This new agreement represents a serious political disregard for the protection of human lives. Far from offering a solution to the immense suffering and distress of people seeking safety and protection at Europe’s borders, it enables European States to further deviate from their responsibilities towards those in need.
Instead of fixing a broken asylum system in Europe and guaranteeing safe and legal pathways for those in need, this new agreement implicitly condones the harmful practices we have seen across Europe.
For years, MSF has been treating the physical and mental health consequences of inhumane European migration policies. Policies that have seized upon this notion of ‘crisis’ and ‘instrumentalisation’ as a reason to diminish minimum standards and rights.
We have seen across our projects in Greece, Poland, Lithuania, Libya, and the Central Mediterranean Sea, how European states have capitalised on this notion of extraordinary measures to lower safeguards for people in dire need. These notions have been a breeding ground for violent practices such as pushbacks at borders and prolonged and arbitrary detention, such as the agreement between Italy and Libya that supports the system of exploitation, extortion and abuse in which so many find themselves trapped.
We know from experience these measures have also often served to restrict independent humanitarian aid and civil society monitoring, making assistance to individuals in need increasingly difficult. There are numerous concrete examples of this: as a result of the 2021-2022 emergency measures in Poland, for example, MSF teams were unable to provide emergency medical assistance after being denied access to the militarised border zone. In the winter of 2021-2022 more than 21 people died at the Belarusian borders with Poland and Lithuania.
MSF calls upon European states to immediately change course; to prioritise the safety of those seeking sanctuary, and cease the instrumentalisation of human suffering for political currency.