Speaking for Ourselves

Asylum plans signal the end of protection as we know it

Asylum plans signal the end of protection as we know it


 Migrant Voice - Asylum plans signal the end of protection as we know it

The Home Office’s New Plan for Immigration on their proposals to overhaul the asylum system is part of a worrying trend across Europe: the end of protection as we know it.

These proposals would create a two-tier system that punishes those who manage to find their own route to safety and condemns them to a life in limbo with restricted rights. 

Indeed, the UK government’s plans effectively seek to criminalise the act of seeking asylum, by making it easier to deport people who are seeking sanctuary in this country – and introducing the disturbing possibility of offshore detention centres.

Europe as a continent is moving towards a dangerous approach whereby the valid claims of people seeing asylum are ignored, delegitimised, or even criminalised.

The European Pact on Migration and Asylum, adopted in September last year, was condemned by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) for enabling member states to breach international conventions. “It allows them to sponsor deportations as an alternative to accepting their human rights responsibility to enable people to claim asylum in their countries,” said the confederation. The ETUC added that the pact “allows Member States to deny responsibility for protection for asylum seekers who entered the EU in another country”. 

Overall, this European Pact represents merely recycled ideas. It focuses on the securitisation of migration, including partnerships with third countries; deporting asylum seekers; combatting human traffickers and smugglers; and stepping up efforts to police external borders.

Across Europe, we are increasingly seeing migrants being treated as sub-human. One Syrian refugee was recently sentenced to 52 years in prison after travelling from Turkey with his family to seek refuge in Greece. His crime? Fleeing civil war in his home country, something we all would do. Greece has also been accused of illegally pushing back migrants from entering the country, with reports of authorities beating asylum seekers with batons. 

In a recent report in The Guardian, it was found that illegal pushbacks during the Covid-19 pandemic have been linked to the deaths of more than 2,000 people. It follows the EU's anti-fraud watchdog, Olaf, launching an investigation in January into accusations of unlawful operations aimed at restricting the arrival of asylum seekers in EU countries. 

In Italy, the government has recently reaffirmed bilateral relations with Libya, despite distressing reports of human rights violations, including the killings and abuse of migrants in the north African country. 

In Denmark, at least 380 Syrian refugees have been told that they must return to Damascus and the surrounding areas – where detention, abduction and torture are reported to be widespread – as these have been deemed “safe zones” by the Danish authorities. 

We believe that this European-wide treatment of migrants and people seeking asylum increasingly fails to encompass a basic respect for human dignity. It is unacceptable to punish those who are simply trying to reach safety: it is what anyone of us would do. 

Photo credit: John Englart / Flickr, resized for this article and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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