Anhaltendes Leid an der EU-Außengrenze Polens

Seit fast drei Jahren befinden sich Schutzsuchende im Wald an der polnisch-belarussischen Grenze in einem Limbo von Pushbacks und Gewalt. Mit dem Machtwechsel in Polen hatten viele gehofft, dass der neue Ministerpräsident Donald Tusk die menschenunwürdige Behandlung von Asylsuchenden im Grenzwald zu Belarus beenden wird. Stattdessen fordert er nun eine Stärkung des Grenzzauns, der zum Teil mit EU-Geldern finanziert werden soll, und schürt die Angst vor Belarus und den Schutzsuchenden, die zwischen den beiden Ländern festsitzen.

2021: Eine neue Fluchtroute nach Europa

Die neue Route entstand, weil der belarussische Machthaber Lukaschenko als Reaktion auf EU-Sanktionen im August 2021 damit angefangen hat, Menschen aus Syrien, dem Irak, Afghanistan und anderen Ländern nach Belarus einreisen zu lassen, damit sie an die EU-Außengrenze kommen. Lukaschenko hat die leidenden Menschen missbraucht, um Druck auf die EU auszuüben.

Polen wirft Belarus eine „Instrumentalisierung“ der Schutzsuchenden vor und erklärt die Geflüchteten zur Waffe eines „hybriden Krieges“. Damit rechtfertigt die Regierung in Warschau die anhaltende Militarisierung der Grenze und die menschenrechtswidrigen Pushbacks, die dort stattfinden. In diesem Zusammenhang wurde auch eine militärische Sperrzone errichtet, in der die Schutzsuchenden festsitzen und in der jede Hilfe von außen, egal ob von NGOs oder lokalen Anwohner:innen, kriminalisiert wird.

Nach wie vor viele Ankünfte

Auch wenn es weniger sind als 2021, kommen bis heute Schutzsuchende mit russischen oder belarussischen Visa an die polnische Grenze und versuchen, in die EU zu gelangen. Lokale Aktivist:innen von Grupa Granica helfen vor Ort und dokumentieren Menschenrechtsverletzungen. Bei einem Treffen diese Woche haben sie berichtet, dass jetzt im Frühjahr und Sommer die meisten Menschen versuchen, die Grenze im Białowieża-Wald zu überqueren. Der ist auch durch seine vielen Sümpfe und Moore gefährlich; im Winter wird es außerdem so kalt, dass viele Menschen erfrorene Gliedmaßen aufweisen oder gänzlich erfrieren. 

Seit Beginn der Krise sind mindestens 60 Menschen gestorben. Die Zivilgesellschaft geht allerdings von einer deutlich höheren Dunkelziffer aus. Allein im Zeitraum von Dezember 2023 bis April 2024 hat Grupa Granica mehr als 1.700 illegale Pushbacks, fünf Tote und 25 vermisste Menschen gezählt. Es wurde auch ein Kind von einer Mutter geboren, die versucht hat, aus Eritrea in die EU zu flüchten.

Pushbacks sind die Realität

Viele dieser Menschen äußern an der Grenze den Wunsch nach Asyl, wodurch ihnen nach europäischem und internationalem Recht ein rechtsstaatliches Asylverfahren zusteht, in dem ihr Schutzanspruch geprüft wird. In der Realität berichten die meisten stattdessen davon, dass sie gewaltsam zurückgewiesen werden, manche Betroffene bereits mehrfach. Dabei werden von Grenzschützer:innen auf beiden Seiten oft mutwillig Handys zerstört und Tränengas, Schlagstöcke und sogar Gewehre eingesetzt – auch gegenüber Kindern und Jugendlichen. Im Herbst 2023 hat ein heute 23-jähriger syrischer Schutzsuchender mit seinen Freunden versucht, von Belarus nach Polen zu fliehen. Ihm wurde dabei von einem polnischen Grenzschutzbeamten in den Rücken geschossen, „versehentlich“.

Neue Regierung, alte Taktiken?

