Rights of migrants: “Always less!”

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Brussels, 18 December 2016 – “On International Migrants Day, let us commit to coherent, comprehensive and human-rights based responses guided by international law and standards and a shared resolve to leave no one behind.” This was the message of the UN Secretary-General in December of last year. The same message has been repeatedly proclaimed since Migrants Day by the UN General Assembly in 2000. The day commemorates the adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of all Migrant Workers and their families. However, the reality, is that it has been ratified only by 49 states, by no EU member state of the European Union and by almost no Northern country.

On this 18 December 2016, the alleged “migrant crisis” is at the centre of political discussions. The European Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AEDH) cannot identify itself with a discourse confusing cause and effect. Climate change, wars, economic, political and food crises cause migration. The instability of the world causes women and men to leave their home and their country. And in the end they are rejected by the majority of states, particularly by EU member states. AEDH affirms that if there is a crisis, it is a crisis of reception and consequently a crisis of democracy.

The rationale behind the different provisions applied by the EU and member states is the containment of migrants and refugees, containment either in the countries of origin (when the alleged cause of migration is work or employment) or in the transit countries (when it is a matter of war or dictatorship).

Amongst other things, AEDH questions the legitimacy and practicality of three key measures:

The « blue card » envisioned to fostering integration. It defines selective immigration with the paradox that the choice is only set by one of the parties. This is utilitarism at the expense of people and in contradiction with the development sought by countries of origin.

The refusal to put forward measures for family reunification within the meaning of the International Convention that affirms that it is a right of migrant workers and their families. Giving way to xenophobic pressure inciting fear and racism and to the refusal of member states concerned only with the short term of their election timetables, the EU has been unable to put forward this right which is a genuine vehicle for integration.

The pressure put on third countries for the past 16 months, through financial incentives stemming from development aid credit lines of member states or the EU budget. The means are readmission agreements, in particular with African countries where so-called economic migrants come from, but also with countries at war; the establishment of a list of safe countries and the negotiation of agreements like the EU-Turkey agreement, concluded in return for the absence of reaction to the repressive policy of the Turkish government; finally, the creation of the “European laissez-passer” imposing reception on alleged countries of origin in spite of its diplomatic illegitimacy and excluding any way back through databases such as Eurodac.

AEDH regrets the lack of awareness for the causes of migration and inward-looking attitudes of European states. This irrational approach has no future. Migration, both for positive or negative reasons, is unavoidable and as underlined by the OECD, there is a need to “tap into the many opportunities that migration offers to recipient economies and societies”[1]. AEDH notes that globalisation – much-vaunted when it comes to TTIP or CETA, is inexistent when it comes to individuals. The transformation of the agency Frontex in an army of border guards is emblematic of closing off the EU to any population movement.

AEDH calls on the EU to break the deadlock it has created believing it can avoid migration at the expense of the dishonour of concluding agreements, contrary to the rights of individuals. Europe cannot continue to call for the rule of law within its borders while organising its absence beyond them.


Find out more:

Readmission agreements: To date, the EU has signed 17 readmission agreements with third countries, plus the Joint Way Forward with Afghanistan on 2 October 2016

Safe countries of origin:

Labour migration: On 7 June 2016, the European Commission has presented a reform proposal of the directive « Blue Card », currently the only proposal on the negotiation table regarding regular migration.

European Laissez-passer: On 13 October 2016, the EU has adopted a new European « laissez-passer » defined by the Slovak presidency as one of the key measures that will contribute to an effective return of third country nationals.

Family reunification: the implementation by member states of the EU directive on family reunification is still insufficient although it only concerns a small number of third country nationals every year.



Compte AEDH