A major shift in approach to migration issues is long-overdue. The presidency has a responsibility to set an example to member states, not only in language, but also in action, to ensure that the EU’s human rights obligations toward migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are fully respected.
Half-way through, full respect for human rights is needed from the Greek EU presidency
(Brussels, 23 April 2014) Amnesty International’s mid-term review of Greece’s presidency of the European Union (EU), published today, reveals promising work in addressing violence against women (VAW) as a priority and tackling discrimination against Roma. However, the presidency has failed to take concrete steps to protect the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers at Europe’s borders.
Combating violence against women
The presidency’s prioritisation of combating VAW, including female genital mutilation (FGM), and its decision to adopt specific Conclusions on the issue before the end of its term are welcome steps. These Conclusions must commit EU member states to concrete and comprehensive action to end VAW, including FGM. It is vital that commitment on EU action to combat VAW also be followed through on in plans for the future of EU justice and home affairs policy expected in June.
“These developments are very encouraging,” said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “Now, Greece should take swift action to ratify the Istanbul convention and encourage other member states and the EU to follow suit”.
Respect for Roma rights
The Greek presidency’s statement on International Roma Day (08 April) recalling the EU’s commitment to prevent and combat discrimination against Roma in all its forms was welcome. The presidency’s call on member states to be vigilant and react immediately to hate-based crime, ensuring effective and prompt investigation, prosecution, and identification of discriminatory motives was of particular importance.
“We now hope that the presidency will match the important political message with concrete actions during the rest of its term,” said Beger.
Protecting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers
The presidency should have taken a stronger stance on leading EU action to address the serious issues, which remain regarding the protection of the rights of migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees. Despite several serious incidents at sea which have resulted in loss of life even since the presidency began its term in January, the focus of EU migration policy remains to be one of prevention of entry into the EU rather than protection. Immigration detention remains widespread across the EU and conditions are at times extremely precarious.
The Greek government as EU presidency should show leadership and at home in particular by addressing the serious allegations concerning the treatment of migrants and refugees at Greece’s borders.
“A major shift in approach to migration issues is long-overdue,” said Beger. “The presidency has a responsibility to set an example to member states, not only in language, but also in action, to ensure that the EU’s human rights obligations toward migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are fully respected”.
Looking forward, we welcome the Greek presidency’s decision to prioritise the development of plans on the Justice and Home Affairs area (‘post-Stockholm guidelines’). It is crucial that the presidency secure a commitment to develop an overarching internal human rights strategy. This is a unique opportunity to place human rights at the core of the EU’s internal legal and political machinery and ensure coherence across EU internal and external policy.
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