Please see below statement from Refugees International Advocate for Europe Daphne Panayotatos:
“The European Commission’s proposal to allow EU Member States to derogate from standard asylum procedures in view of the situation at the EU-Belarus border is a disproportionate response that risks undermining individuals’ access to a fair asylum process.
The proposal would allow Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland to adopt for six months measures that expand the use of ‘border procedures,’ extend detention, and permit delays in registering asylum applications. It focuses on facilitating the return of rejected asylum seekers rather than ensuring protection for those who might need it.
Previous experience has shown that accelerated border procedures can lead to cursory reviews of asylum claims and insufficient time for appeal, resulting in unfounded rejections and refoulement. They provide fewer due process guarantees and put at risk individuals with vulnerabilities that may not be immediately evident.
There is reason to question assurances that States adopting these measures will respect fundamental rights and obligations under EU and international law. Thus far, authorities have used measures, including pushbacks, that deny individuals access to EU territory and asylum, and restricted humanitarian workers’ access to the border area. We welcome the Commission’s offer to supplement asylum processing capacity and call for basic needs to be covered. But it must also insist that Member States allow access for independent bodies and humanitarian organizations to help deliver life-saving aid and legal support and monitor conditions and procedures.
Although temporary in nature, the proposal does not specify under what grounds the measures can be extended. It sets a dangerous precedent and signals to Member States that access to asylum can be weakened in ‘extraordinary’ circumstances. But while Belarus’ decision to instrumentalize people for political gain is reprehensible, the EU States’ responses fueled the situation’s devolution into a humanitarian crisis. It could and should have been managed differently from the start.
The Commission and Member States should be taking steps to uphold human rights, provide access to fair asylum procedures and adequate reception conditions, and reinforce protection standards under EU law. Human life—not geopolitical interests—must be at the center of the response.”
For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Refugees International Director of Communications Sarah Sheffer at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 202 540 7029.
PHOTO CAPTION: A man carrying a child walks in a camp near the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region on November 14, 2021. (Photo by OKSANA MANCHUK/BELTA/AFP via Getty Images)