Migration Pact negotiations: Last chance to secure access to protection
As trilogue negotiations on the new EU rules on granting asylum and responsibility sharing begin, we are deeply concerned about the potential humanitarian impact of the Council position taken on 8 June. It weakens access to international protection, increases the use of detention and poses serious challenges for family unity. During these final stages of the EU Migration and Asylum Pact negotiations, we urge EU decision-makers to focus on the rights and well-being of people, many of whom are in situations of extreme vulnerability.
“Any reform should draw lessons from the humanitarian impact of existing migration management practices at the EU’s borders”, says the Director of the Red Cross EU Office, Mette Petersen. “The tragic shipwreck in Greece last week is yet another reminder that we urgently need humane policies that enable people to reach safety and protection in Europe”.
Border and other accelerated procedures: children and people with vulnerabilities at risk
The Council’s long list of grounds to channel people into accelerated procedures threatens the systematic examination of international protection claims. Without a clear-cut exemption for children and people with vulnerabilities from border and other fast-track procedures, they might not receive the specialised treatment and support they need.
Moreover, increasing opportunities for Member States to reject asylum applications without an individual assessment when the person comes through a third country considered safe for people to claim asylum, further undermines access to much needed protection. Safe country concepts tend to limit fair assessments of individual persecution, as efforts to rebut presumptions of safety take considerable time and resources.
Current practices show that individual assessments cannot be adequately carried out in procedures at borders due to short time frames for interviews, limited access to legal advice, challenges in vulnerability assessments and obstacles to appeal decisions. With this in mind, grounds for accelerated admissibility and border procedures should be limited, rather than expanded. In particular, children and people with acute vulnerabilities, such as survivors of torture or human trafficking – for whom assessment often requires more time and trust – must be better protected.
Processing centres at borders risk making detention the norm
Detention should only ever be used as a measure of last resort based on an individual judicial assessment. If Member States can detain applicants during the entire asylum border procedure, as well as after their asylum claim has been rejected, the use of detention could grow significantly. The Council position also maintains that border procedures can be conducted in designated facilities close to the borders or elsewhere in the territory - it must be made clear that these facilities will not become places of de facto detention. Evidence shows that detention is harmful for everyone, even for brief periods.
The solidarity and responsibility sharing mechanism could be instrumental in improving the rights and well-being of asylum seekers
When a Member State declares being under migratory pressure, other EU governments will be able to choose between a wide range of options: namely accepting a certain number of asylum seekers or rejected applicants for the purpose of return or providing operational and financial measures. However, this complex solidarity system does not adequately take people’s preferences into consideration, which will likely lead asylum seekers to continue to move irregularly to other Member States. According to the Council, these asylum seekers should not be entitled to reception rights: the coverage of accommodation and basic needs, which risks undermining their dignity and exposing them to destitution.
The responsibility sharing criteria that allow families separated in the EU to be brought together are positive developments. This includes expansion of the family definition to cover families formed outside the country of origin and abolition of the need to provide formal evidence to prove family links. People try to join their families in Europe because it is often the only way that they can rebuild their lives in a place of safety. Yet, access to the right to family life would be undermined for people admitted into border or accelerated procedures, as family links in the EU are not systematically considered when making decisions about the future of applicants.
The outcome of these negotiations will have far-reaching consequences for the rights of people on the move for years, if not decades to come. We call on the European Parliament and the Council to improve the final texts in favour of a human-centered reform that enhances mechanisms for identifying and addressing individual needs and vulnerabilities.
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