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EU urged to reform it ‘unworkable’ and ‘untenable’ migration and asylum policies

UNHCR, IOM, Oxfam and urge the European Commission to end ‘ad hoc crisis-driven approach’

HUMAN RIGHTS organisations urged the European Commission to reform its “unworkable” and “untenable” migration and asylum policies today, ahead of the EU’s announcement of a new deal with member states.

United Nations refugee agency the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) called on the EU’s executive branch to ensure that its new Pact for Migration and Asylum, due to be announced on Tuesday, will “provide a fresh start to move from an ad hoc crisis-driven approach to asylum and migration in Europe to … one that is more comprehensive, well-managed and predictable, both within and beyond the EU.”

The UN agencies said that the recent stand-off with NGO refugee rescue ships, reports of pushbacks and the Greek authorities’ handling of the devastating fire at the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, which made 13,000 people homeless, had highlighted the urgent need for reform.

“The current approach in the EU is unworkable, untenable and often carries devastating human consequences,” said the UNHCR and IOM.

“With the lack of EU-wide agreement on disembarkation exacerbating human suffering, [we] have been jointly calling for a common EU action to take responsibility for search and rescue and for disembarking people rescued at sea.”

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said: “We will welcome genuine efforts to ensure a fast, fair and effective protection regime in Europe and pledge our full support and expertise to the European Commission and member states in making it a reality.”

Meanwhile, Oxfam and social justice organisation We Move Europe have called on the EU Commission to trigger an infringement procedure against Greece for systematic breaches of EU law in its treatment of people seeking asylum in Europe.

Filed by Dutch law firm De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek today, the complaint alleges that the Greek government has “failed to investigate and address well-documented allegations of rights violations, including continued violent pushbacks of people seeking asylum towards Turkey and the blatant disregard for asylum safeguards.”

Changes made to asylum laws by the Greek government have, the organisations charge, made it easier to deport people.

The complaint also warned there is only one state-sponsored lawyer on Lesbos, making it “practically impossible for asylum-seekers to have access to an effective remedy, a fundamental pillar of EU law.”

Marissa Ryan, the head of Oxfam’s EU office, said the EU Commission should uphold and protect the fundamental rights of all people across Europe.

“What happened two weeks ago in the Moria camp demonstrates Europe’s collective failure to do so,” she added. 

“The commission should urgently assess whether the Greek authorities respect EU law and otherwise trigger legal proceedings against Greece for exposing people seeking asylum on its territory to suffering and abuse.”

“If the European Commission wants to show that the new pact on asylum and migration is meant to improve Europe’s asylum system, it should also demonstrate the resolve needed to ensure that all EU member states respect human rights and people’s dignity.”

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