the terms of the agreement, only the migrants whose asylum application has been rejected in Greece, or who have not applied for asylum in Greece, can be expelled to Turkey. However, after expressing concern over the faulty Greek asylum system and the absence of any real possibility for migrants to apply for asylum or ensure that their applications be treated according to international standards, FIDH documented the cases of migrants detained on the Island of Lesbos who wanted to apply for asylum but were unable to do so [12]. According to European parliamentarians who visited the centres which held the detainees expelled to Turkey by virtue of the deal, none of the refugees interviewed had been able to apply for asylum either in Greece or in Turkey [13]. FIDH condemns this deal and the violations caused by it and appeals to States Parties to denounce it as soon as possible.

6. Europe only returns migrants to safe countries. FALSE

To rid itself of migrants, Europe negotiates with the most repressive regimes which trample on human rights.


In its dealings with migrants, the European Union (EU) and its Member States shamelessly outsource their administrative responsibilities to countries of origin or transit viz. North and Sub-Saharan Africa, Turkey, and more recently Afghanistan, where serious human rights violations are committed. The aim of these agreements is to prevent departing migrants from reaching "fortress Europe" and to get rid of those who are already there. In an agreement concluded with the EU in March 2016, Turkey agreed to receive migrants expelled for having entered Greece "illegally". The expulsion order would be issued on the basis of a fast-track procedure, which, contrary to international law, does not allow for an individual assessment of the underlying reasons for the asylum application.

Migrants already had their rights trampled on in Turkey but, since the summer of 2016, – following the attempted coup d’État which plunged the country into unprecedented authoritarianism, – repression by the Erdogan regime has led to greater insecurity and a greater risk of human rights violations [14]. Further, despite the deplorable security situation in Afghanistan, the EU signed an agreement with that State in October 2016, to make it easier to expel "illegal" migrants. Italy has already signed an agreement with Sudan and went ahead with numerous expulsions to that country. The EU may also conclude an agreement with Sudan [15], whose President is the subject of an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Given the failures of the European asylum systems, there is a real risk that people in need of international protection might be expelled to these repressive regimes. These agreements are generally signed in secret, without any democratic oversight by the European Parliament or national parliaments. The notion of a "safe country" is, in itself, contrary to international law [16]. FIDH is calling on the EU and its Member States to ensure that agreements concluded with non-EU states respect the human rights of migrants, and to denounce or suspend all previously signed agreements until such a time as the countries with which they have been negotiated offer sufficient guarantees respecting the rights of migrants. FIDH asks that all agreements relevant to migration be placed under the democratic oversight of the European Parliament and national parliaments.

7. All refugees can obtain asylum in Europe. FALSE

The Dublin system prevents refugees from obtaining protection.


In addition to the ploys of the Member States to provide asylum to only a limited number of refugees (quotas, "safe countries" lists), Europe also applies the so-called Dublin system which states that asylum seekers must file their applications in the first EU country they enter. Knowing that border countries did not have the capacity to receive everyone who entered their territories and treat them with respect, as well as to process all the asylum requests as required by the Dublin system, the European Union (EU) finally adopted a resettlement programme in 2015 for asylum seekers leaving Italy and Greece for other EU countries. Adopting it was evidence that the EU itself recognised the inconsistencies of the Dublin system. Despite its lack of ambition, this plan has not been effectively implemented; since September 2015, only 8,162 out of the 160,000 people supposed to benefit from this measure by September 2017 have been resettled after leaving Greece and Italy [17]. And many Member States continue to send asylum seekers back to the EU country of first entry. The fact that they are returned to the border States, together with the ill-functioning asylum procedures in those countries means that they are unable to obtain protection in Europe. Moreover, the policies adopted by some European countries, such as Hungary, which prevent asylum seekers from reaching their territories where they could submit an application for asylum, are in violation of international law. FIDH denounces the violations resulting from the Dublin system and, in the context of reforming this system, is calling for a fairer method of admitting migrants and of processing asylum applications in the EU, and for the freedom of every person to decide where they would like to seek asylum.

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