Saturday

21st Jul 2018

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

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.

EU must create safe, legal pathways to Europe

As the rapporteur for the European Parliament on an EU regulation on resettlement, my colleagues and I have outlined an effective plan based on solidarity and humanitarian principles.

How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism

The suggestion that Russians themselves play a role in the condition of their state today is often dismissed as "xenophobic" or "Russophobic". But if not addressed, the evils of nationalism, chauvinism, and imperialism will continue even after Putin is gone.

How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism

The suggestion that Russians themselves play a role in the condition of their state today is often dismissed as "xenophobic" or "Russophobic". But if not addressed, the evils of nationalism, chauvinism, and imperialism will continue even after Putin is gone.

News in Brief

  1. Libyan PM rejects EU migrant camps idea
  2. Italy's Salvini to sue critical anti-mafia writer
  3. EU countries send aircraft to Sweden to help with wildfires
  4. British ex-commissioner's jobs called into question
  5. May to tell EU to drop Irish border 'backstop' idea
  6. Trump threatens EU over Google fine
  7. Spain withdraws arrest warrant for Catalan separatists
  8. EU readies counter-measures on possible US car tariffs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  3. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  4. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  5. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  8. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us