What the EU really is

In 2012, the EU was awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize "for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe". With the ongoing unprecedented humanitarian crisis, the EU seems to have forgotten its commitments and failed thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers for the sake of its own narrowly defined interests.

Instead of leading by example and developing a sustainable human-rights based migration policy, the EU persists in sealing off its borders at all costs and to shamelessly outsource its responsibilities to gatekeepers like Turkey. The EU continues to frantically pursue external border protection with the support of FRONTEX whose role, independence and budget are continually strengthened despite a significant lack of transparency and accountability, and NATO. At the same time, the EU seeks to increasingly shift responsibility for migration management on countries of origin and transit including North African and sub-Saharan countries and most recently Turkey, where grave violations of the rights of migrants and asylum seekers continue.

The EU-Turkey deal: the deal of shame
The EU-Turkey deal, which is ethically and legally flawed, is the last in a series of setbacks by the EU in the protection of migrants and asylum-seekers. Over the last years, FIDH and other human rights organizations have documented illegal push-backs often carried out with excessive use of force as well as refoulement of individuals to countries of origin and third countries with inadequate asylum systems and poor human rights records. In this deal, European leaders have decided to trade away migrants’ and asylum seekers’ dignity and rights for selfish short-term political gain. Simply put, it is the deal of shame. With the deportations, which started on April 4, the European Union has hit rock bottom.

Europe’s so called ‘solution’ to close its borders at all costs and externalize its responsibilities to Turkey not only defies international law, but is also unsustainable and short-sighted. How can the European Union pretend that the deal aims at breaking the smuggler’s business model when its resettlement scheme requires a Syrian to reach Europe illegally in the first place so that another one on Turkish soil can be resettled in the European Union. Not only is the cynical ‘swap’ ethically wrong and cruel, it also does not provide any long term solutions for those ready to risk their lives to flee from war-torn countries or persecution. It will only push migrants and asylum seekers towards more dangerous routes. As long as they fight for their survival and safety, people will continue to come to Europe and smugglers will adapt.

What the EU should do
To prevent future loss of lives and find long-term solutions to the ongoing humanitarian crisis, it is high time for the EU and its member states to rise to the occasion and develop a comprehensive, coherent and well-coordinated migration policy with human rights at its heart. Sharing the responsibility for asylum seekers and refugees more equitably amongst EU Member States is key. The EU also needs to open safe and regular channels for migrants into Europe. This includes urgently and unconditionally increasing its resettlement capacities, giving access to family reunification and granting humanitarian visas. We urge the EU to ensure that cooperation in the area of migration with states of origin and transit respects the human rights of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees and that clauses are introduced to this end any cooperation agreement on migration. The EU also needs to address more effectively root causes of human rights violations causing people to flee their countries of origin.

It is high time that the EU and its member states become what they think they are: strong advocates for the promotion and protection of human rights. This requires leading by example, showing consistency between internal and external aspects of its human rights policy as well as preventing double standards and the treatment of countries depending on their strategic importance.

Read ‘What Greece really is’ by Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH Vice President

Read ‘What Turkey really is’ by Yusuf Alataş, FIDH Vice President

Read ‘What the Aegean sea really is’ by Dan Van Raemdonck, FIDH Secretary General

Read more