Common action needed, not unilateral border controls
January 07, 2016
|Two boys from Syria enjoy a snowball fight in the small Swedish town of Torsby. Besides resettlement refugees must be able to claim asylum at the borders too. (UNHCR photo by J. Bävman) See the full UNHCR photo story here.
|"From Mellila to Calais to the far reaches of the EU’s extremities, we have seen border control's massive negative repercussions and effects on people searching for safety,” said JRS Europe director Jean-Marie Carrière. “Responsible border management does not seek to turn away those in search of international protection.”
(Brussels) January 7, 2016 – Jesuit Refugee
Service Europe is concerned that Sweden has reinstated identity checks at its
border with Denmark. Sweden has a long tradition of protecting refugees and
defending human rights. Indeed, in 2015 the country received the highest number
of refugees per capita in the European Union. Civil society and non-governmental
organizations like JRS Sweden have been welcoming and done much hard work to
welcome the new arrivals.
Although many countries in Europe are dealing
with high numbers of new arrivals from war-torn countries, unilaterally setting
up border controls can only exacerbate migration problems and hinder the
development and implementation of international solutions.
The first to be affected will be refugees
themselves – vulnerable people of all ages – who are simply trying to find a
safe place to live. More border controls increases business for smugglers and
will force many people to take ever greater risks to reach safety.
"From Mellila to Calais to the far reaches
of the EU’s extremities, we have seen border control's massive negative
repercussions and effects on people searching for safety,” said JRS Europe
director Jean-Marie Carrière. “Responsible border management does not seek to turn
away those in search of international protection.”
Sweden has not been alone in reinstating identity
checks or imposing border controls. Denmark has also reinstated identity checks
temporarily at the German-Danish border. The response was a move to deflect asylum seekers who might have
otherwise sought protection in Sweden from seeking protection in Denmark.
These measures highlight that the underlying
shortcomings of the Common European Asylum System cannot be overcome by Member
States acting alone and only in their immediate self-interest. Such measures
create a domino effect in other Member States by shifting the responsibility
for refugee protection elsewhere – either to other Member States or even to
third countries as has been the case with asylum seekers in the Balkans. The
result is that asylum seekers become further and further displaced and their
protection needs ever more acute. These measures present serious consequences
for the protection and well-being of persons seeking asylum.
JRS Europe encourages EU leaders, Member States
and institutions to work collectively, not unilaterally, to ensure protection
for – and a humane response towards – asylum seekers and refugees. Any action
should, firstly, protect rather than displace asylum seekers, and secondly,
support rather than disincentivize Member States to act humanely towards asylum
seekers. The EU and the borderless Schengen Area were built on principles of
peace, freedom and security. It is finally time for European states to work
together to uphold these principles in action.
Mr Christian Fuchs