Nils Muižnieks: Europe needs a “paradigm shift” on migration

Today’s European Council meeting in Malta, should lead to a “paradigm shift” and a commitment by states to respect the human rights of migrants, according to Nils Muižnieks.

Writing ahead of today’s meeting, the Commissioner for Human Rights stated: “As the European Council is set to address the Union’s response to migration, one topic should be prominent on all points of its agenda: states’ obligations to uphold the human rights of migrants.

“The urgency for this is clear. Since 2014 over 17,000 migrants have died in the Mediterranean, hundreds of thousands are locked up in often poor conditions across Europe and in third countries which are partners of the EU, while thousands of unaccompanied migrant minors are missing.

“No doubt the movement of refugees, asylum-seekers, and other migrants has put considerable pressure on European states in recent years, straining their asylum systems and demanding scarce resources. However, many European countries have used this challenge as an excuse to trample on their obligations to protect those who flee wars and persecution.

“All too often we have seen laws, agreements and practices that have made it harder for people to cross borders and seek and enjoy asylum in Europe.

“All this is more than a compelling reason for the European Council to prepare an ambitious plan able to ease the pressure on member states while upholding the human rights of migrants including asylum seekers.

“This requires a paradigm shift of European immigration and asylum policies. On several occasions, I have stressed the need to establish a system based on the principles of inter-state solidarity and fair responsibility sharing; the need to increase the resources and tools available to member states and their local authorities to strengthen their capacity to receive and integrate refugees and migrants; and the need to accelerate the relocation of asylum seekers from Greece and Italy and empower registration centers in the main countries of arrival to effectively assess asylum claims and distribute them equitably across Europe.

“All this remains to be addressed.”

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