migration deal Matthew Scott

These are the Potential Human Rights Implications of Last Night’s EU Deal on Migration

EU Summit Leaders reached a migration deal last night in Brussels. However many of the details are murky. Matthew Scott, head of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute’s People on the Move team, provides a quick take on the potential consequences of the deal.

“Amongst the conclusions of last night’s European Council meeting was the decision to establish ‘controlled centres’ on the territory of EU member states ‘where rapid and secure processing would allow, with full EU support, to distinguish between irregular migrants, who will be returned, and those in need of international protection, for whom the principle of solidarity would apply.’

Even though details are lacking, the decision to establish such centres represents a desperate attempt by European leaders to appease populist political agendas that are in the ascendancy in many parts of the EU.

“Even as the number of people seeking international protection in Europe continues to fall from its recent peak in 2015, the language of crisis persists, and the framing of migrants and refugees as ‘illegal immigrants’ representing a security threat is normalised by repetition.

“Creation of ‘controlled centres’ reflects the acutely felt political need to demonstrate an ability to manage the movement of people into and within the EU.

“Such a response, together with the other initiatives endorsed in last night’s conclusions, promises to face similar challenges as those faced by the Australian government when it operated a system of automatic detention of people seeking asylum in that country.

“First, it risks falling foul of Europe’s obligations under its own Charter of Fundamental Rights, which prohibits arbitrary detention. Although short periods of detention may be permissible in order to, for example, establish identity, the uniform detention of all individuals rescued at sea seeking international protection is unlikely to comply with requirements of necessity and proportionality as required under the Charter.

“Second, an attempt to rapidly assess a person’s claim to be recognised as a refugee risks exposing individuals to an unsafe procedure where the consequences of a hasty decision can entail death, imprisonment, torture, sexual violence and other human rights violations when a person is forcibly returned to a country from which she has fled.

The enforcement of such decisions would amount to a direct violation of human rights.

“Third, the myth of fast track processing ignores the inherent difficulty in actually effecting returns. People can spend years waiting for travel documents from countries that at times have poor records or limited interest in cooperation with immigration enforcement authorities.

“Europe is certainly in the midst of a crisis, but the crisis is characterised by xenophobia, abysmally low levels of solidarity between Member States, and a lack of political courage to recognise the fact that people facing persecution, as well as people seeking a decent existence for themselves and their children, will continue to seek entry to the European Union no matter the deterrence methods employed. Or die trying.”

In addition, Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen, RWI’s Director of Research, was interviewed numerous times over the past days concerning the migration deal. The interviews are in Danish or Norwegian.


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