Joint statement ahead of the European Council of 28-29 June 2016 signed by more than 100 NGOs

NGOs strongly condemn new EU policies to contain migration

Migrants crossing the border in Hungary 2015

At the upcoming European Council, European Union (EU) leaders will discuss the European Commission’s Communication on a new Partnership Framework with third countries. The Communication proposes an approach which aims to leverage existing EU and Member States' external cooperation instruments and tools in order to stem migration to Europe. The undersigned organisations express their grave concern about the direction the EU is taking by making deterrence and return the main objective of the Union's relationship with third countries. More broadly, this new Partnership Framework risks cementing a shift towards a foreign policy that serves one single objective, to curb migration, at the expense of European credibility and leverage in defence of fundamental values and human rights. 

The proposed approach is inspired by the EU-Turkey deal which although touted as a successful example of cooperation, has actually left thousands people stranded in Greece in inhumane and degrading conditions. This has particularly affected children, with the result that hundreds of unaccompanied children have been held in closed detention facilities on the islands or forced to sleep in police cells on the Greek mainland. The wider repercussions of this should not be underestimated. It is hard to see how Europe can ask partner countries to keep their doors open, to host large-scale refugee populations and prevent further movements while at the same time Member States refuse to shoulder their fair share of responsibility for protecting people who flee their homes. The right to asylum is being significantly undermined, and it will become more and more challenging for civilians in conflict zones to seek international protection.

The Commission's proposal ignores all the evidence on the ineffectiveness of deterrence strategies aimed at stopping migration. This approach will not only fail to “break the business-model” of smugglers but increase human suffering as people are forced into taking more dangerous routes. Moreover, despite the stated commitment to respect the principle of non-refoulement, there are no safeguards envisaged to ensure that human rights, rule of law standards and protection mechanisms are in place.  As a result, people risk being deported to countries where their rights are not safeguarded.  Responsibility and liability for human rights violations do not end at Europe’s borders. 

We are disappointed to see that once again the emphasis on deterrence leaves no clear commitments to open up safe and regular channels to Europe for those in need of international protection and for other migrants, e.g. through resettlement, humanitarian admission schemes, family reunification, educational visas, labour mobility and visa liberalisation. Resettlement, labour migration and visa liberalisation are only mentioned as possible leverage with partner countries in a quid pro quo approach. 

Another major concern is the financing of the proposed Partnership Framework which would represent a wholesale re-orientation of Europe’s development programming towards stopping migration. This is an unacceptable contradiction to the commitment to use development cooperation with the aim to eradicate poverty, as enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. Aid is for the benefit of people in need, and should not be used as a leverage for migration control.  EU funding should be transparent and adhere to clearly established principles, such as the Busan principles on effectiveness and the Paris principles of ownership by and alignment to partner countries’ strategies. In addition, striking ‘migration management’ agreements with countries where grave human rights violations are committed will be counter-productive in the longer term – undermining human rights around the globe and perpetuating the cycle of abuse and repression that causes people to flee.  

Migration has many drivers; people may be on the move in search of new livelihood opportunities, an education or to reunite with family, while conflict and violence, human rights violations, climate change, poverty and unemployment can all trigger migration and forced displacement. Any cooperation to manage migration should take into consideration this complex and multi-faceted reality, be evidence and needs-based, and ensure that the benefits of migration are maximised and the risks are mitigated. 

If the EU wants to call for more global solidarity, it needs to set the right example. The EU, a project built on the rubble of a devastating war, is about to embark on a dark chapter of its history. We urge EU leaders to choose a rights-based system to manage migration, based on a viable long-term strategic vision, rather than pursuing an unattainable and inhumane deterrence objective and thereby abandoning its core founding principles.

As human rights, humanitarian, medical, migration and development agencies, and key implementing partners of development programmes in third countries, we call on European leaders to: 

1. Reject the current Commission Communication and develop a sustainable long-term and evidence-based strategy for migration management, in consultation with civil society and experts. 

2. Facilitate safe mobility by opening and strengthening safe and regular channels to Europe both for those in need of international protection and other migrants including through resettlement, humanitarian admission and humanitarian visas, family reunification, worker mobility across skill levels and student visas. Member States must commit to clear benchmarks and appropriate timelines for implementing a migration framework that meets the needs of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees, their families, as well as the needs and obligations of Member States.

3. Exclude any conditionality based on migration control indicators in the allocation of development aid to third countries. Development aid is a tool to fight poverty and inequality, not to manage migration. Vulnerable populations should not be punished because of concerns that are largely political.

4. Stop any readmissions or removals of people by the EU to a third country that violate – or risk violating - fundamental rights and rule of law, including the principle of non-refoulement. Ensure access to protection, justice and effective remedy for all people in migration and asylum procedures.

