On International Migrants Day, Eurodiaconia calls for equal protection of all refugees and asylum seekers, in both policy and practice, by the EU institutions and by Member States. Asylum seekers should be provided accommodation, swift access to the asylum procedure, and protection of all other rights afforded to asylum seekers under EU and international law.

This year, Europe faced a dramatic increase in the number of migrants and refugees precipitated by the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, as well as the ongoing human rights crises in Afghanistan and other countries. The EU Asylum Agency reported that as of September 2022, applications for asylum in the EU are the highest they’ve been in over 6 years and have reached numbers that correspond to 2016.[1] As Europe adapts to the number of incoming migrants and refugees, it is an important time to take stock of the challenges, opportunities, and complexities inherent in the EU migration and asylum system, particularly considering the current proposed reforms, or the New Migration Pact.

On the one hand, the EU witnessed a major success this year in solidarity and action, as the adoption and implementation of the Temporary Protection Directive allowed for refugees from Ukraine to quickly establish themselves in EU member states, access a wide array of social rights, and move freely between Member States. Eurodiaconia members have been instrumental in the implementation of the Temporary Protection Directive and note that its success ought to prompt reflection on how to improve broader EU asylum policy.

EU Member States should continue to show solidarity to refugees from Ukraine and bolster this support over the winter months, as more refugees from Ukraine are expected to enter the EU. To facilitate this, EU institutions should closely monitor the implementation of the Temporary Protection Directive, and formalise the role of civil society organisations in the ongoing monitoring of the implementation.

On the other hand, EU Member States have also been sharply criticised for implementing illegal pushbacks and violence at borders, the criminalisation of solidarity, and denial of accommodation and other rights of asylum seekers. Our member in Poland continues to warn about the ongoing poor treatment of refugees at the border of Belarus and Poland, who are routinely pushed back and placed in closed asylum centres, with NGOs and journalists denied access to the border. This stark difference in treatment between the refugees from Ukraine and those from other countries, as well as proposed legislation within the new migration pact which would allow Member States to derogate from asylum standards, show that the EU is not adequately protecting the fundamental right of equal treatment and international law regarding asylum.

Any legislation that seeks to codify derogations from asylum law should be opposed, as it creates unequal treatment between asylum seekers. Furthermore, Member States and the EU should reflect and learn from the positive effects of the application of the TPD and explore how these lessons and solidarity can be translated to refugees from other countries, for example, the ability to move freely between Member States. EU Member States and EU institutions should protect the rights of refugees from other countries in order to avoid preferential treatment in access to services or registration, recognition of qualifications, or access to accommodation.

The Temporary Protection Directive and the solidarity shown to refugees from Ukraine is a model of what is possible and proves that the EU can unanimously roll out the welcome mat to those fleeing war, persecution, and disaster. This coming year will be a crucial time in the negotiations on the New Migration Pact and the ongoing implementation of the Temporary Protection Directive, and Eurodiaconia calls on EU institutions and Member States to prioritise European solidarity and equal treatment, instead of allowing division and protectionism to have the final word.

[1] https://euaa.europa.eu/news-events/almost-100-000-asylum-applications-eu-september