EU migration and asylum pact: in search of consensus, Commission bows to anti-migration governments

Published: 23rd September 2020

The European Commission has today outlined a new pact on migration and asylum.

Reacting to the news, Marissa Ryan, Head of Oxfam’s EU office, said:

“For many years, Europe has needed to reform its asylum system so that it protects people fleeing persecution and conflict in line with international law. It’s good that the European Commission is trying to bring EU countries together to achieve meaningful change. However, in its attempt to reach consensus, the Commission has bowed to pressure from EU governments whose only objective is to decrease the number of people granted protection in Europe.”

On so-called border procedures and the ‘hotspot’ approach

“The tragic fire, which completely destroyed Moria refugee camp in Greece, has exposed Europe’s failure to uphold a humane migration and asylum system. The EU ‘hotspot’ approach established in 2015 has clearly failed, and should be abolished – not expanded or reformed. Instead of offering a fair and timely asylum process, expedited procedures resulted in mass suffering in overcrowded, squalid refugee camps. Greece has been breaking EU law, and Europe has turned a blind eye on it.

“The new proposals now will likely replicate the abhorrent situation we have been witnessing for years in the Greek EU ‘hotspots’, where entire families have been put in actual or de-facto detention, and people seeking asylum have limited to no access to healthcare and other basic services. Women are disproportionately affected: only a minority of single women can access protected areas of EU-sponsored camps, and even pregnant women and mothers with new-borns are left sleeping in flimsy tents.”

On the proposal to relocate people seeking asylum from southern EU member states to other EU countries:

“Geography should not decide where most people seeking asylum end up. All EU member states must show solidarity with the countries on Europe’s southern borders and share responsibility to protect those seeking asylum rather than share the burden of forced returns.”

On proposals to use development aid to stop migration:

“It is worrying that the EU continues to advocate the spending of scarce development money to curb migration. Development aid should be spent on poverty reduction. The EU’s obsessive focus on migration has yielded few positive results, and it has undermined its credibility as a partner with African countries.

“As the world is struggling with the social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Europe must seize this opportunity for change and use development aid to overcome poverty and to enable a green recovery. It should not be invested in training and support for security forces and border guards that often only increase danger for migrants and the local population.”

Comment on commitment to improving integration:

“The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the value of migrants to our societies: many of them have been on the front line of the struggle against the coronavirus. To unlock Europe’s potential to recover from the crisis, the EU must now recognize the crucial role migrants hold in the economic and social survival of our societies and enable their participation in the economy. The success or failure of this endeavor lies in the hands of member state governments.”

Notes to editors

  • Oxfam spokespeople are available to comment on the EU Pact on migration and asylum and can share their insights, experience from the ground and lessons learnt.
  • The Commission communication presented today is not binding. It sets out an approach and a direction for the EU and its member states.
  • A legal complaint submitted to the European Commission on Tuesday, 22 September 2020, exposes Greece's systematic breach of EU law in how the country treats people seeking asylum in Europe. Oxfam and its partners call on the Commission to trigger an infringement procedure against Greece.
  • Read the latest monthly update by Oxfam and the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) on the situation in the infamous Moria refugee camp in Lesbos (before it was destroyed completely by fires).
  • Oxfam works with refugees and other migrants in Greece since October 2015 when the humanitarian situation for people arriving irregularly from Turkey rapidly worsened. Currently, Oxfam works with the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), which is providing free legal aid and social support to people seeking asylum and that operates an online help desk with a particular focus on the COVD-19 pandemic, as well as with the Bashira women’s day center in Lesbos.

Contact information

Florian Oel | Brussels | | desk +32 2 234 11 15 | mobile +32 473 56 22 60

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