Joint Statement: NGOs strongly condemn new EU policies to contain migration | Plan International Skip to main content

Joint Statement: NGOs strongly condemn new EU policies to contain migration

In a joint NGO statement ahead of the European Council of 28-29 June 2016, more than 100 NGOs, including Plan International, condemn new EU policies to contain migration.

At the upcoming European Council, European Union (EU) leaders will discuss the European Commission’s Communication on a new Partnership Framework with third countries. The Communication proposes an approach which aims to leverage existing EU and Member States' external cooperation instruments and tools in order to stem migration to Europe. The undersigned organisations express their grave concern about the direction the EU is taking by making deterrence and return the main objective of the Union's relationship with third countries. More broadly, this new Partnership Framework risks cementing a shift towards a foreign policy that serves one single objective, to curb migration, at the expense of European credibility and leverage in defence of fundamental values and human rights.

The proposed approach is inspired by the EU-Turkey deal which although touted as a successful example of cooperation, has actually left thousands people stranded in Greece in inhumane and degrading conditions. This has particularly affected children, with the result that hundreds of unaccompanied children have been held in closed detention facilities on the islands or forced to sleep in police cells on the Greek mainland. The wider repercussions of this should not be underestimated. It is hard to see how Europe can ask partner countries to keep their doors open, to host large-scale refugee populations and prevent further movements while at the same time Member States refuse to shoulder their fair share of responsibility for protecting people who flee their homes. The right to asylum is being significantly undermined, and it will become more and more challenging for civilians in conflict zones to seek international protection.

The Commission's proposal ignores all the evidence on the ineffectiveness of deterrence strategies aimed at stopping migration. This approach will not only fail to “break the business-model” of smugglers but increase human suffering as people are forced into taking more dangerous routes. Moreover, despite the stated commitment to respect the principle of non-refoulement, there are no safeguards envisaged to ensure that human rights, rule of law standards and protection mechanisms are in place.  As a result, people risk being deported to countries where their rights are not safeguarded.  Responsibility and liability for human rights violations do not end at Europe’s borders.
We are disappointed to see that once again the emphasis on deterrence leaves no clear commitments to open up safe and regular channels to Europe for those in need of international protection and for other migrants, e.g. through resettlement, humanitarian admission schemes, family reunification, educational visas, labour mobility and visa liberalisation. Resettlement, labour migration and visa liberalisation are only mentioned as possible leverage with partner countries in a quid pro quo approach.

Another major concern is the financing of the proposed Partnership Framework which would represent a wholesale re-orientation of Europe’s development programming towards stopping migration. This is an unacceptable contradiction to the commitment to use development cooperation with the aim to eradicate poverty, as enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. Aid is for the benefit of people in need, and should not be used as a leverage for migration control.  EU funding should be transparent and adhere to clearly established principles, such as the Busan principles on effectiveness and the Paris principles of ownership by and alignment to partner countries’ strategies. In addition, striking ‘migration management’ agreements with countries where grave human rights violations are committed will be counter-productive in the longer term – undermining human rights around the globe and perpetuating the cycle of abuse and repression that causes people to flee. 

Migration has many drivers; people may be on the move in search of new livelihood opportunities, an education or to reunite with family, while conflict and violence, human rights violations, climate change, poverty and unemployment can all trigger migration and forced displacement. Any cooperation to manage migration should take into consideration this complex and multi-faceted reality, be evidence and needs-based, and ensure that the benefits of migration are maximised and the risks are mitigated.

If the EU wants to call for more global solidarity, it needs to set the right example. The EU, a project built on the rubble of a devastating war, is about to embark on a dark chapter of its history. We urge EU leaders to choose a rights-based system to manage migration, based on a viable long-term strategic vision, rather than pursuing an unattainable and inhumane deterrence objective and thereby abandoning its core founding principles.

As human rights, humanitarian, medical, migration and development agencies, and key implementing partners of development programmes in third countries, we call on European leaders to:

  • Reject the current Commission Communication and develop a sustainable long-term and evidence-based strategy for migration management, in consultation with civil society and experts.
  • Facilitate safe mobility by opening and strengthening safe and regular channels to Europe both for those in need of international protection and other migrants including through resettlement, humanitarian admission and humanitarian visas, family reunification, worker mobility across skill levels and student visas. Member States must commit to clear benchmarks and appropriate timelines for implementing a migration framework that meets the needs of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees, their families, as well as the needs and obligations of Member States.
  • Exclude any conditionality based on migration control indicators in the allocation of development aid to third countries. Development aid is a tool to fight poverty and inequality, not to manage migration. Vulnerable populations should not be punished because of concerns that are largely political.
  • Stop any readmissions or removals of people by the EU to a third country that violate – or risk violating - fundamental rights and rule of law, including the principle of non-refoulement. Ensure access to protection, justice and effective remedy for all people in migration and asylum procedures.
  • Ensure transparency in the development of any instruments to manage migration and accountability for human rights violations resulting from EU migration policies.
  • Commit to a foreign policy and action focused on preventing and unlocking protracted crises. While the Communication mentions the need to address root causes of displacement in the long term, it does not include engagement to prevent and manage crises.



