Migrants attmpting to reach Europe by boat
Migrants attmpting to reach Europe by boat

Human rights monitoring organization Amnesty International (AI) released its annual report today detailing the state of human rights across the world. What does the report have to say about Europe's refugee and migration policy?

In 2018, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will turn 70. The Amnesty International Report for 2017/2018 harshly criticized European policy towards refugees and what the organization perceives as violations of their human rights.

"Leaders of wealthy countries have continued to approach the global refugee crisis with a blend of evasion and outright callousness, regarding refugees not as human beings with rights but as problems to be deflected," the report pointed out. The report also said that "a spectre of hatred and fear" surrounded the elections in Austria, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, especially in regards to migrants, refugees and religious minorities.

'Spectre of fear'

In Germany, for example, the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party had entered the German parliament and rejects Chancellor Angela Merkel's open door welcome policy towards refugees. In France, the nationalist Front National candidate Marine Le Pen made it to the final round of the presidential election and has promised to cut migration. In Austria, legislative elections last October resulted in the Christian democratic Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) taking the lead. Its chairman, Sebastian Kurz, became the 25th chancellor of Austria last December and has criticized the EU's refugee redistribution model. In the March general election in the Netherlands, the right-wing Party for Freedom made it to second place, and its leader Geert Wilders has called for a stop to immigration from Muslim countries.      

The report noted Hungary as a nation that has severely restricted access for refugees and asylum seekers. The country has two "transit zones" set up on the border with Serbia, where only 10 new asylum applications could be turned in per working day. Last March the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the confinement of asylum seekers in "transit zones" "amounted to "arbitrary deprivation of liberty."  

EU policies toward transit countries

The organization harshly criticized European policies towards non-EU transit countries, where migrants travel en route to Europe. "By using aid, trade and other leverage, European governments encouraged and supported transit countries – even those where widespread and systematic violations against refugees and migrants were documented – to implement stricter border control measures, without adequate human rights guarantees," the report noted.

The EU's cooperation with Turkey and Libya was also lambasted. "Turkey had become even more unsafe for refugees since the 2016 coup attempt," the report alleged. Turkey currently hosts a registered 3,300,000 Syrian refugees. The EU and Turkey signed a deal in 2016 to return asylum seekers to Turkey. However, from Turkey, asylum seekers can be expelled to their home countries where they may face human rights violations. There were collective forced expulsions of 200 Syrian and Iraqi refugees to their respective countries of origin from a Removal Centre in Van, eastern Turkey in May and early June last year.  

According to the report, torture and extortion against refugees also had been carried out by the Libyan Coast Guard and Libya's General Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM), which had entered into agreements with European institutions. 

Italy, for example, gave support to the Libyan authorities responsible for official immigration detention centers in a deal signed in February of last year. Amnesty International said that torture and other-ill treatment remains widespread in these centers. "Up to 20,000 refugees and migrants were held arbitrarily and indefinitely in overcrowded, unsanitary, detention centers and exposed to torture, forced labor, extortion and unlawful killings at the hands of the authorities and militias who ran the centers."    

Read the full report here: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/pol10/6700/2018/en/


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