Ahead of next Justice and Home Affairs Council on 14 September, Caritas Europa urges ministers from all EU Member States to anchor migration policies in solidarity and responsibility sharing measures, such as in a permanent relocation programme and efficient safe and legal pathways to Europe.
Decision-makers should feel reinforced in this position by the recent ruling of 6 September of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which confirmed the validity of the EU’s refugee relocation schemes.
“Caritas Europa welcomes the ECJ landmark ruling. It sends a powerful positive message on EU’s values of solidarity and responsibility sharing. Member States must now go the extra mile to relocate more refugees from Greece and Italy,” said Shannon Pfohman, Caritas Europa’s Policy and Advocacy Director, in reference to the fact that only 28,000 people have been relocated from Greece and Italy out of the 160,000 quota that was agreed by Member States back in 2015.
The Dublin regulation headache
The patchy common European asylum system has gone through painful negotiations for months. The revamping of the Dublin regulation is key. Its clause imposes that it is the first entry country of the EU that must be responsible for the asylum application, which has contributed to the fact that border countries, such as Italy or Greece are overburdened.
Caritas Europa is of the opinion that the Dublin system is broken and needs to be fixed in order to inject more solidarity among Member States and welcome people in need of protection. Europe urgently needs a permanent relocation solidarity mechanism to overcome unsustainable band-aid solutions like the current urgency mechanism.
“The Commission has until the end of September to deliver a strong and humane transition plan before the ongoing emergency plan ends. We cannot leave the refugees waiting for relocation in Greece and Italy to their fate. They are very vulnerable and risk becoming easy prey for human traffickers,” said Jorge Nuño Mayer, Caritas Europa’s Secretary General.
Libyan success or fake news?
Member States praise themselves for the dramatic decrease of arrivals to Italy, which an enhanced cooperation with the Libyan government seems to have brought about. But at what cost?
Disturbing reports about the situation on-site describe how Libyan armed groups, allegedly financed by the Italian government, are blocking migrants from leaving Libyan shores and that NGOs and migrants are being threatened and attacked by Libyan coast guards.
Fewer migrants are reaching Europe but more of them are stuck in Libya under conditions described as “hell on Earth”. Many testimonies and reports mention abuses, torture, rapes and enslaved conditions. Is this really happening with the complicity of EU decision-makers in the name of migration management?
To Caritas Europa, the recent small steps that have been taken to improve the conditions in detention and reception centres in Libya cannot justify the terrible fate faced by the migrants stuck in and returned to Libya. The EU must stop externalising its border management to countries, such as Libya.
Caritas Europa regrets that the EU and its Member States are increasingly crossing moral barriers and flirting with human rights infringements to reduce migrants’ arrivals in the EU. “These methods are unacceptable and contribute to the globalisation of indifference that Pope Francis has denounced so many times,” said Caritas Europa’s Secretary General, Jorge Nuño Mayer.
Caritas Europa urges Member States not to abdicate EU’s values and protection obligations in the name of stemming migration. Instead, policy makers must overcome their security obsession and prioritise the building of a coherent and credible EU asylum system based on solidarity.
In the light of the current state of the EU’s common approach to migration, Caritas Europa issues the following recommendation to EU Member States and EU institutions:
- Member States should step up their efforts to relocate more refugees before the end of September and should privilege vulnerable people, such as unaccompanied minors.
- The European Commission should propose a new solidarity mechanism to ensure a swift transition until a permanent mechanism is in place.
- Member States should expand safe and legal pathways to Europe, including through resettlement, humanitarian visas, humanitarian corridors, family reunification, or community sponsorship schemes.
- Migrants should not be returned to or kept in Libya if it leads to widespread human rights violations.
- EU institutions and Member States should cease criminalising NGOs who provide support to migrants at sea and inland.