Go to main content

EU migration management: Wilful blindness to evidence of harmful human rights consequences

The Special Council Meeting will this week discuss the development of what the European Commission has labelled sustainable solutions in the area of asylum and migration.

Posted on 09 Feb 2023

The Special Council Meeting on 9-10 February this week will discuss the development of what the European Commission has labelled sustainable solutions in the area of asylum and migration. Judging from the leaked draft Council Conclusions the “solutions” on the table are neither new nor sustainable - but continue to rely on fortifying European borders including through intensified engagement of Frontex, deepened cooperation with third countries, efforts to increase effectiveness of returns and reinforce actions against human smuggling,  

Despite policy makers’ persistent calls for data on migratory movements, EU policies, actions and proposed legal frameworks misinterpret data and continue to disregard evidence that demonstrate the adverse effects of migration management measures. This has resulted in poor policies and arrangements that fail to address – and sometimes even exacerbate – the suffering and rights violations of people seeking protection.   

While cooperation with third countries on asylum and migration is important and necessary, such cooperation must be carried out with the clear objective of expanding the protective environment for asylum-seekers, refugees, and migrants. The predominant emphasis on controlling borders, strengthening migration management capacities, and stemming onwards movements towards the EU through financial and technical support to third countries risks promoting increased use of restrictive measures by partner countries and possible refoulement to countries of origin.  

Over the past years DRC and many others have documented, including through the Protecting Rights at Borders initiative, how restrictive policy measures exacerbate the risks and vulnerabilities of people on the move. Pushback practices are used systematically to deny safety to those seeking protection at the EU’s borders, and smart border technology is increasingly used to achieve the same goal. Surveillance equipment at borders is used with the purpose of identifying, detecting, and turning people away, violating their right to seek international protection.  

Refugee protection is a global responsibility that the EU in cooperation with third countries should positively contribute to. Walls, fences, and smart border surveillance offer no sustainable solution to the shared responsibility for protecting people in need.  

Although not without its flaws, the predominantly positive response to those fleeing the war in Ukraine has demonstrated that there is willingness and capacity in Europe to receive, host and provide protection to people in need, and to share responsibility. The same compassion and humanity must be afforded to people seeking protection through other routes, fleeing other conflicts, but facing similar risks, threats, and fears for their lives.  

DRC urges the European Commission and the EU Member States to ensure that measures within the area of asylum and migration are aligned with EU principles and values in both words and actions, including through:  

  1. Upholding the right to seek asylum. Surveillance equipment, such as drones and radars as well as increased Frontex presence at the EU's external borders, should not be used to deny people access to EU territory. Upholding the right to apply for international protection and the principle of non-refoulement are obligations that all EU Member States are bound to respect, implement, and enforce.  
  1. Considering evidence of adverse human rights effects of anti-smuggling policies. Measures to address human smuggling and control movements - including in the development of new Anti-Smuggling Partnerships and route specific action plans – must consider evidence of the adverse effects of anti-smuggling policies on people on the move. Actions against human smuggling can lead to involuntary immobility and unintentionally fuel the demand for smuggling or incentivise smugglers to use more precarious routes, increasing the exposure of people on the move. 
  1. Promoting rights-based and conflict-sensitive migration cooperation. The objective of reducing arrivals to the EU must never be at the expense of safeguarding access to protection for those in need. The EU’s engagement with third countries on migration and asylum must include and address the interests and rights of refugees and migrants.  
  1. Enhancing safe, regular, and accessible pathways. Irregular movements must be understood in conjunction with the absence of safe and regular pathways for mobility. Expanding safe and regular pathways to protection must be considered a goal worth striving for in itself, in line with commitments under the Global Compact on Refugees.  
  1. Promoting and committing to solidarity. Ensure that responsibility-sharing is at the core of EU policies and that solidarity is reflected in the EU’s cooperation internally as well as with third countries. When responsibility sharing fails, and a limited number of countries carry the responsibility alone, displaced people are not assisted and protected as they need and are entitled to be, and we all fail in our binding obligation to do so. 
09 Feb 2023
Press Release: DRC has lost a second colleague in Türkiye
08 Feb 2023
Press Release: Loss of DRC colleague in Türkiye
Read more about Europe asylum Pushback