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UN experts: concern over EU's attempts to seal borders, close protection space and disregard human rights and humanitarianism
16.10.18
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In September eight UN working groups, independent experts and special rapporteurs issued a statement highlighting serious concerns over the ongoing attempts to reform the EU's migration and asylum systems. Their paper was addressed to the informal summit of EU heads of state and government in Salzburg in September, but remains relevant given the ongoing discussions in the EU on the Common European Asylum System and revamping of EU agencies such as Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

The document was signed by the UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

See: Joint communication of Special Procedures ahead of the informal summit of EU heads of state or government in Salzburg on 19-20 September 2018 (OL OTH 64/2018, 18 September 2018, pdf)

Selected quotes:

"We would like to comment on three particular proposals elaborated by the European Commission based on the European Council’s conclusions, which are of utmost concern from a human rights perspective, namely: the creation of regional disembarkation platforms, the establishment of controlled centres, and the strengthening of the border police and coast guard.

...Outsourcing responsibility of disembarkation to third countries, in particular those with weak protection systems, only increases the risk of refoulement and other human rights violations. As similar models have shown elsewhere, external disembarkation and processing centres do not provide durable solutions and result in numerous grave human rights violations, including breaches of the non-refoulement obligation, torture and ill-treatment, confinement amounting to arbitrary or indefinite detention, and violations of the right to life. Furthermore, processes should be established to ensure that relevant actors be held to account if they fail to meet international standards.”

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"We are deeply concerned that in truth, the above-mentioned three proposals which are being discussed in the context of the reform of the common migration and asylum system are aimed at sealing borders, closing the protection space in Europe, and disregarding human rights principles and humanitarian concerns as central aspects at stake. Moreover, we are concerned that these measures are being proposed as a means to leverage political gain in response to the worrying rise of anti-migration and xenophobic hate speeches and stances, as reflected by increased acts and discourses of violence and racism against migrants in various member States. In this respect, we urge the European Commission to lead efforts to counter negative anti-immigration discourses both at the political and social level in order to facilitate and improve the reception and integration of migrants in Europe."

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"The EU and its member States should adopt a more thoughtful approach, and seek constructive, long-term, sustainable solutions, instead of adopting counterproductive and ineffective security policies which result in the criminalization and stigmatization of migrants."

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"It is high time for the EU to accept the impossibility of sealing borders and the perverse incentives and paradoxes created by the current system, as well as the inevitability and added benefits of mobility. The EU must invest in the overall development of a coherent and robust migration policy that fully integrates the human rights of migrants as enshrined in both international and regional law. Measures intended to prevent migration, accelerate returns, and seal borders are not the solution, and only respond to misguided security concerns over the protection of migrants."

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