Salzburg Summit: Talks on migration should take into account violations of human rights in Egypt

Egypt, Italy, Migration and Asylum, Press Release, Shrinking Space for Civil Society

Read in:  French  Arabic 

Press Release

Brussels, 20 September 2018

EuroMed Rights is extremely concerned about the outcomes of the Salzburg EU informal meeting, where Austria, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, asked its EU counterparts to enter migration talks with Egypt.

On 16 September, Austrian Federal Chancellor Kurz and EU Council President Tusk visited Cairo to speak with President al-Sisi about preventing departures from Egyptian coasts for Europe, regional stability and a possible future summit between the EU and the League of Arab States. Kurz highlighted the efficiency of President al-Sisi in preventing ships from sailing towards Europe.

It is very disappointing that human rights were not on the agenda, especially as Mr Tusk and Mr Kurz travelled to Cairo a few days only after a mass death sentence was given on 8 September to 75 people involved on the Rabaa case. The Egyptian regime currently conducts a generalised crackdown on dissent: over 800 people have been killed in 2013 massacres committed by police and security forces, over 1250 people have been subjected to enforced disappearances and more than 60,000 have been jailed since al-Sisi took power. Civil society organisations and human rights defenders, including those working on migration, are being harassed, prosecuted and forced to stop their activities.

The proposals contemplate the deepening of cooperation already undertaken at bilateral level (eg use of European funds for police co-operation on cross-border crime between Egypt and Italy) with a country without asylum legislation without respect in law or in practice for the rights of migrants, without guarantees for the rights of refugees, in particular by violating the principle of non-refoulement and by depriving the refugees recognized by UNHCR of their freedom. This announcement demonstrates once again that the EU is ready to haggle over the rights of migrants and refugees for geopolitical interests, moving away from its human rights obligations.

The security approach towards migration is a short-sighted policy that will not help to maintain Egypt’s fragile stability. Human rights should be a priority to help the country strengthen its institutions, for the benefit of Egypt and Europe alike.