A letter sent to the European Commission from 15 EU states, which includes calls for more third country migration deals is “dangerous, divisive and deeply inconsistent”, says the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

The joint letter - spearheaded by Denmark - urges the European Commission to strike more migration deals with non-EU countries similar to the recent Italy-Albania deal, to expand the number of countries considered safe for returns, and to specifically crack down on smuggling as a means to prevent people on the move from reaching Europe.

However, there is clear and mounting evidence that such policies, which are designed to deter people from attempting to reach EU territory to seek asylum, consistently fail to deliver their intended effects. Rather than providing constructive solutions, these measures force people towards ever greater dangers, create unnecessary suffering, and generate more disorder at Europe’s borders. 

The IRC is warning that it would be a mistake for the EU to embark on yet more costly, inhumane and ineffective policies that attempt to deter people from seeking safety. It is instead calling on EU states to:

  1. Share greater responsibility with the countries hosting the vast majority of the world’s refugees
  2. Expand safe routes so that people do not have to embark on dangerous journeys in search of safety
  3. Invest indignified and community-based reception, rather than detention 
  4. Uphold the right to seek asylum 
  5. Implement independent border monitoring mechanisms to prevent human rights violations at Europe’s borders
  6. Allow asylum seekers to work so they can build self-reliance and contribute to their host communities

Marta Welander, IRC’s EU Advocacy Director, says: 

“This letter is surprising given that the EU Pact, which was agreed on by member states, was only adopted this week. Moreover, the logic behind its arguments is damaging, divisive and deeply inconsistent. It calls for a ‘fair, humane, sustainable and efficient’ asylum system, but this will remain unachievable so long as states remain intent on preventing people arriving at its borders at all costs. The EU’s migration deals with countries like Turkey and Tunisia are costly, cruel and counterproductive, and simply push people onto more dangerous routes. This could be avoided if people had access to safe alternatives. However, of the 15 states to sign this letter, only one - the Netherlands - has pledged to increase refugee resettlement in the coming two years. This logic simply doesn’t add up.

A genuinely workable EU asylum and migration policy is possible, but it looks very different to the vision laid out in this letter. This  would include more safe routes and responsibility sharing, and significantly less detention, cruelty, and barriers to inclusion. Ahead of the EU elections, we’re calling on the European Commission to stand firm against these dangerous and divisive calls, and heed our recommendations to create an EU asylum system that works for people on the move and EU citizens alike.”