Mit dem Regierungswechsel in Polen haben einige auch auf eine menschlichere Migrationspolitik an der Grenze zu Belarus gehofft, vor allem weil Donald Tusk ja eine Rückkehr zur Rechtsstaatlichkeit in Polen eingeleitet hat. Leider gilt diese Rückkehr zur Rechtsstaatlichkeit offensichtlich nicht für Schutzsuchende. Stattdessen hat Tusk diese Woche die Grenzregion zwischen Polen und Belarus besucht und eine Verstärkung des 2022 gebauten Grenzzauns versprochen. Der ist bereits jetzt 180 Kilometer lang und 5,5 Meter hoch, mit Stacheldraht verstärkt und elektronisch überwacht. Vor der anstehenden Europawahl bleibt Polen trotz neuer Regierung also bei einer restriktiven Migrationspolitik, ausgetragen auf dem Rücken von schutzsuchenden Menschen im Wald zu Belarus.

Ein Blick in die Zukunft

Hinzu kommt die endgültige Verabschiedung der sogenannten GEAS-Reform (mehr dazu hier auf meiner Website), in der vor allem die Krisenverordnung das Wort „Instrumentalisierung“ im Europäischen Recht kodifiziert. Das heißt, dass im Fall einer sogenannten „Instrumentalisierung“ von Schutzsuchenden durch Nicht-EU-Staaten die Grenzverfahren massiv ausgeweitet werden können. Asylsuchende können in solchen Fällen an den Außengrenzen inhaftiert werden. Auch wenn sich erst zeigen muss, wie diese Verordnung in der Praxis umgesetzt wird, laufen wir damit Gefahr, das Asylrecht weiter zu schwächen und anderen Mitgliedstaaten eine Grundlage für Menschenrechtsverletzungen an unseren Außengrenzen zu liefern.

Study shows: German internal border controls partly contrary to EU law

I have commissioned a critical analysis of Germany's internal border controls for the Green Group in the European Parliament to see whether they are compatible with EU law. You can read the whole study here on German and English read.

The current situation in the Schengen area

The absence of internal border controls is a fundamental principle of European law and the basic principle of the free Schengen area. Although internal border controls in the Schengen area should therefore be a strict exception, there has been a massive increase in these controls in Germany and other member states since 2015. According to the German government, the main reasons for this are more irregular migration, the threat of terrorism and the coronavirus pandemic. However, the question arises as to what extent the reintroduction of these internal border controls is compatible with EU legal obligations.

When internal border controls are permitted

The Schengen Borders Code only allows internal border controls in exceptional situations, for example if there is a threat to the security and order of a Member State. However, internal border controls may only be used as a last resort and may only be reintroduced temporarily, as the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has also confirmed.

The practice in Germany

Germany does not always seem to adhere to these regulations. The various federal governments have repeatedly extended internal border controls, especially at the border with Austria, since 2015. This is a clear violation of EU law. The expert opinion I commissioned comes to the conclusion that there is no legal basis for the controls at the border with Austria, which have been taking place since November 2017 "for reasons of migration and security policy". This means that these controls have been unlawful since then. 

The main problem here is that the German government is referring to increasingly vague risk situations instead of actual threats, as required by the Schengen Borders Code. In addition, border controls are often disproportionate.

Internal border controls are politically motivated

Overall, border controls increasingly appear to have a socio-political symbolic effect. At the same time, the European Commission is finding it difficult to stop this structural erosion of the Schengen Borders Code and is only insufficiently fulfilling its mandate and role as "guardian of the treaties". 

The way the German administrative courts deal with complaints against these internal border controls is similarly problematic. Here, the admissibility requirements are interpreted so narrowly that complaints against internal border controls are dismissed as inadmissible. Those affected therefore currently have no effective legal protection against unlawful internal border controls. This primarily affects EU citizens.

