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Common action needed, not unilateral border controls
January 07, 2016

Common action needed, not unilateral border controls
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.

Press Contact Information
Mr Christian Fuchs
christian.fuchs@jrs.net
202-629-5946