Europe’s trade unions have condemned the European Union for pursuing what they argue is a harmful migration policy that promotes exploitation and abuse.
Launched by the European Commission in September last year, the European Pact on Migration and Asylum was intended as a “fresh start” and a “human and humane approach” to migration.
But according to Freedom United partner the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), which represents almost 45 million workers in 39 countries across Europe, the pact has merely strengthened harmful policies that prioritize border control and criminalization.
One of the self-stated key objectives of the pact is to strengthen the deportation power of Frontex, the European border agency which ETUC notes has recently come under fire for mismanagement and workplace harassment.
ETUC argues that by limiting safe, legal routes for labor migration, the E.U.’s pact promotes the labor exploitation and abuse of migrant workers that could perform important roles in sectors such as healthcare, transport, and construction.
Social Europe reports:
Denying migrant workers their rights merely benefits unprincipled employers who use asylum-seekers and refugees, undocumented and other precarious workers as cheap labour, which in turn creates hostility and undermines conditions and pay for the whole workforce. Asylum-seekers should have access to employment in all member states and undocumented workers should have equal labour rights, with rapid action to regularise their status.
The universal human rights of all workers should be respected, regardless of their employment status or nationality. The EU needs to ensure that everyone in the same workplace or sector enjoys fair pay and good working conditions, as well as job security and social protection. The best way to achieve this is through trade union representation.
Across the Mediterranean Sea, meanwhile, ETUC points out that the E.U.’s policy of allying itself with actors such as the Libyan coast guard—a move criticized even by the European Parliament itself—is in blatant contradiction of its commitment to human rights.
Migrants and refugees in Libya’s detention centers face horrifying conditions, including cases of modern slavery documented by the U.N., Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.
These circumstances, combined with an intentional lack of legal migration routes, push increasing numbers of people to attempt dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean Sea, where over 800 have lost their lives in 2021 alone.
Despite the increasing death toll, the E.U.’s migrant pact could limit the ability of civil society organizations from conducting search-and-rescue operations, which it argues undermine its policies.
Ludovic Voet, confederal secretary of ETUC, argues that it is time for the EU to “stop regarding migrants merely as statistics and start to recognize them as human beings—each with an individual story and aspirations, and the right to dignity and respect.”
Freedom United has long stood with the migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe by calling for an end to the EU’s tacit support of modern slavery in Libya.
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