Italy received criticism last month for introducing a controversial code of conduct for search and rescue boats which would put people travelling to Europe to seek asylum at higher risk of harm.
But in an opinion piece for openDemocracy, migration and borders scholars Martina Tazzioli and Maurice Stierl argue that “we need to go beyond criticising Italy’s action,” highlighting that “this is not simply an Italian but very much a European problem.”
Tazzioli and Stierl point to the right to European asylum as the solution that the political Left should be calling for. Freedom United supports this solution as a means of building resilience against trafficking and exploitation across Europe.
What is European asylum?
Currently, people seeking asylum are required to submit their claim in the first E.U. country they reach, as per the Dublin Regulation. Tazzioli and Stierl argue instead for European asylum which would enable people to claim asylum anywhere in the bloc. This system would also enable recognized refugees to move and work anywhere in Europe.
Calling for such right is not an abstract claim. It means expanding the basic and fundamental freedom of EU citizens to encompass also those who have risked their lives across violent borders to seek international protection in Europe. It also means legalising a practice that thousands of migrant newcomers enact regardless of the Dublin Regulation, defiantly ‘self-relocating’ beyond the first country of arrival.
How it would reduce exploitation
Many people seeking safety in Europe plan to go to a specific European country based on a variety of factors, including where they already have family and friends and where they feel they have the best chance of securing a decent job, often because of the languages they speak.
Some media sources and public figures criticize this practice, calling it “asylum shopping”. But the preferences of people fleeing the threat of serious harm and persecution cannot be overlooked. In fact, being able to choose to live and work in the country that they feel most able to thrive in (a right that all European citizens have) could protect them from trafficking and exploitation.
Indeed, when a person is forced to stay in a country where they lack support networks and face greater barriers to inclusion, they are more likely to become the target of traffickers and unscrupulous employers.
On the other hand, if they leave the first country they entered to travel to their country of preference, they live with the constant threat of being detained and sent back to that first country. This fear is frequently used by traffickers to control and manipulate their victims.
Take action against exploitation today
Countries along Europe’s external borders have been calling for better distribution of people seeking asylum across the bloc, often claiming they face an undue burden.
Tazzioli and Stierl flip this idea on its head, pointing out that there should be no such thing as an “acceptable” or “non-acceptable” number of people seeking safety. “Instead of asking what’s ‘fair’ for states, let’s ask what’s just for asylum seekers,” they argue. They call for progressive voices to call for a positive vision: the right to European asylum.
Freedom United supports this call as a means of helping people better protect themselves from exploitation and harm. In our Safe Migration campaign, we call on governments, including those in the E.U., to pass immigration and asylum legislation that upholds human rights and to scrap regulations that increase the risk of exploitation, especially among already marginalized groups.
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