EU migration policies and the end of human rights in Europe | Opinions

In January, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made a prominent appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Among the various topics he was asked to comment on was immigration. “Greece has probably managed the migration problem better than most other European countries,” he said confidently in an interview with CNN’s Richard Quist on the sidelines of the forum. “We achieved a resounding victory (in the election) in part because we succeeded in managing migration through a tough but fair immigration policy.”

But this “strict and fair migration policy” has led to the deaths of more than 500 people, including 100 children, in a single migrant boat sinking off the Greek coast near Pylos on June 14. The Greek Coast Guard was accused of causing the sinking of a migrant boat. What is considered one of the worst maritime disasters in the Mediterranean, with an attempt to drag the boat into Italian territorial waters.

Greek authorities denied responsibility, and instead arrested nine survivors, blaming them for causing the ship to sink. While Mitsotakis headed to Davos, the investigation was closed and handed over to the prosecution, after requests from survivors’ lawyers to consider important evidence in their defense were rejected.

The injustice and shocking disregard for human life in this story is not an aberration, but the culmination of a policy of systematic denial of protection and violation of refugee rights. It is also reflected in the new migration pact that the European Union has just concluded.

The tragic stories of death at European borders and the lack of action on them indicate the direction in which Europe is heading, united under the far-right banner of “law and order” and racist anti-immigrant policies. It is towards a dark future in which human rights could end.

The EU’s racist migration pact

The issue of immigration has always been a useful political tool and one of the cornerstones of the far right in Europe. But in the past decade, the rest of the political spectrum has increasingly used and gradually adopted the policy in a desperate attempt to improve deteriorating electoral fortunes. As a result, European immigration policies have taken a sharp turn to the right, increasingly reflecting the far-right’s racist agenda and rhetoric of exclusion of non-Europeans.

The European Union’s new “Migration Charter” is a clear example of this. The European Parliament and the European Council reached an interim agreement on it five days before Christmas. Roberta Mizzola, President of the European Parliament, described that day as a “historic day.” Human rights organizations described it as a “disaster.” On February 8, it was approved by EU member states, and it now awaits final formal ratification by the EU Parliament and the European Council.

The regulations to be introduced by the Charter will cover all stages of the asylum process: from screening asylum seekers upon arrival and collecting biometric data to the rules for determining which Member State is responsible for handling their applications. However, the provisions, which aim to “radically change how we deal with migration and asylum”, contain several loopholes that allow violent policies to be abused and further reinforced at the EU’s borders.

Rights organizations have indicated that the agreement could lead to the detention of asylum seekers, including families with children, in prison-like facilities; Leads to more violence by border authorities; and allowing deportation to unsafe third countries.

It will not provide a safe and dignified path to asylum procedures that can save lives, and it will not prevent tragedies like the Pylos shipwreck from occurring again. Instead, as Amnesty International notes, the new pact will lead to “an escalation in suffering at every step of a person’s journey to asylum” in Europe.

In addition, countries such as Poland and Hungary have rejected the resettlement mechanism, under which they would have to accept refugees. The agreement gives them an alternative payment option 20,000 euros ($21,550) per refugee; In other words, they can evade their obligations under European and international law.

Not only does this mean that countries on the EU’s external borders will bear a heavier burden, but also that basic legal rules relating to refugee protection are being eroded.

A dark future for Castle Europe

More generally, the Migration Charter reflects a tendency within the EU to reduce the scope of international law to the point where it becomes irrelevant to those it was created to protect.

The failure to establish a common European asylum system with clear rules and regulations, the failure to lift pressure on countries of entry, the increasing militarization of border controls, and the transfer of the migration problem to third countries reflect the ongoing efforts of the European Union to evade its obligations under international law. towards asylum seekers.

The long-term effect of ignoring and belittling international legal norms is the potential collapse of the global international order, which means the end of the human rights system as we know it.

Another worrying aspect of the European Migration Charter’s asylum policy is that it discriminates between people seeking asylum. The European Union announced that its provisions will not apply to Ukrainian refugees. In other words, Brussels formally applies international law selectively; It explicitly declares that people of a certain race deserve a path to safety and others do not.

What makes matters even more egregious is that the migration agreement aims to deport people fleeing conflicts and other crises in Africa and the Middle East, in which European countries are often directly involved.

By clearly and formally distinguishing between those who deserve a safe and legal path to seek asylum and immigration and those who do not, the European Union is setting a dangerous precedent. Discrimination in the right to seek protection under international law and the allocation of different rights to different groups opens the door to legal apartheid.

It seems that the European Union has appointed itself the arbiter of who has the right to life and dignity and who does not. This is evident in its response to the war in Gaza as well.

Europe has turned a blind eye to accusations of genocide in Gaza, with European countries continuing to sell weapons to Israel and repeating its outrageous argument about its “right to self-defense” against the population it occupies.

It is important to note here that among the most ardent pro-Israel forces in Europe is the far right, which is using the war in Gaza to advance its agenda, promote culture war ideas, and whitewash its anti-Semitism.

Support for the far right is growing in Europe, and this is not because of “illegal immigration” as some EU officials, such as Ylva Johansson, Home Affairs Commissioner, have claimed. This is because European “centrist conservatives”, like Mitsotakis, have embraced the far-right agenda to advance their own narrow political and economic interests.

This will certainly be reflected in the next European Parliament elections scheduled for June.

If there is no profound reform of the inhuman and inhumane direction in which European policies and politics are taking, the future of the European Union looks very bleak. As things stand, we are on a straight path to a Europe where Viktor Orban, Geert Wilders, and Marine Le Pen will have a much stronger say on what is on the agenda and what is not.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

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