EU Pact Will Not Improve Reception of Asylum Seekers, Must Come with Expanded Pathways

Statement from Refugees International Director for the Americas and Europe Yael Schacher: 

“Yesterday the EU Parliament passed the Pact on Migration and Asylum, an agreement on the handling of asylum seekers who reach EU territory. Though the Pact has been under negotiation for eight years, it does not address today’s most pressing migration-related human rights and protection concerns. The Pact mandates many changes in reception of asylum seekers, but does not require any expansion of protection pathways for a growing number of people seeking safety in Europe.  

The Pact does not address ongoing efforts by the EU to deter migration through enforcement agreements with, and financial support for, North African countries and will do nothing to prevent rights violations there or deaths in the Mediterranean. Nor will it end pushbacks to sea or at borders. Nor will it ensure that a fair share of asylum seekers who reach ‘frontline’ European states are relocated to other EU member states. 

Productive approaches to managing migration—such as making it possible for asylum-seeking siblings to unite—were jettisoned during negotiations over the Pact. It instead allows for speeded-up asylum adjudication, increased use of detention, and the ability to suspend rules in times of increased migration. The Pact lowers the threshold for a third country to be considered safe for returns and requires assessments of an ‘internal protection alternative’ in a safe part of a country of origin. Refugees International has documented how this leads to chain refoulement and unsafe returns of Syrians. 

Many of the Pact’s approaches have been tried in the United States to no avail: they have not deterred unsafe migration—especially of unaccompanied minors, who are accorded protections their parents are not—but have led to the deterioration of fair process for asylum seekers and their return to harm. ‘Fast and efficient’ asylum procedures, increased detention, and insufficient relocation will likely mean worsening of conditions for people seeking safety in Greece and Italy. 

Refugees International calls on EU leaders to monitor how the Pact is implemented to ensure fundamental rights of people seeking safety are not eroded. Further, given the nature of forced displacement globally, a Pact that does not mandate expanding humanitarian admissions and resettlement risks appeasing anti-refugee sentiment rather than recognizing the contributions refugees can make in the EU. Refugees International recommends that the EU use the Union Resettlement Framework to robustly expand protection pathways to EU member states.” 

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