The Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), today warned that current EU migration policy focusing increasingly on deportations of irregular migrants, threatens individuals’ rights to due process and protection, fails to recognise the capacity of migrants, and misses its aim of reducing irregular migration in Europe.
The EU is engaging in readmission agreements which increasingly link foreign aid to curbing migration obliging third countries to deter migrants from leaving. Most recently, the agreement between the EU and Afghanistan* foresees an unlimited number of deportations of Afghans from Europe, despite ongoing conflict in the region.
A debate held at the European Parliament today which gathered Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), representatives of the European Commission, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, academics and civil society, discussed if policy objectives of deportations are actually met, how deportations impact migrants and their families and if human rights safeguards are upheld.
Birgit Sippel, Coordinator of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in the European Parliament and host of the event said:
“In light of the recent EU-Afghanistan agreement, we have to be seriously concerned that the European Parliament is bypassed in the process and possible human rights violations will not be sufficiently challenged. The agreement foresees that people are deported into areas which are currently not safe and a particular concern are children whose best interest is not considered.”
Current migration policy leads to families being separated and children, unaccompanied or with their parents, are also deported. This is generally not only against their best interest but they are frequently also taken away from places where they spent most or all of their lives including school and friends.
Empress, a 12-year old girl who was born in the United Kingdom and deported to Nigeria with her mother and younger brother noted:
“Coming back to Nigeria was very traumatic…the environment was so strange and I can hardly sleep at night, I felt ill all the time. Thanks to my mum for always caring for me. I missed my school and friends a lot and I hope to see them one day.”
The current political approach does not account for experiences of violence or harm before, during or after deportation but focuses primarily on nationalities and deporting increasing numbers.
“We need to challenge the illegitimate framing of deportations, which puts the increase of percentages in the centre of the debate,”
highlighted Malin Björk, MEP Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL).
Participants expressed their concern about lack of human rights safeguards, in particular the risk of collective expulsions, unjustified and arbitrary deportation decisions, disregard for the best interest of the child and the violation of the non-refoulement principle. They stressed the importance of applying best interest considerations for all children in migration proceedings, including return decisions.
The debate also highlighted the need for better monitoring and judicial oversight of both, the legitimacy of return decisions as well as deportation procedures including post-deportation risk assessments. Human rights advocates have documented mistreatment of deported migrants including arbitrary detention, torture, and even killings. Many returnees have committed suicide upon arrival. Lack of data and evidence in these areas and the disregard of decision makers for the post-deportation situation of returnees remain key concerns.
Harnessing deportation enforcement for political motivations risks human rights violations and fails to have a deterrent effect as people who were deported frequently attempt to migrate again to Europe.
Jill Alpes, researcher at Free University Amsterdam stated:
“Evidence shows that deportations do not lower migration expectations among migrants or their families and friends.”
The participants also expressed concern on the lack of rule of law procedures noting that the European Parliament should be consulted in all EU agreements with third countries that include obligations to readmit persons and voicing concerns over the shrinking space for civil society organisations to give input to these policies.
*See: Joint Way Forward on migration issues between Afghanistan and the EU, October 2016.
**See: HEAR OUR VOICES – Undocumented children and young people share their stories, PICUM 2016.