5. Ensure transparency in the development of any instruments to manage migration and accountability for human rights violations resulting from EU migration policies.

6. Commit to a foreign policy and action focused on preventing and unlocking protracted crises. While the Communication mentions the need to address root causes of displacement in the long term, it does not include engagement to prevent and manage crises. 

More than 100 NGOs signed the statement. 

Click here the read the Press Release. 

Signatories

1. ACT Alliance EU 

2. ActionAid

3. Aditus Foundation

4. Afrique Culture Maroc 

5. Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l'Homme 

6. Aid Services 

7. Amnesty International

8. Amycos

9. Andalucía Acoge 

10. Asamblea de Cooperacion Por la Paz ACPP

11. Asgi - Associazione per gli Studi Giuridici sull'Immigrazione

12. Asociacion por ti mujer

13. Asociacion Salud y Familia - Spain

14. Association for action against violence and trafficking in human beings-Open Gate La  Strada Macedonia.

15. Association for the Social Support of Youth 

16. Ayuda en Acción

17. British Refugee Council 

18. CAFOD 

19. Care International

20. CCOO de Andalucia

21. Centre for Youths Integrated Development.

22. Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos PRO IGUAL

23. ChildFund Alliance 

24. Church of Sweden 

25. Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe

26. Citizens’ association for combating trafficking in human beings and all forms of gender-based violence

27. CNCD-11.11.11

28. Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado –CEAR-

29. Concern Worldwide 

30. CONCORD Europe

31. CONCORD Sweden

32. Conseil des Béninois de France

33. Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organizations in the Czech Republic

34. Coordinadora Andaluza de ONGD

35. Coordinadora Cantabra de ONGD

36. Coordinadora de ONGD de  la Región de Murcia

37. Coordinadora de ONGD del Principado de Asturias

38. Coordinadora de ONGD España  

39. Coordinadora de ONGD Navarra

40. Coordinadora Extremeña de ONGD

41. Coordinadora Gallega de ONGD

42. Coordinadora ONGD de Castilla y León

43. Coordinadora Valenciana de ONGD

44. Cordaid

45. Detention Action 

46. Detention Forum

47. Doctors of the World International network

48. EU-CORD Network 

49. Eurochild 

50. EuroMed Rights

51. European Association for the Defence of Human Rights

52. European Council on Refugees and Exiles

53. European Youth Forum

54. Federación Aragonesa de ONGD

55. Federación de Asociaciones de Derechos Humanos

56. Federation of Christian NGOs in Italy 

57. FIACAT

58. FIDH 

59. FIZ advocacy and support for migrant women and victims of trafficking

60. Flüchtlingsrat Niedersachsen e.V.

61. Forum des Organisations de Solidarité Internationale issues des Migrations 

62. Fundacion 1º de Mayo de Comisiones Obreras

63. Fundación Alianza por los Derechos, la Igualdad y la Solidaridad Internacional –APS-

64. Greek Forum of Refugees 

65. Habitat for Humanity International, Europe, Middle East and Africa

66. Handicap International

67. Human Rights Watch

68. Human Rights Without Frontiers 

69. Instituto Sindical de Cooperación al Desarrollo –ISCOD-

70. InteRed

71. INTERSOS 

72. Islamic Relief UK 

73. Jesuit Refugee Service Europe.

74. Justice and Peace Netherlands 

75. KISA-Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism

76. Koordinierungsstelle der Österreichischen Bischofskonferenz für internationale Entwicklung und         Mission   

77. La Strada International 

78. Lafede.cat - Organitzacions per a la Justícia Global

79. Le Monde des Possibles

80. Macedonian Young Lawyers Association

81. Menedék - Hungarian Association for Migrants

82. Migrant Voice UK 

83. Migrants' Rights Network 

84. Movimiento contra la Intolerancia

85. Movimiento por la Paz –MPDL-

86. Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre

87. Norwegian Refugee Council

88. Oxfam

89. PAX 

90. Pax Christi International

91. PICUM-Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants

92. Plan International EU office

93. Platform Minors in exile / Plate-forme Mineurs en exil / Platform Kinderen op de vlucht (Belgium)

94. Red Acoge

95. Réseau de Compétences Solidaires - Groupement d'Economie Sociale et Solidaire  France - Europe -         Afrique 

96. Réseau Immigration Développement Démocratie -  IDD

97. Save the Children

98. SOS Children’s Villages International

99. SOS Racisme – Touche pas à mon pote

100. Stichting LOS 

101. Swedish Refugee Advice Centre

102. Télécoms Sans Frontières 

103. Terre des Hommes International Federation

104. The International Federation of Social Workers European Region 

105. The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture victims 

106. The Norwegian Centre Against Racism 

107. Trócaire

108. World Vision Brussels and EU Representation

109. ZOA