EU migration pact (NGOs)

NGOs criticize EU migration pact, predicting more death and suffering as a result
Various NGOs have reacted with skepticism to the EU’s new migration deal, with some saying it will cost more lives at sea. The UN, however, welcomed it as a step in the right direction.

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    NGOs criticize EU migration pact, predicting more death and suffering as a result

    by Sertan Sanderson

    Various NGOs have reacted with skepticism to the EU’s new migration deal, with some saying it will cost more lives at sea. The UN, however, welcomed it as a step in the right direction.

    Amnesty International led the criticism against the new EU migration deal, saying it will lead to a “surge in suffering.”

    The global organization said the agreement “will set back European asylum law for decades to come.”

    “Its likely outcome is a surge in suffering on every step of a person’s journey to seek asylum in the EU,” Amnesty’s European Institutions Office director, Eve Geddie, said in a statement.

    Amnesty and other NGOs have above all criticized the fact that the deal allows for EU members to enact extraordinary measures during times of increased migrant arrivals.

    These can include anything deemed as ‘force majeure’ — such as a natural disaster — or what the EU refers to as the ‘instrumentalization’ of migrants, i.e. foreign powers trying to weaken the bloc by encouraging or organizing an influx.

    Amnesty says this would mean that member states would be allowed to opt out of a broad range of EU asylum rules and laws, which would be tantamount to “breaching international obligations under refugee and international human rights law.”

    Sea-Watch: ‘A pact designed for more suffering’

    Other critics of the agreement include the private sea rescue charity Sea-Watch, which claims that the deal will result in losing “more lives at sea.”

    In a statement issued by the NGO alongside 12 other charities, the group said the agreement was a “historic failure and a bow to the right-wing parties of Europe.”

    “Not one single life will be saved by today’s decision,” the charities’ statement further read, highlighting that the EU deal would “undermine a common, humane response to people in need of protection, place people at risk of severe human rights violations, and risk normalizing disproportionate emergency measures at European borders, setting a dangerous precedent for the right to asylum globally.”

    In stark contrast to the charities’ appeal, however, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola meanwhile hailed the “landmark agreement” as a blueprint for the EU to lead the way globally in migration matters.

    A dozen NGOs sounding alarm

    The statement by Sea-Watch — which also was signed by Alarm Phone, Sea-Eye and SOS Humanity among other migrant NGOs — referred to the document as a “a turning point and one of the most blatant displays of disrespect to human rights and the suffering along European borders”.

    It also said the bloc had “missed the chance to agree on core mechanisms to put an end to the dying at sea.”

    Those four charities are among several private organizations dedicated to rescuing migrants who try to reach Europe on small boats across the Mediterranean Sea.

    This year alone, more than 2,200 have died on the central Mediterranean route, according to UN numbers.

    No mercy for children?

    Doctors Without Borders (MSF) meanwhile issued a separate statement.

    “Today is a catastrophic day for people fleeing war and violence,” MSF international president Christos Christou is quoted to have said. “With its asylum reform, the European Union is focusing on detention camps, fences and deportations to unsafe third countries. This is a compromise at the expense of human rights.”

    Other critical voices against the pact include Save the Children, which in a statement touched on how the deal may impact underage migrants, saying it will “lead to blatant violations of children’s rights, will endanger children on the move, and will lead to further separation of migrant families.”

    Another British charity, Oxfam, also examined the impact the agreement might have on children, saying that it would lead to “more detention, including of children and families in prison-like centers” and that the EU had “missed the opportunity to finally agree on better responsibility-sharing and solidarity rules.”

    Most EU members welcome deal

    Beyond the issue of clamping down on irregular entries, the EU deal also includes a series of provisions to speed up the deportation of failed asylum seekers, which the NGOs also criticized, saying this would “restrict access to protection in Europe by introducing fast-track asylum procedures at the border to speed up returns.”

    “All of this will force more people to try to flee by sea, and choose ever more dangerous routes. Again and again, more lives will be lost,” the statement concluded.

    Amnesty meanwhile stressed that the deal would not change much about the status quo across Europe.

    “Without renewed commitment to enforcing EU law and ensuring accountability for pushbacks and other violations, the Pact will do nothing to improve protections for asylum seekers in Europe – or improve Europe’s common response to migration,” it said.

    Meanwhile, many European countries — with the notable exception of Hungary — welcomed the agreement.

    Italy and Greece — both southern EU states having to bear the brunt of irregular arrivals — said the deal would ease their situation. Germany, where the highest number of migrants and refugees within the EU reside, echoed similar sentiments.

    However, Hungary said that the deal infringed on its sovereignty; Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said his country rejected “this migration pact in the strongest possible terms,” adding that Hungary would let “no one from Brussels or anywhere else … tell us who we can let in.”

    The agreement will still take a few months before being signed into law — during which time NGOs like Amnesty and Sea-Watch are hoping to get a chance to weigh in.

    Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called the agreement “a very positive step”, saying that the UNHCR stood “ready to advise and support.”


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