Don’t put border security before safety of people

Published: 18th December 2015

Oxfam is dismayed by the results of the European summit yesterday night, which has strengthened a security-led approach to border control as the principal response of Europe to the plight of people arriving at its borders.

Oxfam is especially concerned by the focus on the "hotspots" approach to managing reception of people arriving in selected places in Italy and Greece. The organisation is also alarmed by the recent report of the European Commission on hotspots in which it is insisting that Italy must allow the use of force for fingerprinting and longer term detention of migrants who resist. This requires changes to existing laws in Italy that would restrict the rights of people on the move.

Head of Oxfam’s EU Advocacy Office, Natalia Alonso, said:

"It is disappointing to see European leaders continue to put the security of borders before the safety and rights of people. In their strategy on migration outlined in Brussels yesterday night, the heads of state and government don’t have a single reference to the rights, dignity or humanity of the individuals risking their lives to reach Europe.

"The way arrivals are managed isn’t about the identity of migrants, it’s about the identity of Europe. As Europeans, are we going to use force against the non-violent, and do we want indefinite detention for people not guilty of a crime?

"As our leaders have said, the EU must indeed ‘address deficiencies in the functioning of hotspots’. It should ensure that people get clear information about their rights as required by law, including their right to claim asylum. Interviews with refugees have to respect these standards; they must not take place just as people come off of ships, exhausted and traumatised. There is an urgent need for more transparency about the procedures hotspots use and how they are complying with the law; the current lack of clear oversight is unacceptable."

Notes to editors

  • The EU Agenda on Migration released in May 2015 introduced the "hotspot" approach: deployment of EU personnel to reinforce the processing of arrivals in member states “facing an extraordinary migratory pressure.” This was part of a package of measures to shore up the EU’s external border management under the pressure of a sharp increase in the numbers of arrivals across the Mediterranean.
  • Specifically, the hotspot approach was meant to work in tandem with the relocation scheme; countries of the periphery – Italy and Greece – would strengthen their compliance with obligations to register arrivals by accepting the hotspot approach and other measures, in exchange for solidarity from other EU member states who would accept to take some of the asylum-seekers registered in this way.
  • These and other measures are driven by internal affairs of different member states, and there is little to no room for considering the needs and rights of migrants, other than as an afterthought.
  • The European Commission’s press release on its report on hotspots is published here.
  • Oxfam calls for the procedures used within the hotspots approach to be in accordance with law at European and national level. Also, the oversight for this legal compliance needs to be clarified.
  • According to law, every migrant must be informed about his/her rights, including the right to ask for international protection, in a form and language easily comprehensible.
  • Identification and registration procedures must be in full respect of human rights.
  • Oxfam has been working in Italy since 2011 to help asylum seekers that arrived in Italy through the Central Mediterranean Route. Our program in Sicily is focused on integrating the Italian authorities’ response to better meet the needs of the most vulnerable people who seeking asylum in Italy. Oxfam and its partners provide legal, psychological and health assistance to children and young people travelling alone, to women and other people in need.
  • The majority of migrants arriving in Italy come from Africa. Their journeys have often lasted months, sometimes more than a year, and they have often experienced trauma and abuses along the way.

Contact information

Florian Oel,, t +32 2 234 11 15, m +32 473 56 22 60

For updates, please follow @Oxfam and @OxfamEU