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EU Must Reinstate Human Rights in its Foreign Policy Now!

Today the European Council is meeting in Brussels. While the violence against civilians reached what the UN  called a “meltdown of humanity” in Syrian Aleppo, the EU must more than even reconsider migration policies, such as the EU-Turkey deal and other migration compacts, including anti-refugee military cooperation with countries like Libya and Sudan.

We demand the European Council to reinstall basic humanitarian principles and human rights as the guiding principles of their actions, in particular when it comes to the most vulnerable groups like refugees. EU member states mention the closure of the Balkan route as a model and success. How much of a success is it to have people stuck in an ever more autocratic Turkey? How can it be that Turkey is apparently bad enough for the accession talks to be halted, but still good enough for refugees despite its war against Kurds in the South-East? It cannot be a success when the EU-trained Libyan coast guard pushes refugees back into Libya, where leading human rights organisations describe how they are subject to arbitrary detention, beatings, torture, killings, abuse and rape. How much of a success is it when the council reinforces the implementation of the Valletta Action Plan — plan that was negotiated among others with Sudan, and includes EU training for the Sudanese military, when Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir could not even take part in the negotiations because he is wanted by the International Court of Justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity. These are neither successes, nor solutions, but cheap and reckless political games that endanger the lives of millions of refugees around the world in blatant violations of international law that all European countries have subscribed to.

FYEG wants every state in the European Union to assume its fair share of the responsibility for refugees, but plan-less deportations of refugees to countries that are institutionally not ready to grant the support refugees are legally entitled to, are again not a solution. Instead this behaviour jeopardises integration into local communities, as well as the psychological well-being of constantly uprooted humans on the move.

Europe is at grave risk not because of refugees, but because it is betraying the very principles of its foundation. The EU was founded on a solid commitment to human rights and international solidarity, it is high time that the council puts its actions back on these grounds to prevent further damage to the EU’s internal coherence and external reputation. As an international integration project the EU cannot be saved through catering for those who want to break it, but only through a strong commitment to our founding principles and inclusive societies, starting with refugees. This is not a plea to turn Europe into a utopia, this is a demand to respect basic international law. Precisely that means:

  • “Migration” compacts need to be transformed in a way that punishes countries for forcing people to leave, not because of the refugees, but because of the underlying human rights abuses and wars that usually make people flee. Human rights abuses need to be sanctioned regardless of whether people endure them in their countries or decide to leave.
  • We want funds for development assistance to be used to push for democratic reforms and investments in reaching the sustainable development goals, rather than being abused for an anti-refugee arms race. Deals with dictators like Sudan’s and failed states like Libya need to be stopped immediately as they promote and reward horrific human rights abuses. The same applies to other deals, such as Europe’s deal with Afghanistan that just this week saw planes full of refugees be deported to Afghanistan where they face a highly uncertain future or death.
  • Europe was once a prime example for regional integration and proved to be such a successful model to sustain peace over long periods of time that other regions, especially in Africa, used us as an example. Rather than forcing African countries to fortify and close their borders, we want to see encouragements for regional integration.
  • Search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean need to resume doing exactly this: search and rescue, not spot and push back. It is utterly unacceptable that despite a drastically upgraded EU and NATO presence in the Mediterranean the number of drowned refugees increased dramatically. These numbers do not even include those dying in the Sahara or being killed in Libya and elsewhere. It is not only smugglers that risk the lives of thousands, it is primarily the process that will be referred to at the council meeting as “Strengthening the EU’s External Borders”.
  • We want the EU to call on each of its member states to respect international law. This includes in particular Article 12(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights granting each person the right to leave any country including their own, as well as the 1951 Refugee Convention that forbids repatriations into countries where imminent danger threatens the well-being of the deportees. Both treaties have been signed and ratified by all EU member states.

We want this meeting to be the starting point for a thorough reorientation of Europe’s external and migration policies, that firmly reinstate human rights and international law as the basis of all of the EU’s actions. There is a lot at stake. It’s time to act.