Sangeetha has been commissioned by the London Times to write about the legal implications of Europe’s recent border violence.
Her article “The EU have chosen strong borders over legal duties – The Migrant Crisis in Greece is the inevitable result of years of seeing the right to asylum as a weapon rather than an obligation” was published in the Times online today. You can access the full article from the Times website here. In it Sangeetha discusses the weaponisation of the right to asylum as a significant part of a slow war EU migration policies are waging on fundamental principles of international law.
For ease, the full text is reproduced below:
“The EU have chosen strong borders over legal duties -The migrant crisis in Greece is the inevitable result of years of seeing the right to asylum as a weapon rather than an obligation”
Draconian migration policies among EU states are attacking fundamental principles of international law. This slow war can be traced back to the EU’s enlargement of 2004 when the European Commission announced its “wider Europe” doctrine. That was designed to extend the influence of the bloc’s jurisdiction to “improve their capacity for migration management and refugee protection, prevent and combat illegal immigration”.
In recent years Wider Europe has evolved into the externalisation of European border control, a mechanism by which central EU funds are released to non-EU states such as Libya, Sudan, Albania and Turkey, to keep migrants out of Fortress Europe. The extraterritoriality of Europe’s borders, the effective transfer of its physical border to a purchased one beyond its territory, has been prized over all other legal considerations. Negotiations with third countries are undertaken without any assessment of the human rights standards in place for migrants.
In the context of Wider Europe, the EU-Turkey deal of 2016 was born. Some €6 billion (£5.22 bn) was promised to President Erdoğan to keep Turkey’s 3.7million asylum seekers out of Europe. However, last month [February], Turkey broke its agreement by unlocking the gates of the Eastern passage to Europe, announcing that it would no longer stop migrants from crossing into Europe.
Greece, with the blessing and full support of the EU has responded with resolute force, irrespective of its legal obligations. A physical blockade against migrants was assembled along the land and sea borders with presence from Greek police, army, coast guard, special forces and European Border and Coast Guard Agency guards. Greece also announced that its armed forces would conduct exercises with live ammunition near the Evros land border and into the Aegean Sea – the two most well-travelled crossings from Turkey. This physical blockade is enforced by a legislative blockade against migrants. At the beginning of this month [March], Greece’s National Security Council announced the suspension of all applications for asylum for those who had entered irregularly. There is no legal basis for a state to arbitrarily cease to comply with its European and international legal obligation towards asylum seekers.
Less than a year ago, the International Criminal Court received a 245-page submission seeking to indict the EU for crimes against humanity committed between 2014 and 2019 through its migration policies of externalisation. The court is urged to investigate charges of deaths of tens of thousands of migrants by drowning, the refoulement of those fleeing Libya and complicity in the crimes of deportation, murder, imprisonment, enslavement, torture, rape, and other inhuman acts in Libyan detention camps and torture houses.
With the investigation still pending before the ICC, the EU now adds the weaponisation of the right to asylum to its arsenal in the war on international law. As European border politics become more heated, the breaches of international law are increasing and becoming more flagrant. The EU is sending a clear signal that the deterrence of migrants will continue to be robustly and violently managed, above all and any legal obligations.