THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL will meet in Brussels this week, on 9 and 10 February, for a summit to discuss Ukraine/Russia, the economy and migration.

Ahead of the summit, Stephanie Pope, Oxfam EU migration expert commented on the proposal relating to migration and border controls, saying: “The latest proposal attempts to bully non-EU countries into doing its work and following Europe’s narrow-minded political objectives. EU countries must create a migration policy that works for people, not one built on blackmail, forced returns and fences.”

On returns, Pope said: “The EU must stop using scarce aid to force countries to take in rejected asylum seekers. Development aid is for ending poverty, not to stop migration. The EU’s one-sided approach undermines its credibility as a defender of human rights and its statement of being an equal partner to African countries.

“The EU’s all-consuming focus on upping returns results in dubious deals with countries whose human rights records are far from clean, and leaves the door open for blackmail by countries threatening to use refugees for political means.”

On the EU’s external borders, Pope said: “It is alarming that more money and support is going to Frontex, an agency complicit in pushbacks and human rights violations. Instead, European governments must invest in an independent watchdog to stop the systematic violence at Europe’s borders. They must also put pen to paper and finally create safe and regular ways for people seeking asylum to reach Europe. When will European governments learn that closing borders and building fences does not work? It just forces people to take more dangerous routes.”

On the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum, Pope said: “The proposal on the table is a far cry from what is needed. It fails to make EU countries take their fair share of people, it does not meet the needs of refugees and asylum seekers and it does not support countries on Europe’s borders. And finally, it uses the flawed Greek ‘reception’ system as its blueprint despite its clear shortcomings.”

Oxfamn and other NGOs as well as journalistic investigative reporting have repeatedly exposed how border guards and other government officials have been violently and illegally pushing back people at Europe’s borders.

Oxfam is calling for the EU and European countries to work together to create an asylum system that works. In particular, it wants the EU to:

  • Make migration rules that share fairly the responsibility of welcoming people across Europe. We have seen in Greece how Europe’s failure to create a responsibility-sharing system has caused thousands of people to suffer. Families live in legal limbo trapped in slum-like camps or EU-funded prison-like detention centres.
  • Stop striking up dubious migration deals with non-EU countries to outsource the EU’s responsibility for people seeking safety.
  • Create independent border monitoring mechanisms to stop human rights abuses at Europe’s borders.

* More information on the European Council meeting here.

* Source: Oxfam International