EU flags in front of the European Commission

EU: ‘Reject plans to offshore asylum and safeguard refugee protection,’ say over 90 NGOs

Ahead of the first plenary of the newly elected European Parliament, over 90 human rights and humanitarian organizations are calling on the new European Union to take a firm stance to maintain the right to asylum and the rule of law.

The organizations, which include Amnesty International, the Danish Refugee Council, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam, are alarmed by recent attempts from several EU countries to evade or ‘externalize’ their international legal responsibilities, by shifting asylum processing and refugee protection to countries outside the EU. These controversial proposals seek to dismantle the core tenet of international protection: that people under a jurisdiction have a right to seek asylum in that jurisdiction and have that claim fairly examined.

“Attempts by states to outsource their asylum responsibilities to other countries are not new – but have long been criticized, condemned, and rejected for good reason. Just as the UK-Rwanda scheme is, rightly, collapsing, the EU and its member states should pay attention, stop making false promises and wasting time and money on expensive, inhumane and unworkable proposals. As this legislative cycle starts, the EU can and must do better than abandon its commitment to the global refugee protection regime,” said Olivia Sundberg Diez, Amnesty International’s EU Advocate on Migration and Asylum.

Wherever these schemes have been attempted, they have been rife with rights violations, placing countless people in prolonged arbitrary detention and an unbearable legal limbo, denying them crucial legal safeguards and guarantees, while costing taxpayers inordinate sums. At a time when 75% of refugees worldwide are hosted by low and middle-income countries, these proposals send a dangerous signal about EU countries’ lack of commitment to the rule of law, international treaties, and the global refugee protection system.

In a public statement issued today, the organizations call on the EU to abandon these proposals which stand in stark contrast to existing EU law and the recently agreed EU Migration Pact. Instead, the EU must support humane, sustainable and realistic migration and asylum policies that benefit both people seeking safety and the communities that welcome them.

Background

The statement follows a letter by 15 member states calling on the European Commission to explore possibilities for external processing of asylum claims, including through changes to EU law. European Commission President von der Leyen wrote at the end of June that these “innovative ideas […] will certainly deserve our attention” in the new political cycle.

These proposals build on a long line of measures geared at preventing the arrival of people seeking asylum in the EU through agreements with countries outside of the EU, with little to no attention paid to the human rights records of those authorities. These partnerships have already resulted in countless human rights violations and demonstrated the EU’s limited ability or interest in monitoring or enforcing human rights standards outside of EU territory when it comes to migration.