Failing EU migration and asylum policies: Red card for Europe!

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 211,385 migrants and refugees arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year [1]. Most of them came from war-torn countries such as Syria (37%), Afghanistan (19%) and Iraq (12%) or fled repressive regimes like Eritrea (3%) or Iran (2%). More than half of arrivals since the beginning of the year were made up by women and children. While Europe is celebrating its football championship, FIDH recalls that the tragedy of refugees continues to unfold across the continent and at its doorstep with the complicity of European leaders. Red card for Europe! On the occasion of the World Refugee Day, FIDH publishes a note to denounce anti-migrant measures taken by the European Union (EU) and its member States.

To reach Europe, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees can take various routes, all dangerous: via Turkey to Greece, through land or the Aegean Sea; via Morocco to reach the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla; or through Libya to Italy, which involves the extremely dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean. Since the beginning of the year, 2,856 people drowned or went missing in the Mediterranean according to UNHCR [2]. The routes change following repressive measures adopted by European member States and institutions. When one route is shut down, another opens. Building barbed-wire fences, strengthening border surveillance or militarizing the Aegean see without offering safe legal alternatives for migration will only push migrants, asylum seekers and refugees to more dangerous routes and lead to further human rights violations humans and deaths. As long as they are fighting for their survival and security, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees will continue to come to Europe. Smugglers will adapt.

European migration and asylum policies are failing. Both the EU and its member states have shown their inability to rise to the occasion and lead by example even though the challenges they face are less significant that those faced by Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey, the countries hosting most refugees from Syria. Against the backdrop of economic difficulties, the EU and its Member States persist in sealing off their external borders at all costs. Across the continent, we increasingly witness populist rhetoric and "anti-migrant" discourses and measures, which violate the dignity and the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. The EU continues to militarize its external borders and to shamelessly outsource its responsibilities for managing migration to gatekeepers with poor human rights records trading away the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees for what they believe is greater security. Numerous EU Member States have adopted drastic measures to repel or deter migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees : they have built visible and invisible walls, set up quotas; they do not hesitate to carry-out push backs in violation of international law; they use systematic administrative detention, including for minors, often in degrading conditions; or they have confiscated their valuables.

In his 2013 annual report on the management of the external borders of the European Union and its impact on the human rights of migrants, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, had warned that a purely repressive approach to migration would only serve to fuel fear, stigmatization, discrimination, xenophobia, and contribute “towards the rise of verbal and physical violence against migrants” [3]. On June 13, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights made the same analysis at the United Nations Human rights Council2. FIDH calls urgently on European leaders to break away from these discourses and policies based on fear and respect their obligations to protect human rights by fighting xenophobia, racism and violence experienced by migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

To ensure that the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are protected, the EU and its Member States must take the following measures:

- The EU and its Member States should develop a coherent and well-coordinated migration and asylum policy with human rights at its heart.

- The EU and its Member States must ensure that cooperation in the field of migration with countries of origin and transit of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees respects human rights and do not directly or indirectly contribute to human rights violations. Clauses to this end should be introduced in all cooperation agreement on migration. Already existing agreements should be revoked or suspended until the third country party to the agreement effectively affords sufficient guarantees regarding its asylum system and the respect for human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

- The EU and its Member States must commit to a fair share of responsibilities for resettling refugees. The revision of the Dublin Regulation gives the EU and its Member States an opportunity to review the rules in the matter.

- The EU and its Member States must open legal and safe migration channels to Europe. This implies an urgent and unconditional increase of their resettlement capacity, including through ensuring access to family reunification and granting humanitarian visas.

- The EU and its Member States must respect their international obligations on asylum. This includes i.a the obligation to respect and enforce the procedural safeguards provided for in international and European law on examining asylum requests as well as giving up the notion of "safe countries”, which is inconsistent with respect for the right of asylum.

- The EU must also address more effectively the root causes of human rights violations that drive people to flee their country.

Read more