EU Adopts Migration Pact Curbing the Right to Asylum

The EU Pact on Asylum and Migration adopted today curbs the rights of people seeking safety and risks exacerbating the humanitarian crisis at Europe’s borders. HIAS Europe urges member states to leverage the two-year period for implementing the new laws to limit the damage by preventing rights abuses and properly resourcing asylum and reception systems.   

The new laws reduce access to protection by speeding up asylum procedures at the expense of the individual right to asylum. People in need of safety face a greater risk of being returned to harm, and are likely to face de facto detention at European borders. As the political ambition is to reduce asylum-seeker numbers in Europe, the Pact is also expected to result in more burden shifting to non-European countries and more violent and illegal pushbacks.

With the reform now a reality, HIAS Europe calls on member states to implement the new rules in ways that uphold the fundamental rights of people on the move and bolster Europe’s capacity for welcome. Human rights standards — in international, European and national law — will delimit how rights-restricting measures such as detention can be used, and legal challenges are likely to result. Rather than focus narrowly on the security-oriented elements of the Pact, member states must ensure the protection-sensitive aspects — such as fundamental rights monitoring or minimum standards for reception and detention conditions — are fully operationalised.  

As many key procedural safeguards have been removed, states must make additional efforts to guarantee that people in vulnerable situations enjoy a fair procedure, access to effective remedies and legal aid, and other support tailored to their needs. Rights monitoring, where foreseen, must be independent, broad in scope, and well-resourced. Backstops against the forcible return of asylum seekers will be vital, given that accelerated decision-making, the removal of procedural safeguards, and safe country rules all increase the risk that people will be returned to danger.  

The EU funds announced for implementation should be deployed to promote efficient and fair asylum processing and adequate reception conditions. The two-year implementation period is an opportunity for member states to invest in resourcing and upgrading their systems: they will need to do so if they are to operationalise the full range of new standards. To prevent humanitarian catastrophes at borders, member states must improve their reception capacity and ensuring emergency preparedness. Support for inclusion is also a key long-term consideration: the EU’s welcome of millions of people fleeing Ukraine provides good practice in this regard (for instance, the direct provision of funding to local authorities and civil society).  

The Pact’s focus on deterrence, detention and deportation deals a blow to the right to seek asylum in Europe. To protect people in vulnerable situations and prevent humanitarian crises at borders, EU leaders must now commit to protection-sensitive implementation of the new laws, backed by adequate financing and EU enforcement action when member states systematically violate common standards.  

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