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AU – EU Civil Society Seminar – Ensuring respect for human rights in the context of migration and forced displacement

Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) was among the 40 African and European Civil Society including diaspora, that participated in the 9th African Union-European Union Civil Society Seminar on Human Rights which was held in Banjul on 15-16 October 2019.

This year’s Civil Society seminar discussions centred on “Ensuring respect for Human Rights in the context of migration and forced displacement,” aimed at providing recommendations for action by the AU and EU during the 15th AU-EU Human Rights Dialogue.

The current approach to cooperation on migration between the EU and AU is deeply flawed. It is based on the (largely Eurocentric) perception of migration as problematic. Instead of putting the rights of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants at the heart of its policies, approaches have contributed to making people more vulnerable to abuse, increased detention in deplorable conditions and strengthened the position of unaccountable authorities. In some contexts, the EU and its Member States have become complicit in human rights violations through their support to other governments. Positive examples of cooperation, such as the support for displaced and host communities centred in a rights-based framework, exist but are not the norm.

The declaration of 2019 as the AU year of refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) as well as the start of a new European Commission, offers an opportunity for both EU, AU, and their respective Member States to reassess their priorities and strategy pursued so far and take stock of the impact of current policies. The public commitment and recognition of their obligations as countries of asylum in accordance with international rules and treaties, especially the Global Compact on Migration, the Global Compact on Refugees and the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development by all AU and EU Member States must be the starting point.

The two-day seminar was focused on the following issues:

  • Mobility and legal pathways: safe and legal routes for refugees and the expansion of legal migration between the continents
  • Protecting rights of displaced people: developments regarding access to asylum, rights and dignity of displaced people on both continents and addressing root causes of forced displacement
  • Strategic litigation as a tool to ensure compliance with asylum legislation and support accountability
  • Opportunities and challenges arising from the implementation of GCR and GCM in EU and AU
  • Trends and responses to address human trafficking and sexual exploitation along migration routes
  • Impact of migration focus on EU foreign policy (in particular political engagement in line with human rights commitments) and on funding on the protection of human rights in the EU and AU
  • Human rights compliance in programmes and approaches related to migration, especially where they touch upon border management and include support to the security sector
  • Link to recommendations on migration from previous human rights civil society seminars on torture and ill-treatment, counter-terrorism and human rights, and youth participation

Participants agreed on the following set of recommendations addressed to the AU and EU institutions and their Member States, which were presented to decision-makers from both continents at the 15th AU-EU Human Rights Dialogue on 19 October 2019.

  • Ensure AU- EU migration-related cooperation promotes human rights and applicable international commitments
  • Ensure transparency and accountability in migration-related programmes and funding
  • Secure and promote the asylum space and rights-based migration in both EU and AU countries through legislative and policy reforms 
  • Challenge racism, discrimination and negative narratives regarding migration
  • Prioritise intersectional representation, inclusion, and participation of refugees and migrants, including vulnerable groups
  • Expand and promote legal pathways to Europe and within Africa 
  • Uphold the right to life at sea and on land 
  • Create a safe and enabling environment for CSO active on migration and forced displacement instead of criminalizing them.

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