The reform in response – effectiveness to be awaited

After years of systematic misapplication of the Schengen Borders Code, the reform of certain parts of the law was recently completed. You can read more about this here in my briefing. The current reform of the Schengen Borders Code is therefore a response to these challenges. On the one hand, it expands the member states' scope for action, for example in the case of increased migration controls at internal borders. On the other hand, the requirements for Member States' internal border controls are being tightened. Whether this will lead to a reduction in internal border controls in practice depends above all on the Commission's willingness to enforce the new rules of the Schengen Borders Code.

Briefing: Reform of the Schengen Borders Code

What is it about?

The Schengen Borders Code regulates entry conditions and border controls at the EU's external and internal borders. It deals, for example, with the question of the conditions under which internal border controls are possible.

The Borders Code is an important instrument for ensuring freedom of movement in Europe; however, Member States often do not comply with the Code. For example, they introduce internal border controls and disregard the legal basis for them. These controls jeopardize the Schengen area by hindering the free movement of people, goods and services, which is so important for the functioning of the EU and its associated countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). In border regions in particular, internal border controls not only cost a lot of money, but also restrict people's lives. At the same time, they often do not lead to the achievement of self-imposed goals, for example because they cannot prevent asylum applications, although this is repeatedly claimed.

The reform

The European Commission attempted to reform the Schengen Borders Code in 2017, but the member states were unable to agree on a common position.

After the Member States closed internal borders during the coronavirus pandemic without coordination at EU level, the Commission proposed a new reform that includes provisions for major health emergencies, such as pandemics.
The Commission proposal from December 2021 was controversial to say the least, followed by an even more problematic Negotiating position of the Member States. Despite the often emphasized importance of the Schengen area for the realization of freedom of movement in the EU, these texts would have led to Member States being able to introduce endless internal border controls under certain circumstances. The European Parliament, on the other hand, with its Negotiating position a compromise that protects the Schengen area.

ECJ ruling on border controls

Parallel to the reform process of the Schengen Borders Code, the European Court of Justice has ruled in a Basic ruling not only interpreted the duration of internal border controls under the current code very strictly, but also clearly stated that endless internal border controls violate the freedom of movement enshrined in EU law. This made it clear that freedom of movement is a right that EU member states may not restrict indefinitely. The co-legislators (Council and Parliament) must therefore find a balance between "freedom" and "security" that only works with a fixed time limit for internal border controls in the reformed Schengen Borders Code.

The final compromise

The interinstitutional negotiations led to a Compromiseon which we will vote in the European Parliament in the last plenary week of the legislative period (end of April 2024).
We are critical of the outcome of the negotiations because: The maximum Duration of internal border controls to be increased from the current 6 months to 3 years. However, Member States have a new, more detailed reporting obligation when they introduce internal border controls. In return, the Commission has slightly more duties and powers to monitor application. Experts doubt whether this will lead to border controls being more restricted.

It will also there are additional reasons to allow internal border controls. This sensibly includes a health emergency on a large scale, but also the highly controversial reason of unauthorized secondary migration of third-country nationals on a large scale. This effectively legalizes the practice that has been in place since 2015 of member states introducing internal border controls in order to "curb" "irregular" migration.

The outcome of the negotiations also includes a new procedure for the internal transfer of third-country nationals without the right to stay between member states. This procedure will probably lead to an increase in "racial profiling" and, in the worst case, even Chain deportations can take place.

The introduction of the term "Instrumentalization", Member States can limit the number of border crossing points and their opening hours and intensify border surveillance if they feel that they are being instrumentalized. However, the exact cases that are considered instrumentalization are not defined at all and are therefore left to the discretion of the member states. In addition, the possibilities for police checks and the general number of police officers deployed on the territory have been Control and monitoring technologies expanded. These additional provisions shall enter into force immediately after publication if Parliament and the Council have given their consent.

In practice, however, it remains to be seen whether the Member States will actually comply with these new rules and whether the Commission will use its powers as guardian of the treaties to ensure that they do.

