People who come to Europe for protection must be able to do so with as little hinderance as possible. Sadly, in reality this is not the case. Asylum seekers and other forcibly displaced persons who try to get to Europe face numerous obstacles, many of which are life threatening.
JRS continues to advocated for more safe and legal ways for people to reach safety.
Forced migrants from Eritrea, Somalia and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa have little other choice than to traverse the open desert. Some do this on their own, while many others rely on human smugglers. Either way there is danger along the route: bandits, malicious border guards as well as unbearable temperatures and the lack of water. Many people have died along the way.
Survivors who reach the coasts of northern Africa -- in Morocco, Algeria, Libya -- face the impenetrable blue expanse of the Mediterranean Sea. Refugees end up staying in such countries for years because they can go no further, unable to legally cross the border into Europe. Refugee protection is scarce in North Africa. Refugees are vulnerable to racist attacks and late-night deportations to the desert. Eventually, many risk crossing the sea by boat -- those who survive the journey often end up in Italy or Malta, where they detained.
The southern European border is not the only place where refugees run into danger. The eastern borders of the EU are tightly closed as well, forcing refugees to take routes where they are at risk of interception and injury. In recent years, thousands have crossed into Greece via the country's narrow border with Turkey at the Evros river. People who have taken this route have come as far as Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. They too are likely to be detained once they arrive to Europe.
Click on the tabs below to learn more about JRS Europe's advocacy priorities and other main concerns with access to protection in Europe.
- Main concerns
- JRS at the borders
Frontex: the EU border agency
Established in 2004, Frontex is an EU agency that coordinates European border security using personnel, equipment and funds from the member states. A Frontex patrol boat or land border vehicle is often the first point of contact for refugees coming to Europe.
But coming into contact with Frontex personnel does not necessarily mean safety. People's protection needs are not always recognised, because Frontex staff may not be suitably trained enough to actually identify refugees. Refugees can be turned away at the border without having the chance to articulate their need for protection.
Since Frontex came into force, it has been very difficult for NGOs and even politicans to monitor what Frontex actually does during their border operations. Much is unknown about the migrants they intercept and whether or not they have protection needs. There must be no obstacles for people who come to Europe for protection. But we and others worry that Frontex may indeed be the biggest obstacle.
For years, we and our partners have advocated for Frontex incorporate a focus on human rights into its mission. In 2011, there was success: the EU adopted a new law governing Frontex requiring it to hire a Fundamental Rights Officer, and to organise a Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights. This has been a welcome step forward.
In October 2012, the forum held its first meeting. JRS Europe currently serves as its co-chair. Membership is small, but varied. The forum's main task is to develop practical standards and mechanisms to guarantee the rights of migrants at Europe's borders. As co-chair, we strive to ensure that the forum becomes an effective and sustainable instrument for protection human rights.
Inability to access asylum procedures in Europe
What we advocate for
Improved access to asylum procedures in the EU's territory
Regular evaluations of EU migration and refugee funding to third countries
JRS at the borders
JRS provides room and board for up to 24 asylum seekers, plus legal representation, language instruction, job search, community life and like skills counselling. Aside from direct services, JRS monitors Ukrainian asylum and migration law and changes in EU policy with respect to migrant flows coming through the country.
A JRS team of 16 staff provides services to nearly 1,000 migrants each year. Migrants are helped with finding housing, legal and social counselling and accessing the labour market. In addition, JRS visits migrants in detention centres and provides trainings to local authorities on how to improve asylum and migration procedures.
Southeast Europe (Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia)
JRS staff in Croatia and Macedonia provide material and emotional support to migrants living in reception centres, as well as language courses and medical services. In Kosovo, JRS supports landmine survivors with scholarships, and has begun to form connections with local authorities in order to address the needs of asylum seekers.
A policy paper published by JRS Europe after its visit to Nador, Morocco, and the Spanish enclave Melilla, from 3-8 March 2014. The paper concludes that, despite new policy changes approved by Morocco's king, forced migrants in the country are still unable to access fundamental human rights and become stuck in the country due to the EU's closed borders.
From Back Door to Front Door: Forced migration routes through Macedonia to Croatia (2013)