In response to today’s proposals from the European Commission which would allow Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to derogate from EU rules, including by holding asylum seekers and migrants at the border for 16 weeks with minimal safeguards, Eve Geddie, Director of Amnesty International’s European Office said:
“The arrival of people at the EU’s borders with Belarus is entirely manageable with the rules as they stand. Today’s proposals will further punish people for political gain, weaken asylum protections, and undermine the EU’s standing at home and abroad. If the EU can allow a minority of member states to throw out the rule book due to the presence of a few thousand people at its border, it throws out any authority it has on human rights and the rule of law.
“The current situation at the EU’s borders with Belarus is being used by some countries as an excuse to weaken protections of asylum seekers and push their anti-migrant agenda. Holding asylum seekers in detention for four months, without the protection standards required by international law, is normalising de facto unlawful detention at the EU’s external borders.
“Asylum rules should be upheld, not allowed to be side-stepped by countries via so-called exceptional measures. Amnesty International is alarmed that the proposal will violate people’s rights, and exacerbate the humanitarian crisis at borders while continuing to expose the EU to further internal and external manipulation and blackmailing.
“While Lukashenka’s mistreatment and instrumentalization of migrants and asylum seekers is deplorable, he is exploiting the EU’s own tendency to treat people at their borders as a threat.
“At least 10 people, including a one-year-old child, have died at the EU’s Eastern borders in recent weeks. Today the European Commission is bringing in measures which undermine rights and normalize the dehumanization and suffering of people at the EU’s borders.”