The new foreign policy of the EU Commission and Council: development funds instrumentally used as bargaining chips to reach agreements and partnerships with third countries in order to repel migrants and refugees.
At the informal Summit held at La Valletta on 3 February, the European Union confirms its policy of agreements for the closure of borders. Italy seconds the EU requests and concludes a shameful agreement with Libya.
ASGI strongly condemns this shameful policy of the EU and the Italian Government to conclude agreements with third countries. “The EU betrays basic rule of law principles and infringes the democratic basis for the peaceful coexistence of citizens” says Lorenzo Trucco, lawyer and president of the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI).
The EU and the Italian Government circumvent their duty to receive people fleeing persecutions and wars through an immigration foreign policy largely based on agreements and partnerships with governments that are dictatorial – such as Sudan, Libya, or Niger – or wholly unable to ensure the safety of their citizens, such as Afghanistan.
Through these agreements, the EU and Italy de facto violate the principle of non-refoulement, as they require third countries to forcibly block the passage of people in clear need of international protection. This is done in return for military skills and equipment, in addition to co-operation funds, i.e. economic resources that instead of being devoted to foster growth and development of third countries, are shamefully downgraded to bargaining chips.
The Italian Government, in clear spite of the right to asylum enshrined in the Italian Constitution and the duty to respect human rights guaranteed by international law principles binding upon Italy, on 2 February 2017 signed a Memorandum with the Libyan Government ( italian, english) through which Italy commits to providing equipment and military, strategic and technological support, as well as funds only theoretically earmarked for development, to a Government which is under the constant blackmail of violent and armed militias, in order to block and control the departures of fleeing migrants. Libya remains a country that has not ratified the most basic conventions on asylum rights and human rights, and continues to inflict upon fleeing refugees inhuman and degrading treatments in detention centers that are the object of reports and appeals by all prominent international organizations, including institutional ones.
ASGI asks the EU to stop policies based on third country agreements whose aim is to slow down and stop the passage of refugees, exploiting the safeguard of lives of people who try to reach Europe, and disguising their real goal – a brutal and unlawful closure of borders.
ASGI requests the reallocation of cooperation funds to the effective, sustainable development of the economies of third countries, respecting the environment and the rights of men and women.
ASGI asks the Italian government to fully implement the Geneva Convention (and notably the non-refoulement principle), the Italian Constitution and, more generally, to fulfill the duty to receive those fleeing wars, persecutions and fundamental rights violations, by revoking the memorandum it just signed with Libya and with other undemocratic African governments, and by suspending financial and military support to third countries governments (including Sudan, Libya, Niger and Nigeria), tasked with violently blocking the refugee flows.
Also, ASGI believes Italy must immediately stop repatriating people to countries of origin where their fundamental rights are not respected.
ASGI appeals to large and small non-governmental organizations dealing with international cooperation to refuse any support to this deceptive use of international cooperation funds, and demand that aid is not conditioned to any border control policies.
Lastly, ASGI appeals to UNHCR and IOM to stop implementing on behalf of the European Commission tasks that, while seemingly aimed at supporting and safeguarding migrants and refugees, are fundamentally designed to promote the rejection and control of men and women fleeing persecutions and conflicts.
It is necessary to reverse European policies by mainstreaming a political agenda making the right to asylum effective and truly accessible, starting from an effective and broad European resettlement plan for refugees stranded in third countries that can not adequately ensure their safety.
ASGI also highlights that, to overcome the current migration flows management policies, which are arbitrarily selective and unfair, rescue operations at sea must be considerably strengthened; it is also necessary to foresee the possibility to obtain in countries of origin or transit an entry visa for reasons related to armed conflicts or grave fundamental rights violations, thus allowing safe access to European territory to those forced to flee.
It is possible to build a new relationship between the European space and migration flows; to this end, it is essential to reestablish the right to asylum as a cornerstone for an open and inclusive Europe, while at the same time promoting appropriate legal means allowing those who migrate for economic reasons to legally enter the EU to look for a job.
It is a crucial challenge: the pillars of European democracy are at stake. It is necessary for movements, associations and political forces to take action at all levels to protect the fundamental rights of the European area, which are currently under threat. There likely won’t be another opportunity.
Translation: Alberto Pasquero