Syria: The current humanitarian situation and possible EU action

Syria has been at war for 13 years. In 2011, the Syrian revolution was violently crushed by dictator Bashar al-Assad as part of the Arab Spring. Iran and Russia support the Assad regime, which is internationally ostracized for brutal human rights violations. Half a million people have already been killed, 13 million people have been displaced – more than half of them live outside Syria. The majority of Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring countries such as the Turkey (3.1 million people), Lebanon (785,000 people) and Jordan (640,000 people) found refuge. The conflict has been increasingly forgotten in recent years.

Twice displaced: The 2023 earthquake

The violent earthquake on February 6, 2023 caused the situation in the northwest of the country to deteriorate dramatically. More than 56,000 people died in Syria and Turkey and over two million people were left homeless overnight. In total, more than 22 million people were affectedincluding 9 million in Syria alone. 

There is still a lack of basic supplies, shelter, electricity and access to healthcare. Most of the affected families are still living in destroyed houses or in tents. The disaster has also severely affected the mental health of many people. Many have lost family members and friends. The already precarious humanitarian situation has become even worse: more than 15 million people in Syria, including 7 million children, are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. That is five percent more than in 2022. At the same time, there is a massive lack of humanitarian aid and funding, while Assad tries to rehabilitate the reputation of his regime through aid deliveries and to end the international isolation of Syria – with success. If you would like to know more, you are welcome to visit my article from November take a look inside.

The current European policy on Syria

While the Arab League and other states such as Turkey are gradually normalizing their relations with Syria, Europe's Syria policy continues to be based on sanctions against the Assad regime and direct humanitarian support for the Syrian civilian population. The latter is supported by instruments such as the Neighborhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI)the MADAD Fund and the Facility for refugees in Turkey made available. As part of the revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), i.e. the long-term EU budget until 2027, the Commission has, for example, proposed an additional 5.2 billion to support Syrian refugees in Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. In addition, exemptions are needed for trusted international humanitarian aid organizations so that they can help quickly and effectively in Syria. We are committed to ensuring that sanctions do not hinder the provision of vital humanitarian aid, but rather target the elites and war criminals. The European Parliament's Research Service has analyzed the impact of the sanctions here analyzed.

In addition, in the Committee on Foreign Recommendation to the Council, the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) on the situation in Syria agreed. In it, we once again emphasize the Assad regime's serious human rights violations and the EU's duty to refrain from any normalization with him as long as there are no profound and verifiable changes through the implementation of the Resolution 2254(2015) of the UN Security Council there. This includes the release of political prisoners, information on the fate of missing persons and victims of enforced disappearances, and an end to all attacks on and obstruction of humanitarian aid. This is particularly important because there is still a significant threat to people across the country, such as Confidential sources from the Federal Foreign Office suggest. In addition, the Fighting in Syria resumeswhich is why the United Nations is calling for a ceasefire.

Other proposals in the UN resolution include stepping up the fight against Russian and Iranian disinformation about Syria, combating the ongoing impunity in Syria and providing greater support for civil society and the democratization processes being pursued.

Parliament criticizes funds for Tunisian autocrats

In a Resolution of the European Parliament we MEPs criticized the release of funds for the Tunisian government. You can find my speech in plenary here.

The EPP and Renew Europe groups opposed the resolution, as did the ECR and ID groups. Our group's request for it to be dealt with was nevertheless successful. Clear criticism was voiced, for example, of the fact that the Commission had decided to make payments to Tunisia in an emergency decision at the end of last year in order to circumvent the European Parliament's rights of scrutiny.

The resolution was adopted quite clearly (yes: 243, no: 167, abstention: 41). As the EU Parliament, we emphasize in the resolution that compliance with human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law must be a condition for such money payments. The Tunisian government has received 150 million euros almost without conditions. The resolution criticizes the use of an "urgent written procedure" for the adoption of the measure without prior contact with parliament. This means that parliament is not involved.

It also raises concerns about respect for fundamental legal principles, particularly in view of the deterioration of the human rights situation in Tunisia since July 2021. Parliament calls on the Commission to provide detailed information on how and when the conditions for budget support are met and how progress is objectively assessed. It also calls on the Commission to explain why the support will be disbursed in a single tranche and how this measure will contribute to improving the business and investment climate in Tunisia. Finally, the Commission is asked to explain why the Tunisian authorities have rejected previous EU budget support and what guarantees there are that the European Parliament will be able to visit EU-funded projects in Tunisia.

