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New EU Migration Deal Will Increase Suffering at Borders

Governments Pave the Way for Further Abuse

The Closed Controlled Access Center for asylum seekers on Samos, Greece, October 21, 2021. The hotspot was created in 2021 with EU funds.  © 2021 Nik Oiko/SOPA Images/Sipa USA via AP Images

A June 8 agreement among European Union countries on asylum procedures and migration management is a recipe for more abuse at EU borders. Interior ministers meeting in Luxembourg endorsed policies that will entrench rights violations, including expedited procedures without sufficient safeguards, increased use of detention, and unsafe returns. The detailed agreement has not yet been published.

The deal creates an expedited “border procedure” for anyone applying for asylum following an irregular entry or disembarkation after a rescue at sea. The procedure would be mandatory for asylum seekers coming from countries whose nationals have a less than 20 percent rate of being granted some form of protection and anyone authorities say withheld or used false information. In practice, many if not most people will be channeled into these sub-standard accelerated procedures with fewer safeguards, such as legal aid, than the normal procedure.

People are also likely to be locked up during the procedure, which could take up to six months, with few exemptions for people with vulnerabilities, families, or children. Imposing this procedure in conjunction with detention or detention-like conditions is directly linked to the twin interests of many EU countries in preventing people traveling further into Europe from countries of first entry and in deporting people as swiftly as possible.

The agreement would allow each country to determine what constitutes a “safe third country” where people can be returned, based on a vague concept of “connection” to that country. This could lead to people being sent to countries they have merely transited or where they have a family member but have themselves never been, and where their basic rights cannot be guaranteed.

The agreement makes minimal changes to the dysfunctional system for sharing responsibility among EU countries for migrants and asylum seekers and does not address its fundamental flaws. EU countries have rejected a mandatory relocation scheme, instead aiming to allow countries who won’t take asylum seekers to pay into a common fund that would be used to finance unspecified projects in non-EU countries, presumably focused on preventing migration.

When the European Commission presented its proposal for a Migration Pact in September 2020, more than 70 organizations warned the proposal risked “exacerbating the focus on externalisation, deterrence, containment, and return.” EU governments have taken over two years to make the bad proposal from the Commission even worse. It’s now up to the European Parliament to limit the harms these terrible proposals would cause.

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