Red Cross EU Office: Enabling a Europe that really protects
On World Refugee Day, the Red Cross EU Office calls on the EU and its Member States to renew their pledge to the 1951 Refugee Convention by reinforcing the pillars of a coordinated long-term approach to refugee protection. This approach should ensure that the principle of non-refoulement is a cornerstone of the system and guarantee access to dignified asylum procedures in Europe through adequate investments.
People seeking security in the EU are being turned away at borders without any consideration for their protection claims – in direct opposition to one of the core principles of the Refugee Convention. In addition, numerous cases of refoulement have been reported along the external border of the EU in recent months. Coupled with the scarcity of legal pathways, asylum seekers are increasingly pushed to take greater risks to seek safety. Shocking numbers of migrants continue to drown in the Mediterranean – with 569 deaths recorded this year, but many more unaccounted for. “The EU cannot continue to turn a blind eye to these tragedies”, says Denis Haveaux, Director of the Red Cross EU Office. “Political courage is needed to make greater use of tools like family reunification, resettlement, or humanitarian visas and thus reduce people’s reliance on the unscrupulous services of smugglers”, he stresses.
For those that manage to arrive in a spontaneous manner, setting foot on European soil does not guarantee their access to fair and effective asylum procedures. Across the EU, increasing numbers of asylum seekers are deprived of their liberty upon entry. Red Cross EU Office is deeply concerned to witness increasing recourse to immigration detention in the context of the EU asylum framework. This is reflected in recent legislative proposals that propose expanding the lawfulness of detention. “It is widely recognised that detention has lasting harmful effects on the mental and physical health of detainees and their families”, underlines Mr. Haveaux. Being in detention also limits access to fair asylum procedures, as people’s ability to benefit from adequate legal support is impeded.
These challenges must be urgently addressed to make sure that the rights of every person in need of international protection are respected. Red Cross EU Office calls on EU leaders to ensure sufficient resources are allocated to the development of a Common European Asylum System that guarantees access to protection to those in need. Funding an asylum policy that reinforces legal avenues and upholds the highest protection standards in all Member States should be a top priority. More needs to be done to address the structural weaknesses in national asylum systems. This would help to safeguard the dignity of asylum seekers and refugees across the EU.
2019 is a turning point for the future of Europe as it marks the start of a new institutional cycle. Recently elected Members of the European Parliament will soon be joined by newly appointed officials in the European Commission. As EU institutions discuss the EU’s general political direction for the next five years and deliberate on how these priorities are to be funded though the future EU budget, they should seize the opportunity to allocate adequate financial investments to the design and application of an effective asylum system. Red Cross EU Office calls on the emerging leadership to commit to enabling a Europe that really protects.