Left MEPs put humanity and dignity at heart of migration proposals
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Left MEPs put humanity and dignity at heart of migration proposals

Thursday, 03 December 2020
This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.

Since 1993, at least 40 000 people have died because of the EU’s migration policy.

Many, many more have endured violence, misery and tragedy in inhumane conditions, and seen their fundamental rights violated.

Yet, the Commission’s Migration & Asylum Pact comprehensively renounces the EU’s international obligation to uphold the rights of people in need.

This is why our group, The Left in the European Parliament, is unveiling an alternative plan – one that puts dignity and humanity at the heart of policy.

First and foremost, the EU’s obsession with keeping people out has to end. The right to international protection must be guaranteed by all EU countries. This means no opt-outs, and no exceptions.

For example, the border procedures that the European Commission have proposed are just like what we have in German airports.

Official figures show that the so-called ‘recognition rate’ is generally lower per nationality when compared to ‘normal’ procedures. That means people who are being rejected and deported would normally have received asylum. That is both unfair and grossly unjust.

Secondly, we have to stop pushbacks of refugees and migrants at our borders. There must be proper & independent monitoring to safeguard against human rights violations.

It is also outrageous that we spend billions every year appeasing authoritarians like Turkey’s Recept Tayyib Erdoğan. The deals and agreements the EU has with dubious regimes in North Africa and the sub-Sahara, as well as militias in Libya, simply beggar belief.

The EU must therefore stop the outsourcing of migration control to repressive regimes and militias in the Middle East and Africa. How can we lecture these same countries about human rights when we are paying them to violate human rights?

Instead, the EU must open safe and legal channels: safe harbours, for example, and put in place proactive search and rescue operations. Let sea rescues save lives.

A new system for the distribution of asylum seekers is, of course, necessary across the EU. It must be immediate and binding for all EU member states.

To illustrate the terrible conditions for asylum seekers in so-called ‘hotspots’ along the EU’s southern frontier, we only have to think back to the horrific fire at Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos in September.

It dominated international news headlines, with widespread sadness and sorrow being expressed in the immediate aftermath.

But what actually changed for the people who were in Moria?

After the TV cameras left, the displaced were moved to a nearby site at Kara Tepe that is even more unsuitable for sheltering people. My colleagues and I saw this new camp for ourselves, and we were shocked by the conditions – no sanitary facilities, unfit for human habitation. Winter has now arrived – and many are still there, and will, sadly, be stuck there for the foreseeable future. The right-wing Greek government should be ashamed of itself.

That is why dignity in the reception of migrants and refugees plays such a key role in the Left’s alternative proposals to the Pact. That means no more Morias. Humane hosting conditions for all are the very least we can offer.

Moreover, there are immediate solutions to the crisis to be found in local communities across the EU, with many people eager to help.

In Germany, for example, hundreds of local municipalities and cities are ready to receive asylum seekers through relocation – as demonstrated by the Safe Harbour Cities and Solidacities movements.

This shows not only willingness but also capacity to accommodate the asylum seekers. There is space because local municipalities have created them. That means we can physically relocate the people from Lesbos.

Sure, local governments cannot just unilaterally relocate people from Greece: a member state or the interior ministry has to give the ok. However, the EU and member state governments can already start working with these local communities. What we are suggesting is for government ministers to adopt a permissive approach to the issue.

Take the city of Berlin and German federal state of Thuringia, for example. Both tried to relocate people directly from the camps but were blocked by German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who cited “a European solution” as a lame excuse to ignore our initiative.

But we are still fighting. The Landtag in Berlin – of which our Die Linke colleagues are currently in the ruling alliance – are trying to overturn this decision in the constitutional court right now.

Further, by ensuring proper access to asylum, we can also provide jobs and social inclusion to newcomers: many of whom are already living in the EU.

For The Left in the European Parliament, migration should never be about keeping people out – as the Commission or leaders like Viktor Orbán would want you to think.

Rather, we should strive to find out who these people are, and share some humanity with those who need it most.

Cornelia Ernst, MEP