12 June 2015

In a recent report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, stated that the EU’s approach to border control is not sustainable. The report stressed that sealing European borders is impossible, regardless of the huge resources invested by the EU into “ineffective and paradoxical border control mechanisms”. The UN Special Rapporteur argues that the increasing number of people that have resorted to using smugglers to cross the Mediterranean, the human rights abuses occurring at different stages of this dangerous route, and the numerous deaths at sea, have clearly shown that people are willing to take numerous risks in order to escape war, persecution and extreme poverty.

The Special Rapporteur also emphasised that the EU should take stock of the systemic failures of the Dublin system, and should drastically revise it by allowing asylum seekers to apply for asylum in the country of their choice. At the same time, adequate financial and technical support should be provided to countries receiving asylum claims, and that the harmonisation of asylum policies and conditions should be implemented across EU Member States.

Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur noted that immigration detention in some EU Member State is not in line with international human rights standards, as its definition, and implementation, in domestic laws is neither necessary, nor proportioned, nor assessed on a case-by-case basis. Member States should increasingly resort to alternatives to detention and avoid detention of children in all circumstances. The Special Rapporteur further highlighted that the criminalisation of undocumented migrants, and their labelling as ‘illegals’, has played a role in the general public’s negative perception of migrants and has ‘legitimised’ policies that are not in compliance with human rights standards.

To reverse the current situation, the Special Rapporteur stressed that a coherent and human rights-based approach should be adopted in migration and asylum policies. In his view, it is of paramount importance that the EU increases its efforts in search and rescue at sea, provides legal channels to access Europe to people in need of international protection, and to migrant workers of all skill levels as well as offering more resettlement places to refugees.

Tackling xenophobia, racism and discrimination, by using research-based data demonstrating that migrants are neither a ‘burden’ nor “job stealers” but rather a resource for the host countries, is also essential to improve the current political debate and social perception of migrants. The report argues that these measures would allow the EU to move away from a focus on securing its external borders towards welcoming migration mobility, which in the long term would help the EU to cope with its economic and demographic challenges.


This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 12 June 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.