The EU makes itself vulnerable to blackmail by dictators 

We are witnessing an erosion of democracy and fundamental rights in Tunisia, crowned by racist and anti-Semitic outbursts by President Kais Saied. We are not against negotiations with third countries, not even with difficult regimes or governments. But the disgraceful cash cow policy that we have seen in recent years does nothing to combat the causes of flight or to better manage migration. Instead of finally taking on the challenges, we are copying simple, false answers from far-right parties and then wondering why we have the same discussions on migration every year.

After Ursula von der Leyen, Giorgia Meloni and Marc Rutte wanted to reach an agreement with Tunisia last summer, the Tunisian authorities simply abandoned refugees in the desert without food or water, and dozens simply died of thirst. The conditions announced in the summer, such as progress in the promotion of democracy and respect for human rights, are no longer on the table.

We have already learned from the EU-Turkey deal or the cooperation with Niger that migration agreements with dictators are not a long-term perspective. Saied has not proven to be a reliable partner and last year refused visits to both MEPs and Commission staff. The EU is making itself vulnerable to blackmail by dictators. If there is no control over the use of money by dictators, there should be no money. 

The migration movements are not coming to an end either, they are just shifting to even more dangerous routes. The fact that Ursula von der Leyen has announced a visit to Cairo this Sunday for the next EU migration agreement, again without prior consultation with the European Parliament, shows that this is primarily an election campaign and not about sustainable solutions.

Devastating Frontex report: Commission of inquiry into sea rescue must come

Following the Pylos shipwreck with over 600 fatalities off the Greek coast, the the European Ombudswoman Emily O’Reilly opened an investigation. Due to its mandate, it concentrated on the role of Frontex.

The report it has now presented shows that Frontex is not fulfilling its own European and human rights requirements. This is due, for example, to the fact that Frontex is too dependent on the cooperation of the member states in sea rescue cases, which do not always rescue people in distress at sea.

The investigation identifies systemic problems and a lack of independent oversight of the operations. O’Reilly appeals to the EU Parliament, Council and Commission to set up a public commission of inquiry to investigate the causes of the Mediterranean deaths and prevent them in the future.

The Ombudsman's press release can be found here.

Ombudsman publishes devastating report – "Commission of inquiry into sea rescue must come"

The report is alarming and the Ombudsman's verdict is devastating. Frontex is not fulfilling its basic legal obligations. For example, Frontex apparently found sea rescue cases, but then failed to inform the ships in the vicinity. This was also the case in the Pylos shipwreck, in which over 600 people died when the fishing trawler Adriana sank, even though Frontex had been aware of the distress at sea for many hours. Such cases must not be repeated.

Frontex offered help with the Adriana air surveillance, but received no response from Greece. The investigation identifies systematic problems because maritime emergencies are repeatedly ignored, resulting in many avoidable deaths.

However, eight months after the disaster, no steps have been taken to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again. There also seems to be no interest on the part of the Greek authorities in carrying out serious rule of law investigations. Our external borders must no longer be a lawless area where people can be allowed to drown with impunity.

That is why I support the call by European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly to set up a public commission of inquiry to investigate the thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean and prevent them in future.

Background to the investigation

On June 14, 2023, the overcrowded fishing boat Adriana sank off the coast of Pylos, Greece, drowning over 600 people. The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, described the incident as one of the worst shipwrecks of this century and called for a thorough investigation. 

The European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has launched an investigation. It focuses on the role of Frontex and its interaction with national authorities in maritime emergencies. The investigation found that Frontex‘ sea rescue capabilities are heavily dependent on Member States and their sea rescue operations. There is often a confusion of responsibilities that makes it easier to shirk responsibility for rescue operations and allow people to drown. 

The Ombudsman proposed that the Commission, the Council and the Parliament set up an independent commission of inquiry to assess the situation and protect fundamental rights in maritime emergencies. 

