11 March 2016

ECRE is extremely alarmed by the proliferation of restrictive national and EU-wide measures aimed at containing asylum seekers and refugees in Greece and countries neighbouring the EU, such as Turkey. ECRE fears that the current “crisis” situation is being used as a pretext to push through a range of measures which undermine the right to asylum and the fundamental principle of non-refoulement. Ahead of the European Council meeting on 17-18 March, ECRE published today a Memorandum making recommendations on how to respond to refugee challenges facing Europe in a legal and ethical manner, while raising serious concerns about the EU-Turkey deal in particular.

ECRE believes that the EU is capable of offering protection to those in need and that the European Council should show political and moral leadership to agree on a collective, ethical response. It calls on the European Council to:

  • Establish large scale resettlement programmes for refugees fleeing Syria who are now in neighbouring countries, and commit to half of the 10% global resettlement target for Syrians set by UNHCR
  • Commit to use or develop other legal pathways for refugees such as humanitarian admission programmes, private sponsorships, humanitarian visas and flexible and refugee friendly family reunification procedures.
  • Urgently assist Greece to respond to the humanitarian emergency unfolding in the country with concrete solidarity, by stepping up efforts to increase reception capacity and revising the relocation scheme to ensure that it is meaningful.
  • Refrain from resuming Dublin transfers to Greece which would be premature, result in human rights violations and undermine ongoing solidarity efforts.
  • Confirm their commitment to saving lives at sea by maintaining adequate search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean in light of continuing deaths
  • Strengthen the fundamental rights safeguards in the proposed European Border and Coast Guard Regulation by reinforcing the individual complaints mechanism and the role of the Fundamental Rights Officer and including systematic fundamental rights compliance in vulnerability assessment of external borders.
  • Acknowledge the structural flaws of the Dublin system for allocating responsibility for examining asylum applications and support its complete overhaul replacing it with a system that is preference based, rooted in respect for fundamental rights and based on incentives rather than coercion.
  • Implement a ‘Marshall Plan’ for the Common European Asylum System to improve the ability of EASO and the Commission to monitor and enforce compliance with the EU asylum acquis and to urgently provide significant financial investment into national asylum procedures and reception systems.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 11 March 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.