On eve of migration summit, UN rights expert urges EU countries to revisit border controls

Syrian refugees on the border of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia They were among the last group of people allowed to cross from Greece, before the Serbian and other borders along the Balkan route were closed. Photo: UNICEF/Suzie Pappas-Capovska

16 March 2016 – Making Turkey the “gatekeeper’ does not absolve Europe from its responsibility of welcoming migrants, a United Nations human rights expert today, warning that the only way for Europe to secure its borders is to offer safe and regular channels for mobility.

“European member states once responsible for drafting key legislation on human rights and humanitarian protection are about to abandon their obligations. In the midst of the greatest migration crisis in Europe since world war two, they are passing their responsibility off to a third-country for political expediency,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau.

He was speaking on the eve of the European Union migration summit, where leaders from the 28-country bloc will discuss a new agreement with Turkey to readmit all migrants crossing irregularly to Greece.

Mr. Crépeau said he is “deeply concerned” about proposals that ignore the principle of non-refoulement, a principle of international law that forbids sending victims of persecution, often by a State actor, back to his or her persecutors.

Closing borders would increase the suffering of migrants and likely motivate them to take riskier journeys with smugglers, he noted, speaking out against “dominant anti-immigration nationalist populist discourse.”

“The only way to reduce migrant smuggling is to take over the market by offering regular, safe and cheap mobility solutions, with all the identity and security checks that efficient visa procedures can provide,” he insisted.

In his statement, Mr. Crépeau also noted that Greece and other countries on the frontline lack the adequate support to cope with the streams of refugees.

“This burden must be shared by all 28 EU States – it should be mandatory that EU nations either relocate people themselves or financially support States who are taking in asylum seekers,” he said.

The UN expert also voiced concern about reported violence targeting migrants, including physical assaults and expropriation of property by law officials.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

UN expert urges Honduran Government to protect witness to Berta Cáceres killing

Related Stories






In-depth Interviews