Europe is trying to curb the number of migrant arrivals
In a new report the Brussels office of Oxfam said EU policies have “sacrificed people’s safety and wellbeing in order to stop irregular migration at all costs” and called for a rethink.
Recently EU officials and leaders have taken a much tougher line on new arrivals, pledging to significantly step up the rate of deportations for failed asylum seekers.
And even Angela Merkel, once the poster girl for Europe’s liberal asylum policy, has been forced to agree to a 200,00-a-year refugee cap as part of her coalition building efforts.
Their actions have come in response to a wave of public malcontent over the issue of migration which has fuelled support for far-right parties including the Front National and the AfD.
After initially welcoming in more than a million migrants in 2015, Brussels has shifted tack to take an increasingly hard line in the light of growing public anxiety.
Last year the bloc signed a landmark deal with Turkey, which has been heavily criticised by human rights groups, which significantly slowed down the rate of asylum seekers entering Greece.
Senior EU figures including the Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker often quote the statistic that arrivals have plummeted to just two per cent compared to their highest amount thanks to the agreement.
Other recent policy announcements on migration include the creation of a European Border and Coastguard to patrol the continent’s frontiers and plans to increase the number of refugee reception centres in Libya.
Oxfam’s latest report, published this week, is designed to pile pressure on EU leaders ahead of this month’s Council summit at which migration is set to be a centre stage issue.
The European approach is often leaving people in limbo
It states: “The current European approach is pushing people to take longer and more dangerous routes, increasing the hardship and risks they face, with women and children at particular risk of violence and trafficking.
“In response to the need for proactive migration policies, European leaders have made the wrong choices. By presenting migration as a threat rather than recognising its benefits, they are playing into the hands of populist fearmongers who falsely claim that Europe is unable to cope with the arrival of more people on its shores.
“Leaders use development aid and political influence to reduce irregular migration. They claim success when the number of arrivals drops, and announce harsher measures when it increases.
“The European response to migration imposes a false narrative – that tough measures are required to prevent migrants, including refugees, from risking their lives on the journey, and to protect the interests of host countries.”
The report says the charity's own aid workers have seen examples of migrants having to sleep outside in temperatures of -20C in Serbia, and only being handed one set of clothes to wear for weeks at a time in Italy.
This year more than 58,000 migrants have arrived in Italy and 1,569 have died
Thu, June 29, 2017
An estimated 230,000 refugees and migrants will arrive in Italy this year as numbers of refugees and migrants attempting the dangerous central mediterranean crossing from Libya to Italy continues to rise since the same time last year
1 of 11
Refugees and migrants wait in a small rubber boat to be rescued off Lampedusa, Italy
Hungarian and Croatian authorities are accused of using “brutal tactics” to stop migrants crossing their borders, including administering beatings with batons and setting dogs on people.
Meanwhile in Bulgaria, where gangs of vigilante “migrant hunters” have taken to patrolling the frontier with guns, police allegedly administered electric shocks to one detained refugee.
Oxfam’s report states that many European countries have shown “insufficient concern for the human rights and living conditions of asylum seekers” and says people should not be detained purely on the basis of their migration status.
Oxfam does concede that “not everyone who arrives irregularly into the EU will be able to stay” but also seems to suggest authorities should not make any physical attempts to stop people setting foot on the continent.
The report concludes: “Governments’ attempts to curb migration have created and compounded human misery.
“The experience shows that the most sophisticated barriers can make the process longer, costlier and certainly crueller, but will not stop the movement of people who are in search of security and opportunity.”