EU’s external cooperation on migration & border management: promoting or restricting migrants’ and refugee rights?

Migration and Asylum, Policy Brief

Read in:  French  Arabic 

Brussels 19 March 2019

Migration is a pillar of the external cooperation of the European Union (EU) and its Member States with their Maghreb neighbours, in line with the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (2005) and the Valletta Action Plan (2015).

On 7 March 2019, Ministers at the Justice and Home Affairs Council agreed that “one important continuing priority [for the EU] is to support North African countries so that they are well equipped to deal with the migration challenges they face”. On 6 March 2019, the European Commission reviewed the implementation of its European Migration Agenda adopted in 2015. The next steps announced include the strengthening of funding allocated to North Africa through the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (€120 million), and the resumption of negotiations to sign readmission agreements with Tunisia and Morocco, in exchange for visa facilitation and regular mobility access to the EU.

Nevertheless, many concerns are raised about the real reasons and consequences of the European programmes deployed in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Beyond the unprecedented financial and technical resources dedicated by the EU and its Member States, “external cooperation” on migration issues takes place in countries with no effective framework for the protection of the rights of people on the move, and where independent and autonomous civil society is too often the target of restrictions. In light of these facts, can European cooperation on migration and border control be a useful tool for the effective respect of the rights of migrants and refugees in the Maghreb countries?

The two briefings presented here summarise the main cooperation instruments in place in the Maghreb countries, and present recommendations for civil society actors to be able to better invest these cooperation channels and contribute to their definition, implementation and evaluation.

Briefing 1 entitled ‘‘Access to rights for people on the move’‘ presents the main existing European programmes aimed at enabling migrants and refugees to access their rights in the Maghreb countries. The limits of these actions are discussed, as well as examples of civil society mobilisation.

Briefing 2 entitled ”People on the move facing human rights violations at borders” presents the main programmes dedicated to border management and their often negative consequences on the rights of persons migrating.

An annex table sets out the main international legal frameworks applicable to migrants and refugees and their implementation in the Maghreb countries.

EuroMed Rights aims to support the work of autonomous civil society in its role as an expert in the definition and implementation of public policies based on respect for human rights. In a context of unprecedented financial and technical deployment of the EU and its Member States in their southern Mediterranean neighbourhood, EuroMed Rights considers it essential that European external cooperation supports local and autonomous civil society initiatives in each country of the region, ensuring an inclusive and sustainable approach to effective access to migrants and refugees’ the rights of migrants and refugees in the Maghreb countries.