EU must ditch plans to offshore asylum, say over 90 NGOs

Published: 9th July 2024

Ahead of the first plenary of the newly elected European Parliament, more than 90 human rights and humanitarian organisations are sounding the alarm over attempts by the EU and EU countries to offload their migration responsibilities to countries outside of Europe.

The organisations, which include Amnesty International, the Danish Refugee Council, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam, warn of recent attempts by several EU countries to evade or ‘externalise’ their international legal responsibilities by shifting asylum processing and refugee protection to countries outside the EU. These controversial proposals seek to dismantle the core tenet of international protection: that people within a territory have a right to seek asylum in that country and have that claim fairly examined.

“These proposals are not innovative nor new. They undermine the very building blocks of asylum law while signalling to the rest of the world that the EU ignores its own laws to evade responsibility and dump it on others”, said Stephanie Pope, Oxfam EU expert

Wherever these schemes have been attempted, they have been rife with rights violations, placed countless people in prolonged detention and an unbearable legal limbo and denied them crucial legal safeguards while costing taxpayers inordinate sums. At a time when 3 in 4 refugees worldwide are hosted by low- and middle-income countries, these proposals send a dangerous signal about EU countries’ lack of commitment to the rule of law, international treaties, and the global refugee protection system.

The organisations call on the EU to abandon these proposals, which starkly contrast existing EU law and the recently agreed EU Migration Pact. Instead, the EU must support humane, sustainable and realistic migration and asylum policies that benefit both people seeking safety and the communities that welcome them.

“This is a crucial moment for the incoming EU to turn the tide and safeguard people’s right to asylum in Europe. If the EU fails, they will be gambling with people’s lives”, said Pope.

Notes to editors

Spokespeople are available for interviews. 

Read the statement signed by 95 NGOs.

15 EU countries wrote to the European Commission to explore possibilities for external processing of asylum claims referencing the Italy-Albania deal as a model, including through changes to EU law. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said these proposals were “innovative ideas … will certainly deserve our attention” in the new institutional cycle. 

The European Commission ruled out the legal feasibility of externalisation models in 2018, describing them as "neither desirable nor feasible”.

Contact information

Jade Tenwick | Brussels, Belgium | | mobile +32 473 56 22 60 | WhatsApp only +32 484 81 22 94      

Julia Manresa | Brussels, Belgium | | mobile +32 473 87 44 26 | WhatsApp only +32 479 56 18 12