HRW and Amnesty International among NGOs urging EU to safeguard right to asylum in Europe News
JIP, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
HRW and Amnesty International among NGOs urging EU to safeguard right to asylum in Europe

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International plus other NGOs signed a joint statement Monday urging the European Union (EU) and its member states to “safeguard the right to territorial asylum in Europe.”

The statement refers to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and emphasizes EU member states’ responsibility under Article 18, which guarantees the right to asylum. Over 90 organizations, also including Oxfam and Save the Children, signed the statement.

The statement criticizes member states’ attempts to shift asylum procedures and refugee protection to countries outside the EU (third countries). Such externalization measures allow states’ to “evade their asylum responsibilities,” which the statement asserts undermines the international refugee protection system and compromises states’ “commitment to the rule of law.”

The signatories criticize the European Commission’s facilitation of these arrangements between member states and non-EU countries as policies seeking to “contain and deter” the migration of refugees toward the EU. This is despite the Commission’s earlier assertion that such policies were “neither possible nor desirable,” and given EU law, “not legally or practically feasible.” Arrangements between countries, such as the Italy—Albania migration agreement, were denounced in the statement as “shortsighted measures” that lacked “genuine human rights safeguards or monitoring mechanisms.”

The UNHCR Note on the “Externalisation” of International Protection establishes that such measures are in contravention of the 1951 Refugee Convention and fundamental principles of international cooperation, responsibility-sharing and solidarity as they are designed to “avoid responsibility or to shift, rather than share burdens.” The statement echoes these sentiments, pointing to the significant consequences of externalization. Current EU law and the recently adopted Pact on Migration and Asylum do not include provisions concerning shifting asylum processing and refugee protection measures outside EU territory.

The statement warns of the human rights violations that have arisen where models externalizing asylum procedures have been implemented. Assigning low and middle-income countries that are unable to provide effective protection are already collectively “hosting 75 percent of the world’s refugees” has resulted in human rights abuses as the EU lacks “adequate tools and competencies to effectively monitor or enforce human rights standards” outside its territory.

HRW’s Europe and Central Asia advocacy director Iskra Kirova said, “Instead of wasting further time and resources on proposals incompatible with EU law and human rights commitments, the EU should support humane, sustainable, and realistic reception and asylum processing policies in EU territory.”