Article 14 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution". Europe has always attracted migrants and asylum seekers because it benefits from a reputation of high standards of living and as the birth place of the human rights.
Today, Europe harbors approximately 1,612,000 refugees and 240,000 asylum seekers. Due to these facts, Europe had a great influence in the development of Refugee and Asylum law.
The period of 2001-2004 has been critical for refugees and asylum seekers. With the increase and the unpredictability of the arrivals, the European Union (EU) has been focused on implementing measures to restrict the entry of such refugees. Those restriction measures has resulted in the gradual creation of what is now called "Fortress Europe". This appellation covers the fact that it is getting harder for asylum seekers to enter member states of the EU to escape persecution.
The ability of the EU to provide protection guarantees is questioned while it seems that a restrictive approach is being adopted in EU member states as part of a chain reaction throughout Western Europe.
Is it appropriate to consider that the current EU asylum and refugee policy fostered the conditions to create a "Fortress Europe"?
The current asylum policy in the 21st century focuses on rejection of refugees. These kinds of restrictions have become the common trend.
[...] The European Border Management Agency has a major role in border control. It ensures that people find it very difficult to cross borders. The way it operates is mainly hidden as there might exist a breach of the spirit of refugee and asylum law. In EU law, one of the main problems is the merging in practice as well as in the legal instruments between asylum and immigration. Immigration is about controlling who enters the EU whereas refugee law is about providing protection. [...]
[...] This CEAS should be able to ensure that despite the discretionary power of the states when they incorporate the EU law into their national legislation, they do not change the purpose of the act and its provisions. For example, it is not normal that if an asylum seeker enters one of the EU member states, he/she will not benefit from the same protection as he/she would have had in another member state. The UNHCR has been pointing out several malfunctions in the EU asylum system and has expressed strong reservations. [...]
[...] Its main critics concern the vague statements dealing with the improvement of the EU protections, and more specifically that the QD is not working and has not achieved its objective. Under the French presidency, the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum 2008 seems to be another vague statement while UNHCR is concerned that the EU minimum standards might be below the international refugee law standards. However in the 2008 Pact, it acknowledges the efforts made including the reinforcement of the cooperation with the council and the proposition of training those functioning at the borders on the rights and obligations of international protection. [...]
[...] With the recent enlargement, the Council of the EU took a new directive to include the new member states from Eastern Europe. The Schengen area is a very strong symbol in the conception of the fortress. It shapes the contrast between a zone of free movement and free circulation and the exterior. Indeed, the EU is characterized by “four freedoms” which covers, free movement of goods, free movement of persons, free movement of services and free movement of capital. The enlargement and the modification of the area have involved the appearance of new borders. [...]
[...] The Treaty on European Union (“Maastricht”) in force from 1993 was the first significant step into moving refugees and asylum seekers issues into the mainstream EU policy. The meeting of Tampere in 1999 was significant as the European Council tried to establish human right oriented standards. What emerged from the discussions were four principles containing various statements about protection. But it has been interpreted in such a way as to render access to the EU rather difficult. The way these statements have been formulated might not be in practice so positive for refugees and asylum seekers. [...]
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