The EU must address and manage the situation at its external borders in a way that protects fundamental human rights. It is extremely worrying that the EU Commission proposes limitations of rights including related to effective access to seek asylum. It is a disproportionate response to a manageable situation, and it must not set precedent for future responses at the EU’s external borders.
The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) is very concerned about the current humanitarian situation at the EU’s external borders, where people are denied access to fundamental rights and protection. The situation is unacceptable, illegal, and dangerous. Among the people who remain trapped in the border areas, are vulnerable groups, such as families with children, pregnant women, and elderly, and many have fled war and conflict from countries Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
DRC strongly opposes the new proposal for provisional emergency measures from the EU Commission. In particular, we are alarmed by the severe limitations in the access to seek asylum, the legal safeguards during the asylum procedure as well as in the living conditions of people seeking protection. These measures are likely to result in unacceptable situations where people who committed no crime – including children and other vulnerable groups – are detained for long periods of time while they undergo asylum procedures with limited procedural safeguards.
While the situation calls for a calm and measured reaction, the EU responds with panic. Rather than limiting safeguards, the EU Commission should ensure that the EU Member States at its external borders treat people seeking protection with dignity, and in accordance with international and European law. Disregard of international obligations by other States, does not exempt the EU and its affected Member States from its responsibility.
Referring to people who are seeking protection as weapons is harmful and undignified, and describing a few thousand people as a threat to the European Union and its 450 million inhabitants is unsettling and disproportional. The situation must not set a precedent for managing future situations at the EU’s external borders.
Unacceptable and illegal practices of pushbacks at the EU’s borders are not new. We have seen systematic pushbacks at the EU’s external borders over many years combined with measures aimed at deterring arrivals of refugees and asylum seekers coming to the EU, including cooperation with third countries that risks violating the principle of non-refoulement and do not uphold fundamental human rights and human dignity.
When the European Union and its Member States fail to live up to their obligations on refugee protection, it may create a precedent for how countries outside the EU, hosting the vast majority of the world’s refugees, treat refugees, and it therefore risks undermining the global protection of refugees.
DRC supports the joint civil society recommendations to the EU in relation to the situation at the border to Belarus and calls for restoring rights and values at Europe’s borders.