The Adriana accident is emblematic of the failure to take appropriate rescue measures, because here too, ships were not alerted for rescue despite clear signs of an emergency at sea. 

Even though the case is still being legally investigated, it is clear that more than 600 people could still be alive if appropriate sea rescue measures were taken.

Here is an excerpt from the recommendations of the EU Ombudsman O'Reilly:

More independent operational decisions by Frontex: Frontex is too closely tied to the member states when it comes to operational decisions. As a result, Frontex lacks the ability to fulfill its fundamental rights obligations. A review of operational plans and procedures may be needed to ensure that the agency can better respond to maritime emergencies, even if national authorities do not give specific instructions to rescue or report rescue cases.

Response to maritime emergencies: Frontex needs to revise its operational protocols for responding to maritime emergencies, in particular with regard to the issuing of mayday relays, i.e. the reporting of maritime emergencies to surrounding vessels. The Agency should consider whether its criteria for assessing maritime emergencies and deciding to issue mayday relays are sufficient to take into account the particular circumstances of boats and prevent death at sea.

Handling of information from third parties: Frontex should improve its practices for assessing and integrating information provided by non-governmental organizations and other unofficial sources. In particular, reported threats to children should be a top priority.

Relationship with national authorities: The investigation underlines the need for Frontex to reconsider its relations with national authorities, especially in cases where there are doubts about a Member State's compliance with fundamental rights. Frontex should be prepared to cease, withdraw or suspend its activities with a Member State if the threshold for serious fundamental rights violations has been reached. Explicit reference is made here to Greece.

Improve the legal framework for search and rescue operations: There is a need for a clear EU legal framework for search and rescue operations that clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of Frontex and the Member States and enables the agency to fulfill its fundamental rights obligations more effectively. The law of the sea was created at a time when it was unimaginable that states would refuse to rescue people in distress at sea. As these times have unfortunately changed, the legal framework should be revised at European level.

These proposals aim to improve Frontex‘ operations to save lives and ensure that fundamental and human rights obligations are respected in the context of search and rescue operations in the future.

Reform of work and residence permits

During the final trilogue on the recast of the Single Permit Directive in January, it was an agreement reached

What is the directive about?

Around 3 to 3.5 million third-country nationals enter the EU every yearmainly for professional reasons. They work in EU countries, pay taxes and, through their mobility, help companies to find urgently needed workers. The Combined Permit Directive allows these people a simplified application process and ensures that an applicant only needs one permit to both work and reside in the EU. It gives many non-EU citizens working in the EU the right to be treated like EU citizens in many respects. This applies in particular with regard to fair working conditions, social security, recognition of qualifications and tax benefits. 

History of the Single Permit Directive

The directive has been in force since 2011; the aim of the revision was to simplify the procedure for obtaining a combined work and residence permit and to make it easier for member states to recruit qualified workers from third countries. This is intended to counteract the shortage of skilled workers in the EU. In addition, labor migration is a legal alternative that can enable people seeking protection to avoid dangerous irregular escape routes. To ensure that they are protected after their arrival, the updated regulations also provide for increased protection against exploitation and unequal treatment in the Member States. Workers from third countries will receive a uniform package of rights with regard to their working conditions, social security and the recognition of their qualifications as a result of the revision. In return, they must comply with the respective regulations, otherwise their combined work and residence permit may be withdrawn.

What was important to us Greens

In the negotiations, it was important to us Greens to reduce bureaucratic hurdles and give more people access to a combined work and residence permit. In addition, we wanted better protection against exploitation when taking up work in the Member States, e.g. through an obligation to provide information and the introduction of a right to change employer as well as a strengthened right to equal treatment. I will explain some of our main concerns below.

Fewer bureaucratic hurdles

We were able to partially achieve these goals, as the agreed text contains some improvements compared to the previous regulations. For example, a maximum period of 90 days has been set for deciding on applications for a single permit, compared to the current four months. Procedures for particularly complex cases can be extended by 30 days. However, we would have very much liked these deadlines to include the potentially long-term processing times for people who need a visa. We also wanted accelerated procedures for applicants who already have a permit in another Member State or have participated in EU Talent Partnerships; Member States are now only encouraged to accelerate such applications through the recital.

