This week ReSOMA, the Research Social Platform on Migration and Asylum has released a Discussion Brief entitled “Crackdown on NGOs assisting refugees and other migrants”, outlining how “the political and operational priority to tackle migrant smuggling” has impacted civil society actors that try to assist refugees and migrants.

NGOs, Search and Rescue operations, and volunteers have often been on the frontline of what has been called the ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe, providing food, shelter and legal advice and monitoring human rights situations faced by refugees and migrants on the ground. But research indicates that attempts to balance legitimate political objectives of countering and preventing organised criminal groups from smuggling migrants for profit, with the right of association and humanitarian assistance, are also provide an obstacle for the functioning of civil society actors.

The Brief discusses in further detail the criminalisation of NGOs and its facilitation by EU law, the harassment and policing of NGOs beyond formal criminalisation, the role of EU funding in this regard, and the potential impacts of the policies that have been adopted.

In a report released this month the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), present the result of an online consultation with its civil society network which looks at the challenges faced by civil society organisations (CSOs) in their day- to- day work, ranging from changes in the legal environment, challenges in finding and accessing resources, to obstacles in accessing policymaking, and threats and attacks. FRA concluded that the results of the consultation “confirm earlier messages and point to the need to provide civil society with the resources and the ‘safe space’ that it needs to flourish and operate”.

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.