Our 2020 resolution? Ramping up refugee rights advocacy

At Refugee Rights Europe, we believe that the European Union, its member states and the UK are perfectly capable of ensuring a response to asylum and migration that upholds the human rights of every person seeking protection in Europe. 

We know it is possible to safeguard the human rights of displaced people while preventing the human, material and financial waste that happens when asylum is mishandled. 

In 2020, our resolution is to continue calling for change. 

Working with partners across Europe, our advocacy efforts will focus on two goals: 

  • Ensuring humane living conditions in transit points 
  • Stopping the obstruction of asylum procedures 

Ensuring humane living conditions in transit points 

In too many places across Europe, displaced people are living in inhumane conditions at the border or transit points. We are seeing this in the Greek Islands, northern France, major cities like Paris and Brussels, and French-Italian border towns. 

This year, we will advocate for more resources to ensure living conditions are humane and follow international human rights law, regardless of someone’s legal status. We will oppose proposals for closed, detention-like processing and reception centres. 

When individuals have already filed an asylum claim, we will press for compliance with states’ obligations under the EU Reception Conditions Directive – far from universally upheld. 

In places, like the Greek islands, where geographical constraints have contributed to poor living conditions, we will call for an end to the root causes behind such containment policies.

Photo Credit Mohamad Alhussein Saoud

Stopping the obstruction of asylum procedures 

In 2020, we will continue to campaign against the obstruction of access to asylum procedures. This means putting an end to at least three things: 

An end to the externalization of asylum to non-European countries and the hampering of search and rescue operations, which have gained traction in the deadlock around the Dublin IV and CEAS reform negotiations. 

Lacking any basis in human rights or refugee law, concepts of ‘Regional Disembarkation Platforms’ and ‘Controlled Centres’ risk weakening and offshoring European protection obligations. We will continue to act as a strong voice at EU and UN levels and denounce this practice which does not uphold human rights, in law or in practice.

An end to summary push-backs and detention at internal borders, which prevent vulnerable individuals’ access to asylum in Europe. We will work with partners at the Greek-Turkish border, France’s borders with Italy and Spain, the UK’s border with France, and Croatia’s borders with Serbia and Slovenia, to end these practices. 

An end to the denial of safe and legal routes to asylum in some countries. In 2019, we showed that the situation in northern France is partly rooted in the UK’s border arrangements with France and Belgium, which make almost no safe and legal asylum route in Britain available. 

In 2020, we are launching a new campaign pressing for asylum applications to be accepted at the British border, or for humanitarian visas to be issued. It will increase the chances of a timely resolution for many individuals. It will also reduce the number of life-threatening, unauthorized border crossings undertaken from France or Belgium into the UK. 

Stronger together

The context we find ourselves in is increasingly difficult. Civil society space to defend refugees and migrants in Europe is narrowing. Solidarity is more and more criminalised. Far-right populist movements have made huge strides. Now is the time to ramp up our efforts. 

In 2020, we will continue to influence European policy by unequivocally referring to universally accepted human rights, international law and the EU’s commitments to fundamental rights. Human rights have always been at the core of our work and we will continue to call for a rights-based approach to migration and asylum in Europe.

Collaborating with grassroots groups has been key to our work from the beginning. This year, we will deepen this approach and continue to work across the sector, pooling resources and expertise with partners. We’ll bring human rights allies together and add capacity to those who rarely get to engage with policy institutions. 

In the end, our 2020 resolution is the same as last year, and the year before: relentlessly defend the human rights of refugees and displaced people in Europe. 

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