07 January 2016
|Two boys from Syria enjoy a snowball fight in the small Swedish town of Torsby. (Photo: UNHCR/ J. Bävman) See the full UNHCR photo story here. Besides resettlement refugees must be able to claim asylum at the borders too.|
|The EU and the borderless Schengen Area were built on principles of peace, freedom and security - it is finally time for European states to work together to uphold these principles in action.|
Although many countries in Europe are dealing with high numbers of new arrivals from war-torn countries, unilaterally setting up border controls can only exacerbate migration problems and hinder the development and implementation of international solutions.
The first to be affected will be refugees themselves - vulnerable people of all ages - who are simply trying to find a safe place to live. More border controls increases business for smugglers and will force many people to take ever greater risks to reach safety.
"From Mellila to Calais to the far reaches of the EU’s extremities, we have seen border control's massive negative repercussions and effects on people searching for safety. Responsible border management does not seek to turn away those in search of international protection," says JRS Europe director Jean-Marie Carrière.
Sweden has not been alone in reinstating identity checks or imposing border controls. Denmark has also reinstated identity checks temporarily at the German-Danish border. Denmark responded to the Swedish measures in order to deflect asylum seekers who might have otherwise sought protection in Sweden from seeking protection in Denmark.
These measures highlight that the underlying shortcomings of the Common European Asylum System cannot be overcome by Member States acting alone and only in their immediate self-interest. Such measures have knock-on effects in other Member States by shifting the responsibility for refugee protection elsewhere – either to other Member States or even to third countries as has been the case with asylum seekers in the Balkans. The result is that asylum seekers become further and further displaced and their protection needs ever more acute. These measures present serious consequences for the protection and well-being of persons seeking asylum.
JRS Europe encourages EU leaders, Member States and institutions to work collectively, not unilaterally, to ensure protection for, and a humane response towards, asylum seekers and refugees. Any action should firstly, protect rather than displace asylum seekers; and secondly, support rather than disincentivise Member States to act humanely towards asylum seekers. The EU and the borderless Schengen Area were built on principles of peace, freedom and security - it is finally time for European states to work together to uphold these principles in action.
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