Change of:employer:in

The option to change employer(s), profession and area of work was also particularly important to us. During the negotiations, we were able to ensure that a simple notification from the new employer is sufficient for such a change. However, the national authorities still have 45 days to reject the change. Member states can also stipulate a period of up to six months during which a change is not possible. An exception is made for serious breaches of the employment contract, including particularly exploitative working conditions, by the employer. Unfortunately, the provisions do not go as far as we would have liked.

Protection even in the event of unemployment

People who lose their job will now have up to three months – or six if the person has held their work permit for more than two years – to find another job before their permit is revoked. This is two – or four – months longer than was previously the case. If an employee has been exposed to particularly exploitative working conditions, the member states will extend the permitted duration of unemployment by three months, while the combined permit remains valid. In the event of unemployment for more than three months, Member States may require the holder of the single permit to prove that he or she has sufficient resources to support himself or herself without recourse to social assistance. Member States are also obliged by a new article to monitor and sanction violations of workers' rights, especially in sectors where there is a fundamentally high risk of violations of workers' rights.

What now?

The new provisions are a step in the right direction, but we must continue to work to remove obstacles to labor migration and create opportunities for protection. This includes, for example, our wish that the restrictions on the right to equal treatment in housing only apply to public housing – and not to private housing. This time, we were only able to achieve an exception for private housing and, in view of the EU's increasingly restrictive migration policy, which is based on isolation and externalization, it is also essential to promote legal migration routes such as labour migration.

Study: Beyond borders, beyond boundaries

My Dutch colleague Tineke Strik and I have commissioned a critical analysis of the EU's financial support for border regimes in Tunisia and Libya on behalf of the Green Group in the European Parliament.

You can find the entire study here German, English and French.

A two-page summary is available on German, English, Italian, French and Arabic.

Clear failings on the part of the Commission 

The border protection measures co-financed by the European Commission and the member states regularly result in serious human rights violations. These include the use of physical force or deliberate collisions by the Tunisian coast guard or the interception and deprivation of liberty of migrants, enslavement, forced labor, imprisonment, extortion and smuggling by the Libyan coast guard. 

These are enormous sums, over € 70 million each for Libya and Tunisia for the periods from 2018 to 2022; a detailed overview can be found in the first chapter of the study.

When allocating funds, the risk of human rights violations is not sufficiently taken into account, despite corresponding provisions in the NDICI regulation, among others, through which most measures have been financed since 2021. Even during the project period, it is unclear how the projects are monitored, as the European Commission does not provide any documents, citing confidentiality.

Next steps

Funds should only be disbursed if it can be ensured that they will not be used to support measures that are associated with human rights violations. A human rights impact assessment must not only be carried out at the beginning of the project; programs must also be reviewed and, if necessary, adjusted or interrupted during their term. To this end, it is important that sufficient documents are made available to the European Parliament. Civil society also has an important role to play here; it is important that civil society organizations are consulted in funding decisions.

Further information

In order to present the study, we held a conference on the same day. Event The human rights aspects in particular were discussed with Seawatch, the authors of the study and DG NEAR; a recording of the event can be made available on request.

You can download the summary (EN/DE/FR/IT/AR) and the entire study (DE/EN/FR) here download. The SZ also has reports.

Event: Beyond the walls: How EU asylum policy disenfranchises people outside Europe

Love all,

On February 22 at 7 p.m., my event on the outsourcing of EU asylum policy will take place. The focus will be on the externalization (outsourcing) of responsibility to third countries and everyday life at Europe's borders:

People are abandoned in the desert, EU-funded militias shoot at rescue boats, survivors in distress at sea are sold on slave markets: The list of horror stories about the treatment of refugees in Europe's neighboring countries could go on and on. And even within Europe, we are witnessing an increasing disenfranchisement of people seeking protection – for example through the reform of the CEAS. More and more attempts are being made to restrict access to asylum in Europe, and it is becoming increasingly obvious that basic human rights are being disregarded in the process.

