Brussels – In May 2015 the European Commission presented the European Agenda on Migration, meant to address the challenges of the increasing number of migrant and refugee arrivals in Europe. Three years later arrivals have decreased, and policymakers claim their plan worked.
“The reality, however, is that people are still dying trying to reach Europe,” says Claudia Bonamini, JRS Europe’s policy and advocacy officer “and, as the incident of the Aquarius shows, the welcome for those who make it becomes colder every day.” In its latest report, “Forgotten at the gates of Europe” JRS Europe asks for a fundamental policy change towards a Common European Asylum System that lives up to its name.
Forgotten at the gates of Europe
In “Forgotten at the gates of Europe,” JRS Europe documents how migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees experience Europe’s borders. Throughout 2017, we interviewed people in Croatia, Greece, Italy, Malta, Romania, and the Spanish enclave of Melilla – locations that represent many peoples’ first points of contact with European Union (EU) territory.
Pushed-back, mislead, and misdirected
The report finds that violent push-backs still happen at several EU external borders, such as Croatia and Serbia, as well as in Melilla. Even once in EU territory, people often face enormous difficulty following asylum procedures because they have not received sufficient information, or because the authorities of EU Member States purposefully misdirect them.
In Croatia, people were told to sign forms in languages they could not understand. They thought they had applied for asylum, but instead they were pushed-back to Serbia. In Romania, people who arrived from the Black Sea described being immediately detained without being told how they could apply for asylum. People in Greece, Italy, and Malta told JRS how they were unable to navigate asylum and immigration procedure because they were not told how, or things were in a language they did not understand.
Dublin system: obstacle to protection
JRS also found that the Dublin Regulation is a main obstacle to protection in Europe. This is because some people refrain from applying for asylum, not because they do not need protection, but because they know about the Dublin Regulation. They understand that if they applied for asylum, they would have to stay in the Member State where they first entered the EU. Therefore, some people avoid applying because of overcrowded and inhumane reception conditions, inaccessible asylum procedure in the country, or because they have family elsewhere.
Need for a Common European Asylum System that lives up to its name
JRS asks for a fundamental policy shift at EU level. The EU must primarily create safe and legal pathways for people seeking protection. Furthermore, in the discussions around the current reform of the Common European Asylum System, Member States must work towards guaranteeing dignified reception conditions and swift and fair asylum procedures everywhere in the EU. The Dublin Regulation must be reformed to ensure asylum seeker’s preferences are taken into consideration when deciding which Member State is responsible for their application.