  1. ACT Alliance EU
  2. ActionAid
  3. aditus foundation
  4. Afrique Culture Maroc
  5. Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l'Homme
  6. Aid Services
  7. Amnesty International
  8. Amycos
  9. Andalucía Acoge
  10. Asamblea de Cooperacion Por la Paz ACPP
  11. Asgi - Associazione per gli Studi Giuridici sull'Immigrazione
  12. Asociacion por ti mujer
  13. Asociacion Salud y Familia - Spain
  14. Association for action against violence and trafficking in human beings-Open Gate La  Strada Macedonia.
  15. Association for the Social Support of Youth
  16. Ayuda en Acción
  17. British Refugee Council
  18. CAFOD
  19. Care International
  20. CCOO de Andalucia
  21. Centre for Youths Integrated Development.
  22. Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos PRO IGUAL
  23. ChildFund Alliance
  24. Church of Sweden
  25. Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe
  26. Citizens’ association for combating trafficking in human beings and all forms of gender-based violence
  27. CNCD-11.11.11
  28. Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado –CEAR-
  29. Concern Worldwide
  30. CONCORD Europe
  31. CONCORD Sweden
  32. Conseil des Béninois de France
  33. Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organizations in the Czech Republic
  34. Coordinadora Andaluza de ONGD
  35. Coordinadora Cantabra de ONGD
  36. Coordinadora de ONGD de  la Región de Murcia
  37. Coordinadora de ONGD del Principado de Asturias
  38. Coordinadora de ONGD España 
  39. Coordinadora de ONGD Navarra
  40. Coordinadora Extremeña de ONGD
  41. Coordinadora Gallega de ONGD
  42. Coordinadora ONGD de Castilla y León
  43. Coordinadora Valenciana de ONGD
  44. Cordaid
  45. Detention Action
  46. Detention Forum
  47. Doctors of the World International network
  48. EU-CORD Network
  49. Eurochild
  50. EuroMed Rights
  51. European Association for the Defence of Human Rights
  52. European Council on Refugees and Exiles
  53. European Youth Forum
  54. Federación Aragonesa de ONGD
  55. Federación de Asociaciones de Derechos Humanos
  56. Federation of Christian NGOs in Italy
  57. FIACAT
  58. FIDH
  59. FIZ advocacy and support for migrant women and victims of trafficking
  60. Flüchtlingsrat Niedersachsen e.V.
  61. Forum des Organisations de Solidarité Internationale issues des Migrations
  62. Fundacion 1º de Mayo de Comisiones Obreras
  63. Fundación Alianza por los Derechos, la Igualdad y la Solidaridad Internacional –APS-
  64. Greek Forum of Refugees
  65. Habitat for Humanity International, Europe, Middle East and Africa
  66. Handicap International
  67. Human Rights Watch
  68. Human Rights Without Frontiers
  69. Instituto Sindical de Cooperación al Desarrollo –ISCOD-
  70. InteRed
  72. Islamic Relief UK
  73. Jesuit Refugee Service Europe.
  74. Justice and Peace Netherlands
  75. KISA-Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism
  76. Koordinierungsstelle der Österreichischen Bischofskonferenz für internationale Entwicklung und Mission  
  77. La Strada International
  78. - Organitzacions per a la Justícia Global
  79. Le Monde des Possibles
  80. Macedonian Young Lawyers Association
  81. Menedék - Hungarian Association for Migrants
  82. Migrant Voice UK
  83. Migrants' Rights Network
  84. Movimiento contra la Intolerancia
  85. Movimiento por la Paz –MPDL-
  86. Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre
  87. Norwegian Refugee Council
  88. Oxfam
  89. PAX
  90. Pax Christi International
  91. PICUM-Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants
  92. Plan International EU office
  93. Platform Minors in exile / Plate-forme Mineurs en exil / Platform Kinderen op de vlucht (Belgium)
  94. Red Acoge
  95. Réseau de Compétences Solidaires - Groupement d'Economie Sociale et Solidaire  France - Europe - Afrique
  96. Réseau Immigration Développement Démocratie -  IDD
  97. Save the Children
  98. SOS Children’s Villages International
  99. SOS Racisme – Touche pas à mon pote
  100. Stichting LOS
  101. Swedish Refugee Advice Centre
  102. Télécoms Sans Frontières
  103. Terre des Hommes International Federation
  104. The International Federation of Social Workers European Region 
  105. The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture victims
  106. the Norwegian Centre Against Racism
  107. Trócaire
  108. World Vision Brussels and EU Representation
  109. ZOA