Humane treatment of asylum seekers becoming more difficult as polarized attitudes stall reforms in Europe

We sat down with Maria Giovanna Manieri for a Skype interview to get an inside view on how politics concerning migration works in the European Union. Manieri works as a political advisor on migration an asylum for the Greens/European Free Alliance (EFA) group in the European Parliament. As part of her daily work she follows legislative work and prepares briefings and amendment drafts for the group.

So what have you been working on recently?
MGM: In the last two years and a half I’ve been following the reform of the Common European Asylum System as well as work on legal migration and other programs.

How does this affect asylum seekers?
Asylum seekers are required to apply for asylum in the country they first arrive in. This however forces them to move irregularly (undocumented) to another country and work in the black market in order to be with their families. Migrants and especially undocumented migrants are particularly vulnerable to fundamental rights violations because they lack access to basic rights such as health care, education and housing and face fears of apprehension by the police.

Migrants and especially undocumented migrants are particularly vulnerable to fundamental human rights.

 

Manieri works as a political advisor on migration an asylum for the Greens/European Free Alliance (EFA) group in the European Parliament.

Why are some Member States not moving on the issue?
For different political reasons and mostly moved by populistic methods they are actually preventing the issue of migration management from being solved. This they can use then to frame the issue as an emergency even though in reality there is no emergency. The number of arrivals are manageable and have been coming down steadily since the peak of 2015.

And how does this type of speech show in the treatment of people?
The language used by Member States in the Council is increasingly criminalizing. It’s no longer just about using terminology such as ‘illegal migrant’, which we completely oppose since a person can’t be illegal per se. But this is also being used by certain Members States or far right movements to dehumanize people and to justify treatment outside of legality. If you say somebody is illegal and is doing something really bad simply by being a migrant or living on the street, then you can justify their detention or systematic restriction of their freedom of movement. This is really problematic because, to be very honest, up until now I feel like we haven’t managed to reverse the rhetoric which is getting worse and worse. It’s not just about terminology, but terminology is becoming reality.

It’s not just about terminology, but terminology is becoming reality.

What are the Greens/EFA doing to fight such rhetoric?
We have been really active in trying to provide facts and evidence-based policies. In some cases impact assessments which are normally required in preparing directives are not being done due to “urgency” of the matter. We might then request an impact assessment to be carried out which in turn shows that the proposal isn’t compliant with fundamental rights. So urgency is used to justify bypassing of migrants’ rights. And so we propose amendments that are based on the impact assessment. We have been working on the issue of negative rhetoric around the topic of migration. For example, recently we gave refugees themselves the chance to voice their views through our social media channels.

Lukas Korpelainen is a policy researcher at the Green Think Tank in Finland and by default interested in everything.