“The leaders of EU member states should urgently address the serious human rights violations against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants that have become a permanent feature of migration control practices at many of Europe’s borders", said today the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, ahead of the Special European Council of 9 and 10 February.
“Among other things, the heads of state and government of the 27 EU member states are expected to set out new steps to strengthen external borders and enhance co-operation with third countries. However, their meeting comes amid a context of years of steady decline in respect for the human rights of those attempting to reach Europe. Large-scale and often violent pushbacks, denial of access to asylum procedures, disregard for obligations of humanitarian assistance, the facilitation of interception of people at sea and their return to horrific abuse, and the criminalisation and harassment of human rights defenders providing assistance and documenting human rights violations have all proliferated.
Leaders participating in the Special European Council should therefore seize this opportunity to go beyond making references to upholding international obligations. They should express a clear commitment to putting an end to human rights violations occurring as a result of jointly agreed migration management measures. They should break the silence over well-documented abuses by member states and send out a clear signal that human rights violations can never be an accepted part of border control practices. They should furthermore commit to ending support to member state or third country migration control practices that violate human rights, and to strengthening transparency and accountability mechanisms.
EU member states are also member states of the Council of Europe. They have made commitments to uphold the Council of Europe’s standards, not least the European Convention on Human Rights. Any decisions at the Special European Council should reflect these commitments, especially as these will set the tone for the way refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are treated, in EU member states and beyond, for the foreseeable future.”