human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Caritas Europa deplores Fortress Europe

After consulting the Draft Conclusions of the ongoing European Council, Caritas Europa regrets that EU leaders could not make substantial progress on the deeply needed reform of the Dublin Regulation. Concrete discussions on intra-EU solidarity and responsibility sharing have once more been postponed, seemingly indefinitely.

Instead, fearmongering on migration has led EU leaders to focus on increased border control and the externalisation of EU’s asylum and migration policies. We regret that EU leaders’ proposals are based on irrational fears rather than on facts. Recent figures show that asylum applications in the EU have decreased by 44% in 2017 and arrivals to Italian coasts have dramatically dropped. In the meantime, worldwide protection needs have never been higher: 68.5 million people were forced to flee their home in 2017, amounting to 44,400 persons in need per day.

While 85% of refugees are hosted in developing countries, it would be only fair and rational for EU leaders to take strong global leadership and promote a fair and humane migration and asylum system. Safe and legal pathways to Europe, including resettlement, must be promoted instead of trying to seal EU borders.

Shannon Pfohman, Policy and Advocacy Director

While operational details remain scarce, EU Member States agreed to further develop a “regional disembarkation platform” in cooperation with UNHCR and IOM to improve the coordination of search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea. The devil will be in the details, but one thing is certain for Caritas Europa: this mechanism must uphold the Geneva Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights and must protect the right to asylum in EU Member States, as UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has underlined. Saving lives and respecting the principle of non-refoulement must be central.

The establishment of a regional disembarkation mechanism should never lead to the creation of offshore processing centres in the Australian vein, which has proven to be disrespectful of basic human rights”, says Shannon Pfohman. “EU Member States should work towards a rights-based mechanism that enhances solidarity and cooperation in search and rescue operations to avoid further drama displayed with the Aquarius row.

Shannon Pfohman, Policy and Advocacy Director

EU leaders also agreed to increase cooperation with third countries in the fight against irregular migration, including with Libya, despite the fact that the financing and training of Libyan coast guards by the EU and Italy has led to migrants being returned to dreadful conditions in Libya. This week’s reports on Algeria dumping 13,000 migrants in the Sahara desert is a warning sign for the EU and its Member States that cooperation with neighbouring countries should never be made at the cost of people’s lives. Caritas Europa reiterates the need for EU countries to put human rights and protection needs at the centre of any cooperation, which should be reflected in the new EU budget.

Mimicking populist methods won’t save the EU’s dream. A bold U-turn is needed; the EU must stand true to its founding values and principles, which have made the EU so attractive until now. Fortress Europe is not a silver bullet solution. Long-term, humane migration policies and a welcoming Europe are needed more than ever!

Notes to editor:

  • Caritas Europa’s statement published ahead of the European Council, which includes recommendations on the Dublin reform can be found here;
  • In the past few months, several EU Member States have argued for copying the Australian asylum model in Europe. Under this system, boats of asylum seekers intercepted at Sea are pushed back to offshore processing centres in the islands of Nauru and Papua New Guinea, where they are detained in horrendous conditions while their asylum application is being processed. UNHCR and several human rights organisations have severely criticised this model.