EU “hotspots” spread fear and doubt

One year on, the EU response to a Mediterranean tragedy leaves vulnerable people in legal limbo

Publication date: 18 April 2016

On 18 April 2015, a shipwreck in the Central Mediterranean caused the deaths of an estimated 800 people seeking to reach Italy. The EU responded to the tragedy by calling the first of many emergency summits and speeding up the issuance of the EU Agenda on Migration. A package of measures, meant to increase Europe’s border security and decrease the number of people seeking safety in the EU, included a “hotspot” approach intended to expedite processing of asylum claims and swifter returns of those rejected. 

One year on from the Lampedusa tragedy that claimed so many lives, EU member states have collectively failed to find a comprehensive solution to managing migration that puts human lives first. The hotspots approach is a band-aid over a failed system that leaves a disproportionate burden on national systems of a few member states, and leaves grave concerns about respect for the rights of the people who pass through this system and those left in limbo on the other side. 

The EU must urgently re-think its collective treatment of people arriving at Europe’s borders and ensure that every human being, no matter their status, enjoys the basic respect of their rights and fundamental dignity. 

Oxfam calls for the EU and the Italian government:

  • To clarify immediately how the procedures used within the hotspots approach are in accordance with law at European and national level and how oversight is conducted, including recourse to appeals. 
  • Ensure that, in accordance with law, every person is informed about his/her rights, including the right to ask for international protection, in a form and language they can understand. 
  • Bring identification and registration procedures into line with full respect of human rights. Use of force to coerce compliance with identification and/or fingerprinting procedures must not be permitted.
  • Guarantee that no one is pushed back or returned without a specific examination of his/her individual situation by the proper authority, which cannot be a law enforcement officer.
  • Put an end to de facto detentions. No one must be detained in reception centers for the sole purpose of ensuring his/her identification. 
  • Guarantee access to independent organizations who can provide aid, including psychosocial support, and monitor the respect of human rights, on the ships used for search and rescue operations, at the disembarkation points, and inside the centres where identification takes place.
  • Put in place specific protection procedures for vulnerable people, including unaccompanied minors, women travelling alone, pregnant women, traumatized or ill people, and people with disabilities.