Europe and North Africa must review their cooperation to protect the rights of migrants

Published: 22nd October 2020

Years of regressive, inwards looking migration policies have seen the European Union move from a promoter of human rights in North Africa, to an actor that prioritizes self-interest over the needs and rights of people, new Oxfam research revealed today.

The report, “The Real Common Interest,” shows how the EU is externalizing border management to countries in North Africa, and refugees and other migrants are ultimately paying the price.

While the number of people crossing the sea to reach Europe has reduced, their suffering has only increased.

Raphael Shilhav
Oxfam EU migration expert

Oxfam’s research shows that recent EU policies have entrenched poor protection standards in North African countries for people seeking asylum, and reinforced the daily discrimination of migrants. These policies ignore migrant protection, respect for human rights and the evidence that development goes hand-in-hand with human mobility.  The organization calls on the European Union to reverse course under the recently announced new EU pact on migration and asylum, and the design of its financial instruments in the coming years.

Raphael Shilhav, Oxfam's EU Migration Policy Adviser says the bloc must put human rights and protection for people in need at the centre of its future cooperation with North Africa.

“While the number of people crossing the sea to reach Europe has reduced, their suffering has only increased”. 

Promoting border securitization over everything else, including people’s rights and needs, has deliberately entrenched a hostile environment for migrants in North Africa, and encouraged repressive policies and rights violations. The outcome is that migrants and refugees are unprotected, unwelcome and their rights systematically violated.”

The report found that while countries, such as Morocco and Tunisia, must take responsibility for their own unreformed and outdated migration and asylum systems, the overarching EU policies do little to incentivize reforms to these antiquated policies. Instead, despite some improvements in countries, the EU’s migration cooperation with North Africa is based on a common interest of increased border security, that fails to improve human rights

Oxfam calls on the EU to be a partner for protection and defense of human rights and development in the region, otherwise it will continue down the path of repressive policies that will only create and entrench xenophobia, racism and ignore fundamental freedoms and rights. The EU must also abandon plans to condition its support for developing countries upon cooperation with its externalization agenda.

“Europe and North Africa must fundamentally change the way they think about migration and protection. This is not purely about investment, it is about fundamental, structural, changes to the way the EU and North African countries think about migration and protection”, says Shilhav.

“The EU’s migration policies have long ignored the priorities of the countries it partners with for the sake of its own border security. With the global impact of the pandemic on vulnerable people only starting to be seen, now is the time to work towards a common interest for Europe, North Africa and migrants through a cooperation that focuses on protecting people and fulfilling their rights.”

Notes to editors

Contact information

Roslyn Boatman | Tunis, Tunisia | | +216 21359002 | skype: roslyn.boatman

Florian Oel | Brussels, Belgium | | +32 473 562260

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