The EU should not forget non-Ukrainian refugees at EU’s borders

Belgium, Migration and Asylum, Newsletter

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At the time of writing, more than 4 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia’s attack, and an additional 13 million persons are directly affected by the conflict. On the other hand, there are currently more than 13 million Syrians displaced either inside or outside their country. One cannot but notice the difference in the EU’s response to the displacement of people from Ukraine and other “migratory situations” at different EU’s borders. 

The EU’s response to people fleeing Ukraine has been overwhelmingly positive, with the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive forcing EU states to offer at least one-year-long residence permits and access to education, healthcare, work, accommodation and the mobilisation of more than 400 million EUR through different EU funding facilities for humanitarian aid and reception of refugees from Ukraine.  

In the meantime, at other EU borders, hundreds of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are not receiving the same protection and reception. Instead, they are detained, pushed back, suffer from inhumane or degrading treatment, and die in their attempt to reach European shores. 

Migrants still lose their lives at sea 

At the Poland-Belarus border for instance, at least 73 refugees, mainly from Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey, have been arrested by the Polish Border Guard. On the Belarus side, around 1,500 people are stuck, mainly Iraqis, Syrians, Afghans, Iranians and Egyptians. At the UK-France border, evictions, expulsions, arrests and violence against refugees in Calais continue: on 15 March 2022, four migrant boats were in distress in the English Channel. In Spain, the Algerian hirak activist and asylum seeker Mohamed Benhlima had been deported to Algeria, where he could be victim of torture and other degrading treatments.  

Many more people are feared dead trying to cross the Mediterranean. On 12 March 2022, at least 44 people drowned off the coast of Tarfaya (southern Morocco) while trying to reach the Canary Islands and according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in the first two weeks of March 2022, at least 70 migrants presumably lost their lives off the coast of Libya. The IOM has recorded at least 348 migrants deaths at sea in the Mediterranean since January 2022, but the real number is likely to be higher. 

These examples – a few among the many existing – show the EU’s double standards towards people seeking protection. This double standard cannot be tolerated. All people seeking protection in Europe should be welcomed and receive the same standards of reception and protection! 

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