What is the situation in Europe's neighboring countries? Who is responsible for this inhumane policy? Why are EU governments increasingly outsourcing asylum policy? And what can we do about it? We want to address these and other questions during the event and then discuss them with the audience.

We were able to invite the journalist Franziska Grillmeier and the photographer Vincent Haiges who have report on the situation for refugees at various border locations, restrictions on reporting and escape routes outside Europe using examples and photos.

I will also – Erik Marquardt – will then report on the EU's externalization policy, the role of the Parliament and the political background. I will also present the results of our study in this context: „Beyond borders, beyond boundaries – Border crossings behind external borders“. The study sheds light on the EU's financial support for border regimes in Tunisia and Libya. If you are interested, you are welcome to here have a look inside.

to the speakers: 

Franziska Grillmeier is a freelance journalist specializing in flight and migration. She has traveled with Vincent Haiges to countries such as Bulgaria, Niger, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She has spent the past five years on the island of Lesbos in Greece. There she reported for ZEIT Online, taz, BBC, WDR and the Wochenzeitung, among others. Her book "Die Insel. A Report on the State of Emergency on the Margins of Europe" was published by C.H.Beck in 2023.

Vincent Haiges is a freelance documentary photographer who reports internationally on conflicts and human rights violations. His work includes reports from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Iraq for Die Zeit, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, NZZ, Republik. He is also working on a long-term project on violence at Europe's external borders.

Erik Marquardt has been a Member of the European Parliament since 2019. There he deals with asylum, migration and human rights. He has often been to the external borders and on sea rescue missions in the Mediterranean. In Parliament, for example, he accompanied the negotiations on the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) as shadow rapporteur.

Drinks and snacks are provided.

Venue: 

aquarium Südblock – narrativ e.V.
Skalitzer Str. 6
10999 Berlin

Date and time: 

22.02.2024 

19:00 – 20:30 

Registration for on-site participation: 

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Love,

Erik

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GEAS: Not a good day for European asylum law

The Council and Parliament have agreed on a reform towards a common European asylum system. Here you will find a brief overview of the key results of the negotiations on the GEAS package.

The Council has prevailed over the Parliament in almost all relevant points. This reform missed the opportunity to put EU asylum policy on the right track. Instead, bureaucratic procedures and tougher asylum laws will now suddenly deter people from fleeing to Europe. This approach has already failed in recent years. We now face the threat of more irregular migration and a culture of disintegration towards people seeking protection. This policy of deterrence is obviously not weakening right-wing populism, but rather strengthening it. 

Detention-like conditions

A system is being created in which many people are to be locked up in detention-like conditions during their asylum procedures, a lot of additional bureaucracy is being created and significantly longer asylum procedures are threatened. The new solidarity mechanism will not be able to compensate for the additional chaos and suffering this will cause.

Many important details have simply not yet been finalized. There was not enough time to negotiate all the articles. Due to the political requirement to achieve a result by the end of the year, the content was subordinated to the goal of reaching a quick agreement. This is not how legislation should take place.

Particularly in the polarized debate on asylum policy, Europe deserves the Council and Parliament to be well rested and not to decide on key points in late-night meetings that leave many questions unanswered.

Scope for improvement

Parliament and the Council still have to vote on the legal acts. We will then work to ensure that the legal acts are implemented as sensibly as possible. In addition, it is now all the more important to use the scope for improvements beyond the current reform, as it contains many loopholes. 

Questions of integration, cooperation with third countries or labor migration play no role in the current asylum reform. We will continue to fight for binding distribution, better standards at the external borders and efficient asylum procedures. This is the only way to achieve a fair distribution of responsibility for the major challenges of asylum and migration policy. In addition, human rights and the Geneva Convention on Refugees must continue to apply in Europe. It is too early today to call a swan song for the right of asylum, even if this is not a good day for the right of asylum.

EN