Monday

20th Feb 2017

Opinion

EU migration policy is cruel and nonsensical

  • Aleppo. EU words that “the protection of civilians in Syria must be a priority for the international community” ring hollow for Syrians when set against the cruel reality of EU policies. (Photo: gov.uk)

Perhaps no single person embodies all that’s wrong with current EU migration policies than Noori, a Syrian refugee being held in a police station on the Greek Island of Lesbos, waiting anxiously to hear if he will be sent to Turkey.

If he is returned another refugee would gain a place in Europe, and Turkey receives money for keeping the bulk of refugees there and is promised a host of other measures in exchange.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

This is the EU Turkey deal. Noori risks being used as human currency, in the EU’s foreign policy exchange where rights are traded in for short-sighted political gains.

The trend in mobilising EU foreign policy tools towards curbing migration has taken off at break-neck speed, and the European Council this week looks set to further instill it in policy. As well as the EU-Turkey Statement in March, there has been the Joint Way Forward with Afghanistan as well as “migration compacts” between the EU and Lebanon and Jordan. Other agreements are being negotiated with Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Ethiopia and Senegal.

While they differ in substance, the basis is always the same; the EU will provide financial, development assistance and trade ties so long as the country agrees to prevent irregular migration and facilitate the return of people who have tried to seek asylum or a better life in Europe.

Officially the EU and member states deny any causal link between agreeing big bucks to be handed over for development and other assistance and the coincidental signing of migration agreements within days or weeks of said financial promises. The truth of the matter however is obvious to everyone.

A young Afghan man living in appalling conditions at Moria camp who I met recently on Lesbos asked me with despair in his eyes: “Is it true my government took money from the EU so they could have an excuse to send me back?”

Shirking responsibility

We must be clear and honest about the fact that the EU is not trying to externalise responsibility for refugees because it has reached capacity. Having made it to Europe, Noori is in a minority. Of the top 10 countries hosting refugees globally not one is an EU member state.

The facts and figures betray an awkward truth that in the face of one of the world’s worst refugee crises the EU and its member states are engaging in a policy of responsibility-shirking, not sharing.

In the broader frame of EU foreign policy, these policies also create an uneasy incoherence. EU foreign ministers’ recent words that “the protection of civilians in Syria must be a priority for the international community” ring hollow for Syrians like Noori on Lesbos when set against the cruel reality of EU policies.

As bombs rain on Aleppo more people will inevitably flee. EU leaders have wilfully ignored the impact of the deal on the Syria-Turkey border, where Turkey is patrolling and essentially blocking people in Syria.

Amnesty International and other independent organisations documented repeatedly cases where refugees were being pushed back or being shot at the border. Those who manage to cross the border will add to a number of refugees that Turkey already cannot cope with.

EU countries cannot credibly on the one hand decry the horrors of the crimes of Aleppo and on the other erect barriers that prevent the victims of those crimes, men women and children, from their right to international protection.

At a bare minimum additional resettlement places should be offered and all returns of refugees back to Turkey halted.

EU implicating itself

The EU and member states are lining up a number of rights violating states for similar type agreements. There is an inherent risk in such an endeavour.

Take the case of Sudan, where according to Sudanese media the Sudanese government have tasked the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) notorious for serious human rights abuses, with the implementation of aspects of migration control linked to the Khartoum process (EU-Horn of Africa process on migration).

While the EU may not fund Sudan’s security forces directly, the EU cannot evade the fact that action by Sudan to curb irregular migration carries an extremely high risk of rights violations being perpetrated against migrants and refugees.

Any partnership on migration control would thus provide funding and legitimacy to a context where serious abuses towards migrants and refugees are almost inevitable.

Sudan is not the only country where such concerns would lie.

This year a joint EU-Nigeria statement on justice issues acknowledged serious human rights violations by Nigerian security forces. A recent European Parliament resolution pointed to other concerns in Nigeria including torture.

For many years the EU has been investing in justice reform in the country. Now even having gone on public record on the challenges faced, the EU stands ready to enlist Nigeria as another gate-keeper.

Tasking a country with migration control that does not have an effective asylum system but does have one of the highest levels of internally displaced people (over 2 million) and a dubious record on rights violations risk implicating the EU and its member states as complicit in a range of serious and ongoing human rights violations.

Prioritising migration cooperation over longer-term objectives such as respect for human rights risks aggravating poverty, conflict and other things that cause people to leave their homes, and in a world where even a bloc as wealthy as the EU undermines migrant and refugee rights, we will see more conflict, more instability and more people on the move.

Some of the EU’s top politicians claim that “resources for returns” is about preventing people from making dangerous journeys and breaking smuggling networks. In reality it’s the lack of safe regular channels that drives people to take such dangerous routes in the first place.

If the true objective were a humanitarian one, resettlement, humanitarian visas, legal migration and access to asylum at the EU’s land borders would not only be much more effective and humane, but frankly a more responsible and strategic manner to do so.

Iverna McGowan is Amnesty International EU director

EU needs a moral migration policy

Europe has the wealth to show moral leadership on migration, but its preoccupation with getting migrant numbers down could make matters worse.

Column / Crude World

Nordstream 2: Alternative pipeline facts

Arguments put forward by Nord Stream 2's Brussels lobbyist in defence of the Russian-led project are not consistent and ignore some basic facts.

The need for global cooperation in stopping Iran

Although Trump said he would tear up the Iran Nuclear Agreement, the new administration seems to want to work on a new policy toward Iran. Let's hope European leaders will respond in kind to this approach.

A bold call for traineeship equality

The EU ombudsman's slapdown of the EU diplomatic service's unpaid internship programs offers a glimmer of hope to a future of paid internships in Europe.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  3. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  4. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  5. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  7. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  8. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  9. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"
  10. CISPECloud Computing Leaders Establish Data Protection Standards to Protect Customer Data
  11. Malta EU 2017Landmark Deal Reached With European Parliament on Portability of Online Content
  12. Belgrade Security ForumBSF 2017: Building a Common Future in the Age of Uncertainty

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. CESIEU Not to Revise the Working Time Directive
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsAzerbaijan: 76 NGOs Urge the EU to Use President's Visit to Insist on Human Rights Reforms
  3. UNICEFDeadliest Winter for Migrant Children Crossing the Central Mediterranean
  4. World VisionGaza Staff Member Pleads Not Guilty
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region First to Consider Complete Ban on Microplastics in Cosmetics
  6. Dialogue PlatformWhy the West 'Failed to Understand' Turkey
  7. European Jewish CongressInternational Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony
  8. European Free AllianceCatalan Independence Referendum: A Matter of Democracy
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsKyrgyzstan: No Justice for Human Rights Defender Azimjan Askarov
  10. Dialogue PlatformThe Influence of Turkish Politics in Europe After the Coup Attempt
  11. World VisionEU Urged to Do Better Ahead of Helsinki Conference on Syria
  12. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children