EU leaders cannot let populism win on migration

EU leaders must build consensus on creating a compassionate, long-term approach to people forced to flee conflict, persecution and climate disasters, warns ActionAid International.

It comes after countries failed  to reach an agreement on migration at this week's EU summit in Salzburg. 

Politicians are using the worst refugee crisis on record to deepen divides within communities and create an isolated Europe which turns its back on the world’s most vulnerable.

Current EU proposals to address migration include the creation of “controlled centres” to detain people including children, seeking asylum; a new system for the “disembarkation of migrants” to third-party countries, such as Libya where migrants face horrendous human rights abuses; and beefing up the EU border force Frontex with 10,000 new guards to “target migrants” in the Mediterranean.

ActionAid International is concerned that current EU proposals to address forced migration will strip people of their rights and fail to provide a fair or effective way of processing asylum claims.

They set a dangerous precedent that ignores the real drivers of displacement. Creating more overcrowded, “hotspot” camps, where women and children are detained and left at risk of abuse, is not a sustainable or humane solution.

More than 20,000 people are awaiting a decision on their fate in the Greek islands alone, with 10,000 trapped in the Lesvos camp, which has an official capacity of 3,500. ActionAid and other NGOs have long been calling for processes to be speeded up to put an end to these inhumane conditions.

Gerasimos Kouvaras, ActionAid Executive Director in Greece, speaking on behalf of ActionAid International, says

“We’re appalled that some EU leaders are using the worst refugee crisis on record to sell a divisive vision of Europe that pulls up the drawbridge and fails to protect families forced to flee violence, persecution and climate disasters.

“Instead of being welcomed, refugees are already trapped in makeshift camps, living in subhuman conditions, while the EU far right attempts to add more misery to their lives.

“The rising tide of popularism cannot be allowed to win when Europe’s response to forced migration is discussed at the Salzburg summit. Compassionate, long-term measures that address the real drivers of displacement are needed, not more inhumane, sticking-plaster proposals.”

Editors' notes

For more information and interviews with ActionAid Greece Executive Director Gerasimos Kouvaras contact ActionAid International Media Manager jenna.pudelek@actionaid.org or call +44 (0)7795 642 990.