Saving Migrant Lives Is Imperative But What Next? UN Human Rights Expert Ask EU Leaders

UN independent human rights experts on migrants, Francois Crépeau, and on trafficking in persons, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, react to the announcement made at the end of the emergency European Union summit on migrants yesterday.

Geneva – “The decision made yesterday by EU leaders overwhelmingly continues to focus on the securitization of borders. Increasing repression of survival migration has not worked in the past and will not work now.

Destroying boats is only a very short-sighted solution to combating smuggling. Smugglers continue to skillfully adapt, as long as there is a market to exploit.

The decision to strengthen the capacity of transit countries to stop irregular migration on their territory, without offering long-term solutions and without adequate human rights guarantees, will only compound the abuse of migrants.

Such measures will likely only result in an increase in financial and human costs for migrants needing to make the journey, and thus result in more exploitation of the victims themselves. Europe will continue to find it difficult to defeat smuggling rings unless it destroys their business model, which was created when barriers and prohibitions to mobility were erected, and which thrives by evading the restrictive migration policies of EU Member States.

The tripling of Triton’s budget in order for it to save lives is a step in the right direction, although this budget might prove insufficient in responding to the increasing numbers of migrants and asylum seekers arriving by boat.

The question remains: what happens once those lives are rightfully saved? What will be done about the lack of proper individual assessments of one’s protection needs, about the inadequate reception facilities and poor conditions for those rescued, about the lack of an agreed refugee resettlement policy, and about the forced returns of irregular migrants, which could also include potential victims of trafficking.

The EU needs to move beyond emergency mode and to pilot projects towards more comprehensive and innovative regulated mobility avenues, including a massive resettlement policy over the coming five to six years to welcome all those in need of international protection and offer durable solutions for themselves and their children. Instead of prohibition measures which feed the smuggling market, the EU must develop more harm-reduction policies, taking as a central concern the human rights of migrants, and create innovative regulated mobility options that will incentivize migrants to avoid having recourse to smugglers.

The decision made at the EU summit acknowledges the push factors that contribute to the arrival of irregular migrants by sea, but continues to turn a blind eye to a key pull factor for many migrants. The EU must acknowledge the needs of its low-wage labour market and should quickly open many more legal migration avenues for more migrants at all skills levels.

Moreover, the decisions of yesterday continue to leave frontline states to shoulder the overall responsibility of dealing with the irregular migrants that arrive in Europe. These states are already shouldering much of this responsibility. They require additional support in order to be able to effectively safeguard the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers who arrive irregularly by boat, inter alia through more mobility within Europe.

Europe must bank on mobility across the Mediterranean and within its territory as a dynamic factor of economic and social development. Only then will it be able to truly reclaim the control of its borders from criminal smuggling rings.”