As an organisation advocating for refugee rights in Europe, it is of course crucially important to work consistently at the European Union level, pushing for meaningful change.
As 2019 comes to a close, here’s a look at the EU advocacy work we believe can help make a difference:
Engaging European parliamentarians
- When the new European Parliament took its place in Brussels in July, we started our back-door diplomacy work to try to ensure refugee rights were present on the policy agenda. Our Senior Advocacy and Police Officer, Stephanie Pope, therefore reached out to arrange a series of private meetings with newly elected MEPs in Brussels, encouraging them to take action for refugees’ human rights in Europe.
- In October, we organised a large meeting in the European Parliament, with more than 10 MEPs joining us to discuss reforms of the European asylum system. Among our ranks, we were delighted to welcome the chair of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee, as well as many civil society partners. A big thank you to ECRE, Equal Rights Beyond Borders, MSF, Anafe and Euphemia Infopoint for their insights and expertise during our panel discussion.
- In December, we co-hosted an expert roundtable meeting alongside Jackie Jones MEP and Claude Moraes MEP on supporting women and girls in northern France. It helped to shed light on the needs of a severely overlooked displaced group, and call for much-needed action across sectors. Read more about the meeting here.
Organising field visits for MEPs
Once you experience the conditions that refugees and displaced people are facing across Europe, you cannot ignore them. That is why we are taking MEPs on field visits across Europe, helping to shape their own influence over Europe’s migration and asylum policies.
We have organised three field visits so far:
- Magid Magid MEP came with us to the French-Italian border and the police station of Menton Pont Saint Louis. The overall goal? To witness first-hand the French border pushbacks, discriminatory arrests and arbitrary deprivation of liberty in inhumane conditions in containers behind the police station. Magid met with the director of the station but was disappointingly denied access to the containers. You can read more about his impressions in his Open Letter to President Macron.
- Damien Carême, the Greens’ Shadow Rapporteur on Reception Conditions, came with us to the EU Hotspot on the Greek island of Samos where we witnessed the failure of the EU Commission’s so-called Hotspot approach to provide adequate conditions to people staying on the island due to the implementation of the notorious EU-Turkey Deal.
- Administrative issues and the European Asylum Support Office’s involvement in the ‘border procedure’ have caused severe delays in the asylum process. The EU Commission and the Greek government should urgently lift the containment policy trapping thousands in inhuman conditions and delaying their access to asylum.
- Another MEP joined us to the EU Hotspot on Lesvos to examine the state of asylum procedures and reception conditions caused by the containment policy there. Once again, it confirmed that the situation in Lesvos is inhumane and untenable but avoidable – that is only if we put an immediate end to the containment policy.
This visit led the MEP to mobilise more than 100 MEPs to co-sign a joint letter to the EU Council of Ministers describing the human rights violations and complete lack of basic protection and services he had witnessed. The letter calls on Europe’s leaders to immediately improve the living conditions and relocate asylum seekers to other member states.
‘Back-door’ diplomacy with the Commission
Our advocacy work at the European Commission level has also kept us busy, having met with the unit in charge of the hotspots, raising concerns about the current situation and procedures. We have also met with the asylum unit, drawing their attention to France’s shortcomings in its implementation of the asylum acquis in northern France and Paris.
This back-door diplomacy work will continue over the coming months and into 2020 as we build on our EU advocacy strategy in defence of refugees’ human rights in Europe.