12 February 2016

The Red Cross EU office has recently published a study, Europe in Crisis: facilitating access to protection, (discarding) offshore processing and mapping alternatives to the way forward.

The author of the report, Dr Moreno-Lax finds that there is an ‘access crisis’ where asylum seekers are unable to access the standards of protection set out in the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). This is due to a number of EU policies seeking to ‘stem’ flows through further cooperation with Balkan countries, Africa and Turkey, with a focus on border control, return and readmission rather than facilitating safe and legal entry to the EU for those in need of protection. Attempts to alleviate pressure on Italy and Greece through the ‘hotspot approach’ have been catastrophic and procedures fail to meet applicable human rights and refugee law standards.

She examines recent proposals for offshore processing of asylum seekers, but finds that these are underdeveloped, with insufficient detail or analysis of their legal or practical feasibility, emphasising that any such initiatives must comply with EU human rights law. Looking in closer detail at the EU-Turkey humanitarian admission scheme she concludes that it will not present a “genuinely safe and viable alternative to dangerous irregular journeys”.

The study finds that it is impossible for such proposals to meet legal requirements and overcome practical challenges, so they should be abandoned. Instead, existing tools should be pursued further, such as family reunification, student and research visas, labour mobility schemes for highly skilled workers, resettlement, and private sponsorship schemes. More innovative solutions such as the abolition or temporary suspension of visa requirements for refugee producing countries, or the use of ‘asylum visas’, should also be considered. These alternatives would meet the human rights obligations of EU Member States and enable individuals to access protection in a manner that respects their fundamental rights.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 12 February 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.