European elections 2024: Five priorities for a Europe that shows solidarity with refugees

More than 110 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. While most of these people stay in their own country or flee to neighbouring countries, the small proportion who seek safety in Europe faces illegal pushbacks and other policies explicitly designed to deter them from arriving. These deterrence policies violate their basic rights and expose them to grave risks including death at sea. The current displacement crisis needs a global, collective response: rather than exclusively focusing on deterring migration, the EU should commit to solidarity and responsibility-sharing with countries that host large numbers of refugees. Ahead of the European elections on 6-9 June 2024, we offer five calls to inspire candidates and voters who want a Europe that does its part in the global displacement crisis.

1. Defend the right to seek asylum

Everyone arriving at Europe’s borders has the right to seek asylum and have their claim evaluated fairly. Illegal pushbacks and border violence are not acceptable migration management strategies: states must adhere to EU, European, and international law. The recently adopted EU Pact on Migration and Asylum should be implemented to the highest possible human rights standards to mitigate the expected harmful impacts. Humane, effective, and well-resourced asylum systems allow people who receive protection to swiftly rebuild their lives while also ensuring efficient returns for people without a right to stay. By contrast, policies that prioritise deterrence, detention, containment at borders and returns at any cost are counterproductive and expensive.

2. Expand safe pathways for people seeking refuge

Refugees are forced to undertake irregular journeys that put their lives at risk because there are few regular pathways to seek protection in Europe. The EU must show leadership in offering resettlement and other safe pathways: this is both a humanitarian imperative and a crucial solidarity measure.

3. Invest in inclusion of refugees

States must ensure asylum seekers and refugees have access to rights – including the right to work – from the very beginning, to enable them to rebuild their lives and contribute to their new communities. EU investment in inclusion can help address the challenges people face upon arriving in Europe, including language barriers, challenges accessing the labour market, and social isolation. To promote inclusion, we must work together to combat xenophobia, Islamophobia, antisemitism, and all forms of hatred.

4. Support the countries hosting the most refugees

The vast majority of the world’s refugees live in the Global South, close to the country they are fleeing. The EU should work to address the root causes of displacement, such as conflict, poverty, and climate change, through foreign aid, diplomatic efforts, and rights-focused cooperation with non-EU countries.

5. Strengthen EU humanitarian leadership

Multiplying crises have driven a massive increase in humanitarian needs worldwide in recent years. To alleviate suffering and secure safe and stable futures for people in need, the EU must substantially increase its aid contribution, advocate for humanitarian access and respect for international humanitarian law in the world’s most difficult crises, and play an active role in resolving conflicts.

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