24 January 2014

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has highlighted several concerns regarding the EU’s migration and asylum policies in its 2014 annual report, published this week which reviews key human rights issues in over 90 countries. HRW criticised the EU for its failure to offer real solutions to end the deaths of migrants at sea, to adopt a common approach to the Syria refugee crisis and tackle the use of detention of asylum seekers.

Following the Lampedusa tragedy in October where 360 migrants died, HRW regretted that the policy responses concentrated on surveillance and deterrence with few new measures to help prevent loss of life by prompt rescue, to assess or provide for protection needs, or to ensure swift and safe disembarkation.

HRW further criticised the failure of Member States to adopt a common approach to the refugee flows from the Syrian war. The report stresses that Sweden said it would grant permanent residence to Syrians whereas Greece tried to return them to Turkey referring to reports of push backs and ill-treatment of Syrian asylum seekers at the Greek-Turkish border.

The report further notes that the recast Reception Conditions Directive and Asylum Procedures Directive includes certain improvements, but regrets that the package provides broad grounds for detention of asylum seekers, does not obligate Member States to provide free legal assistance at first instance and does not exclude vulnerable asylum seekers, namely torture survivors and unaccompanied children, from accelerated procedures.

Discrimination, racism and homophobia also continue to raise serious concerns and even though EU leaders in 2013 have acknowledged this fact, they have failed to take concerted action, emphasises the report. Roma in certain Member States, namely in Croatia, France, Hungary and Romania, have particularly faced discrimination and harassment and often have difficulties in accessing basic services, such as health care, social assistance and education.

“Ordinary people, from the homeless in Hungary, to black and Arab teenagers constantly stopped by the police in France, to Syrian asylum seekers in Greece, are paying the price for the lack of robust rights enforcement”, stresses Judith Sunderland from HRW.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 24 January 2014
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