In light of the European Council meetings on 28-29 June, a large group of NGOs released a statement asking EU leaders to reject the dangerous European Commission Framework Partnership proposal which aims to use aid, trade and other funds as leverage to encourage countries to reduce the number of migrants reaching EU shores. Unfortunately EU leaders decided to adopt the Framework Partnership proposal despite the call from ECRE, Amnesty International, Save the Children, Oxfam and 120 other human rights, humanitarian, medical, migration and development organisations.

The NGOs called on European leaders to exclude any conditionality based on migration control indicators in the allocation of development aid to third countries. “Development aid is a tool to fight poverty and inequality, not to manage migration. Vulnerable populations should not be punished because of concerns that are largely political,” the statement reads.

The adopted proposal contains no safeguards to ensure that human rights, rule of law standards and protection mechanisms when the EU strikes deals with governments it deems useful for stopping migration to Europe. These governments include countries with a poor human rights record, such as Sudan and Eritrea, countries where a large share of refugees flee from. ECRE’s Aspasia Papadopoulou warned that this EU pressure could result in those countries increasing the use of detention or border enforcement. “Partner countries will be well aware that they have their own leverage in the form of would-be migrants and asylum seekers hoping to reach Europe. They’ll negotiate hard to get what they want out it,” Papadopoulou states.

The European Council justifies its adoption by stating that ‘In the Central Mediterranean, flows of migrants – most of whom are not in need of international protection – remain at the same level as last year and have to be reduced, thus saving lives and breaking the business model of smugglers’, thereby neglecting the real risk of preventing refugees’ access to asylum and avoiding its responsibility. By ignoring the call of the NGOs the European Council also ignores all the evidence that deterrence strategies aimed at stopping migration are ineffective. The EU’s current approach will not only fail to ‘break the business-model’ of smugglers but will increase human suffering as people will be forced into taking more dangerous routes to reach Europe.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 1 July 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.