This week (8-9 December) EU interior ministers will meet for the final Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council of the year. As discussions over Europe’s asylum and migration policies continue, this will be a crucial moment to reflect on developments in 2022, learn lessons and plan for the coming year. 

Niamh Nic Carthaigh, Director of EU Policy and Advocacy for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) says:

“This meeting is the last chance for EU interior ministers to take stock of the outcomes of their asylum and migration policies this year. It will be forever remembered as a year where Europe stepped up to show political leadership and solidarity by welcoming millions of people fleeing the horror of bombs and deprivation of war in Ukraine. Yet 2022 is also littered with shocking examples of EU failures to uphold moral and legal obligations towards many thousands of others who are also seeking safety and protection. 

“This includes the almost 2,000 people who died or went missing in the Mediterranean since January alone; more than 20,000 people intercepted at sea by the EU-supported Libyan Coast Guard, many of whom remain detained in Libya in conditions the United Nations has claimed may amount to “crimes against humanity”; as well as those subjected to mounting reports of violent and illegal pushbacks at EU borders.

“It’s clear that the current approach does not work - not for EU states, and certainly not for people seeking protection. Yet, European leaders remain largely stuck in the same old ways of thinking - churning out new proposals that keep the EU trapped in a permanent state of ‘crisis’ rather than moving the bloc towards humane, sustainable, long-term solutions or adherence to its existing legal obligations.

“The ‘action plan’ on the Central Mediterranean launched last week is disproportionately focused on deterring people from reaching Europe, rather than protecting them along their journeys. Meanwhile, the proposed ‘instrumentalisation regulation’ would allow EU states to flout their legal obligations at will, risking a race to the bottom and making it even harder for people to apply for protection in Europe or receive support on arrival. Any proposals to undermine or dismantle asylum and reception obligations must be firmly rejected at this week’s JHA Council.

“More of the same is clearly  going to lead to more deaths, more suffering, and increasing political polarisation. With a new year ahead, EU leaders must start afresh - working in solidarity and putting human rights and accountability at the heart of negotiations on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, and any partnerships with non-EU countries. If they fail to do so, thousands more people will perish in search of safety in 2023 and beyond.”

The IRC is calling on the EU and its member states to:

  1. Establish partnerships with third countries that are centred on protecting people along their routes. All EU support on migration and policies and practices with third countries - including Libya - must be conditional on upholding the human rights of people on the move.
  2. Restart an effective, efficient and coordinated EU-led search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea, and cooperate with NGOs conducting life-saving operations.
  3. Meet pledges on voluntary relocation in a prompt and transparent way, and work towards a mandatory, permanent and predictable solidarity mechanism between EU states that is centred on relocating people from their country of first arrival. 
  4. Guarantee commitment to refugee protection, including an end to pushbacks and accountability for rights violations, in addition to rapid access to protection and firmly upholding the right to asylum, including in all negotiations and without exception, regardless of where people come from and how they reach EU territory. 
  5. Scale up investment into urgent reception needs and ensure sufficient and dignified accommodation is available to all those who need it. 
  6. Expand safe, regular pathways to safety for people, including ambitious resettlement goals in line with global needs. As a first and urgent step, it would be well within the EU’s capacity to resettle at least 40,000 refugees in 2023, while implementing existing commitments.