DRC Secretary General, Charlotte Slente, welcomes the initiative of the Commission to reform EU’s migration and asylum system – but emphasises that the only viable way forward is to focus on the protection of people in need.
“The recent fire in the Moria camp on Lesvos and the repeated hardships of migrants and refugees stranded on the Mediterranean all but highlight the urgent need for addressing the shortcomings of the current EU asylum system,” says Charlotte Slente.
“DRC finds it concerning that the new Pact seems to focus mainly on border management rather than the rights of people in need of international protection. The proposal presented today points towards the fact that the EU has not learned from past experiences, so asylum seekers once again could be stuck in a limbo under inhumane conditions such as those in the Moria camp. What we have seen for too long is that the current focus on fast-track procedures and detention practices in the hotspots in Italy and Greece means that asylum seekers do not have genuine access to the asylum procedure and to legal assistance and effective remedies. The main focus of the EU must be to ensure adequate protection of people fleeing wars and persecution. It is people and not borders that needs protection,” says Charlotte Slente.
One aspect of the Pact is the introduction of border procedures and a rapid asylum process at the border, migration cooperation with third countries and return of people who do not qualify for refugee status.
“We fear that the emphasis on border management and securitization will prevent people seeking asylum in the EU and beyond to enjoy their internationally guaranteed rights. There is a real risk that returns, and pushbacks will take place at the expense of human rights of those seeking protection. Eye witness accounts about torture and abuse in the Libyan detention centres, the stories about violence at the border between Bosnia and Croatia and the number of people dying in the Sahara desert and in the Mediterranean Sea should speak volume as to why this is the wrong way to go - and the Pact unfortunately does not seem to show the right direction. We have heard the words before, but people continue to experience these horrible situations. Therefore, the EU must turn the tide and show true solidarity with people in need,” says Charlotte Slente.
“We are concerned that the access to apply for asylum will be impeded. Seeking asylum is a human right, and the focus to copy the so-called hotspot approach with its obvious flaws in procedures and reception conditions as a way of introducing fewer rights is problematic seen from both a moral and legal perspective,” says Charlotte Slente.
The new Pact also addresses the much-debated question of solidarity among Member States suggesting various options for solidarity among EU countries depending on different scenarios.
“The main challenge of the European asylum system has been the lack of solidarity mechanisms and hence we welcome the introduction of a solidarity mechanism. However, we need to see solidarity in action and not just words. One of the proposed elements is that Member States can take over “responsibility for returning individuals with no right to stay or various forms of operational support”, but this is not solidarity aimed at assisting people. Furthermore, it is pivotal to remember that solidarity should both apply to people fleeing persecution, wars, and disasters – and include solidarity between EU Member States,” says Charlotte Slente.
The Danish Refugee Council has five recommendations for a balanced approach to asylum and migration with rights and solutions at the core.
Note: See our background article for more information on Europe’s so-called ‘refugee crisis’.