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A New Pact for Migration and Asylum in the EU seeks more solidarity but will bring more suffering

On 8 June representatives of the Member States (MS) and the European Home Affairs Council agreed on a new Pact for Migration and Asylum, which had been presented in September 2020 and that has, since then, been under discussion to reach an agreement. An understanding arrived with the insistence of the Swedish European presidency, despite the opposition of Hungary and Poland and four other countries that abstained: Bulgaria, Malta, Lithuania and Slovakia. The agreement, considered historic, will now be voted by the European Parliament and, if approved, will enter into law.

The agreement is based on three pillars: responsibility, solidarity and procedures. According to the European Commission, the proposal envisages creating a fairer, more efficient and sustainable European asylum system, with common solutions that guarantee balance between solidarity and responsibility of Member States in relation to migration and the asylum. But for the director of Amnesty International for the EU, with this new Pact a solidarity will remain an empty concept. allowing European countries to pay into a common fund that can be used to pay countries outside Europe to receive people seeking safety and security in Europe. Authorities can thus send these extremely vulnerable people to any country they consider safe, transferring responsibility to countries outside the EU, for example in the Balkans or North Africa, following the concept of "safe third countries". This method has been explored by several European countries, leading to deals that many of these third countries cannot refuse, due to the advantages regarding economic support, cooperation, investments or visa facilities. Some of these countries have repressive and unstable governments, putting human rights at risk. Additionally, many of these countries already assume a great commitment by welcoming the majority of refugees, and 76% are hosted in low-income countries and 70% in neighboring countries. Additionally, the solidarity proclaimed in this new Pact, although obligatory, is flexible, with MS being able to choose how they contribute: through the relocation of people, and it may also be through training, support or financial contributions.

According to the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), the agreement focuses on borders, having failed on one of the biggest problems of the European asylum system: the regulation of Dublin, which escaped unharmed, continuing to cause pressure on neighboring countries, especially in southern and eastern Europe. As proposed reforms go in the opposite direction to the responses that we saw being implemented during the massive displacement of Ukraine, which managed to ease and make procedures more flexible, with quick access to protection, allowing people to be able to work achieving a faster autonomy, as well as freedom to move around Europe that made it possible to reunite family members and a more equitable distribution of responsibility.

The Commission proposes a "pre-entry check" for all people arriving on European territory. During this process, which can last for weeks, people are housed in border centers, jeopardizing their rights, such as access to basic services and legal representation. With these proposals, the levels of protection of children in border procedures worsen, except for unaccompanied or children under 12, going against the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

A Syrian boy waits with his family in a detention center in Hungary.
A Syrian boy waits with his family in a detention center in Hungary. UNHCR/ Mark Henley

These proposals bring more complex and slower procedures, and the decision process can take up to 2 years, or up to 12 months in the case of people rescued at sea. Rather than preventing and deterring human trafficking, the new deal will only allow traffickers to demand more money for the long and complex journey that people desperately take.

These measures are expected to cause more suffering, leading to more people being arrested or detained in centers outside the EU's borders. The number of pushbacksor "bounces" is also predicted to increase, leading many MS to choose the "easier" option. The new pact instead of increasing solidarity and protecting the most vulnerable, it focuses on externalization, deterrence, detention and return, exacerbating the already existing lack of solidarity, creating more bureaucratic, costly and ineffective procedures.

Measures are needed to safeguard the most vulnerable and those desperately looking for security and peace, with no available route or legal option to do so. We need to raise the safeguard and standards of human rights and asylum in Europe and not the standards of return. Safe and legal routes must be expanded, increasing opportunities for protection and complementary routes, investing in resettlement and community sponsorship.

The CPR and more than 70 organizations working in the sector signed a statement denouncing these proposals and asking for more just and humane measures for all people fleeing persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations.


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