30th Mar 2023

EU's human rights protection criticised

The EU and its member states are scaling back human rights protection in both migration policy and anti-terrorism legislation, a leading human rights organisation has concluded.

European governments and institutions are not rising to the challenges brought to post-communist countries by enlargement, Human Rights Watch said in a report published on 13 January.

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"The exclusive focus on combating illegal immigration in Europe reflects a disturbing and prevailing attitude that migrants have no rights. Consequently, regional and national policies and practices have focused on keeping migrants and asylum seekers out of Europe", says the report.

According to the US-based organization, European actors also "missed the opportunity to distinguish European practice from the abusive actions of other countries by employing counterterrorism strategies that also violate fundamental rights, including the prohibitions against torture and indefinite detention".

Anti-terrorism measures

The report criticizes the UK’s anti-terrorism act which provided for the indefinite detention of foreign terrorist suspects. In Spain, suspects are held in isolation, unable to communicate with anyone.

"European governments also contributed to the erosion of the ban on torture by relying on so-called "diplomatic assurances" to return terrorist suspects and foreigners labelled national security threats to countries where they were at risk of torture or ill-treatment", HRW suggested - mainly pointing to cases in Sweden, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and others.

Immigration and refugees

While the EU’s recent refugee-related legislation receives praise, the current trends in immigration and asylum policies face strong criticism by the organisation.

Its report noted with dissatisfaction that the idea of "off-shore processing asylum seekers" is still not dead – despite international protests.

"It became apparent in 2004 that in the face of opposition to the earlier UK proposals, the EU had decided to take a more gradual approach aimed at the development of off-shore centers".

The HRW also pointed to Italy’s case of expelling several hundred persons to Libya without properly assessing their asylum claims, and to extreme restrictions in the asylum procedures in the Netherlands.

The new EU member states, who joined in May 2004, are reported to have "woefully under-developed and under-resourced asylum systems and immigration procedures".


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