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New EU Leadership Should Uphold the Right to Asylum in Europe

Member States Should Abandon Schemes to Outsource Processing

A migrant reception center at the port of Shenjin, northwestern Albania, June 5, 2024. © 2024 Vlasov Sulaj/AP Photo

(Brussels) – The EU and its member states should safeguard the right to territorial asylum in Europe, Human Rights Watch and more than 94 other organizations said in a statement released today. The recent and increasing attempts by several European Union member states to outsource asylum processing and refugee protection to countries outside the EU – such as in the Italy-Albania agreement on migration – contravene their legal responsibilities toward people in need of protection.

“All EU member states are obliged to ensure the right to asylum under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights,” said Iskra Kirova, Europe and Central Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Neither the Charter nor the recently adopted EU Pact on Migration and Asylum provides any option for countries to transfer asylum seekers for processing to countries outside of the EU.”

The European Commission should firmly reject calls to facilitate shifting asylum processing outside EU territory, the groups said. Wherever such externalization schemes have been attempted, they have been rife with rights violations. They may place asylum seekers in prolonged detention in countries that lack capacity to fairly and fully examine claims and provide protection, leaving them in limbo and denying them crucial legal safeguards, while costing taxpayers inordinate sums.

Proposals to externalize asylum processing come against the backdrop of increased efforts by the European Commission to reach controversial deals and provide hefty migration cooperation funds to neighbouring countries to keep migrants outside of Europe, with little or no attention to much needed human rights safeguards, the groups said.

“Instead of wasting further time and resources on proposals incompatible with EU law and human rights commitments, the EU should support humane, sustainable, and realistic reception and asylum processing policies in EU territory,” said Kirova. “Such policies would benefit both the people seeking protection and the communities that welcome them.”


This text has been edited to correct the number of signatories to the joint statement.

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