Human rights organisations Joint Statement: “Days left” for EU legislators to save the right to asylum

06 December 2023

Related: JRS Europe

Nineteen human rights organisations across Europe, alongside aid workers, survivors of human rights abuses, and a former UN Special Rapporteur on racism, say that a crunch summit in Brussels on December 7th risks “opening the door to abuses across Europe” including racial profiling and pushbacks, in a “potentially irreversible attack” on the international system of refugee protection and the rule of law.

The organisations, which include Amnesty International, Border Violence Monitoring Network, EuroMed Rights, Jesuit Refugee Service Europe, Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, and Save the Children, have sounded the alarm on wide-ranging issues in the EU Migration and Asylum Pact. This comes following the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 4-5 December and ahead of a “Jumbo Trilogue” on the key legislative files of the Pact on 7 December.

Campaigners’ principal concerns relate to:

  • The further entrenchment of “pushbacks” at borders, which have been linked to hundreds of people’s deaths, injuries, and rights violations at the hands of EU Member State border forces.
  • The increase in the use of detention across Europe, including of children and families, in a model which has led to people remaining incarcerated, in legal limbo and in dire physical conditions.
  • The risk of racial profiling of people who live in and come to Europe, whatever their citizenship or residence status, as surveillance-backed screening procedures are rolled out across the bloc.
  • The deepening of “externalisation” policies where European migration control is outsourced to third countries without scope for accountability, which has in turn been linked to deaths at sea, widespread torture, and inhuman conditions.
  • The focus on deportations while lowering procedural safeguards, despite the risk of serious harm if people are returned to a third country. This combined with the use of a dangerous “safe third country” enables Member States to evade their responsibility to provide reception and protection.
  • The mandatory use of asylum border procedures, which forces people into de facto detention with limited access to legal assistance, representing a severe blow to the right to asylum in international law. These standards could be lowered even further in an unacceptably broad and vague range of so-called ‘crisis’ situations.
  • The failure of the Pact to address the substantive issues it claims to, such as the distribution of asylum claims across member states.

Alberto Ares SJ, Regional Director, Jesuit Refugee Service Europe, expressed: “We fear that the Migration Pact in its current form will compromise human rights and EU values under pressure to reach an agreement before the end of this legislature. The EU should abandon this plan that would not only fall short in providing any real operational solutions for the shortcomings of the existing system but would also be harmful for migrants and refugees. We call on legislators to make a U-Turn and abandon this pact. There is still time to put energy and efforts into strengthening reception and asylum systems on the territory and mechanisms for meaningful responsibility sharing among Member States.”

The Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU aims to close all political deals on the Pact on 7th December. Rights defenders are warning that “complex decisions with huge consequences are being rushed through.”

The organisations involved in this release are AMERA International, Amnesty International, Associazione Ricreativa e Culturale Italiana, Border Violence Monitoring Network, Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado, European Network Against Racism, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Centre for Peace Studies Croatia, Greek Refugee Council, Ligue des Droits Humains, CNCD-11.11.11, EuroMed Rights, Irídia, Jesuit Refugee Service Europe, KISA Cyprus, La Cimade, LADDH – Ligue Algérienne pour la Défense des Droits Humains, PICUM, Save the Children.