Roundtable: EU is able to welcome refugees and treat them in line with international human rights standards

During the International Roundtable on the Rights of Migrants and Refugees in the European Union, held by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and its partner organizations Immigration Council of Ireland, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, the Greek Council for Refugees and Forum for Human Rights, judges, lawyers, experts and NGO representatives from Italy, Greece, the Czech Republic and Ireland came together to discuss the challenges involved in safeguarding the rights of migrants and refugees in the EU.

The participants welcomed the swift reaction and provision of protection by the EU and its Member States for refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It was noted that this was a testament to the EU’s ability to welcome migrants and refugees in fair conditions, with full respect for their human rights. Hopes were expressed that the political will to ensure such treatment of all migrants and refugees in the EU may be reflected in the forthcoming EU Pact on Asylum and Migration.

On the first day of the International Roundtable, present and former judges of the European Court of Human Rights presented analysis of the principle of non-refoulement, while academics and judges addressed the practical application of the safe country concept. Participants engaged in a break-out session on conscious and unconscious bias in decision making, while others discussed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on asylum procedures (see the ICJ’s legal briefing on the impact of Covid-19 on the rights of migrants and refugees in the EU). Judges and experts of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) further discussed the process of bringing preliminary questions before CJEU and how to most efficiently convey preliminary questions to the Court.

The second day of the International Roundtable was introduced with a discussion on the EU Pact on Asylum and Migration, between EU institutions representatives – from the European Commission, the upcoming Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and the European Parliament, as well as academics and NGOs. This allowed the participants to engage in a debate with stakeholders on the current state of play of the proposals of the Pact. The compliance of the EU Pact proposals with international human rights standards was questioned by some of the speakers and national judges and lawyers. It was said that safeguards must be put in place in the new legislation, if it is to be in line with the EU Charter and international human rights law (see the ICJ’s legal briefing on detention in the EU Pact proposals).

Some participants then discussed alternatives to detention for purposes of immigration control in a break-out session, looking at examples from Belgium and the Czech Republic, while others discussed the issue of criminalisation of humanitarian assistance to migrants (see the ICJ’s briefing on the criminalisation of humanitarian and other support assistance to migrants and the defence of their human rights in the EU). The International Roundtable’s last exchange of views concerned the highly relevant issue of the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive for people fleeing Ukraine, in which presenters and participants discussed the short- and long-term challenges related to its implementation.

See the full agenda here.

The International Roundtable on the rights of migrants and refugees in the European Union was the last event of the FAIR PLUS Project (Fostering Access to Immigrants’ Rights Plus), which is coming to a close after more than three years of work aiming to contribute to better judicial protection of fundamental rights of migrants across the EU. The FAIR PLUS Project has taken the form of judicial trainings for national judges and legal practitioners, and has served to create networks to increase information exchange between EU Member States, and to foster discussion on challenges and best practices among legal professionals. The FAIR PLUS Project has been implemented in collaboration with the ICJ’s national partners: Immigration Council Ireland (ICI), Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (Italy), the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), and Forum for Human Rights (Czech Republic).

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