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Perilous journeys: addressing the vulnerabilities linked to migratory routes to the European Union

The practical experience of Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in the field of migration and asylum shows that certain European Union (EU) migration policy choices expose migrants to great vulnerabilities along migratory routes to the EU and Schengen area. As Europe witnesses an increasing number of migrant arrivals, Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies have scaled up their support to vulnerable people on the move; wherever they may be, and whatever their legal status. However, operational challenges go well beyond ensuring the timely delivery of first assistance on an unprecedented scale, as the needs and vulnerabilities of migrants require more than just emergency support.

This position paper proposes concrete steps that can be taken by the EU and its Member States to reduce risks along migratory routes and address some of the increasing vulnerabilities stemming from these perils. Some of the key dangers faced by migrants along migratory routes to Europe include: limited access to rights and services, arbitrary arrests and detention, violence and human trafficking, family separation and the loss of family links, as well as increasingly dangerous journeys to reach and cross the EU’s external borders.

These risks and vulnerabilities require decisive action. With this in mind, National Red Cross Societies in the EU make the following recommendations to the EU and its Member States: 

  1. Implement an effective framework for safe and legal migration to the EU.
  2. Develop mechanisms for identifying and addressing the additional vulnerabilities of migrants linked to their migratory routes.
  3. Respect and protect the rights of all migrants - irrespective of their legal status - in domestic and foreign policies.
  4. Facilitate family reunification and address the legal, practical and/ or administrative obstacles which limit or prevent family unity.
  5. Uphold a victim-centered approach in all efforts to tackle human trafficking.
  6. Set up dedicated search and rescue operations covering the entire Mediterranean Basin, and support assistance to migrants in distress.
  7. Uphold the right of migrants and their families to know about the fate of their loved ones. 

While these recommendations do not pretend to alleviate all the suffering and vulnerabilities stemming from migratory routes to the EU, they highlight concrete steps which should be implemented as a matter of priority. 

Access the complete recommendations in ENGLISH

Access the complete recommendations in FRENCH

Other related publications

This position paper is based on our booklet “Perilous journeys - Vulnerabilities along migrators routes to the EU” which features migrants’ testimonies and experiences throughout their journeys. It builds on the practical expertise of Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies working with and for all migrants on both sides of the Mediterranean. 

RCEU, booklet: Perilous journeys - Vulnerabilities along migrators routes to the EU, 17 December 2015.

RCEU, booklet: Périlleux Périples –Vulnérabilités sur les routes migratoires vers l’UE, December 2015.



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