Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s head for the Mediterranean, stated yesterday in a tweet that most of the 686 people who arrived the previous day in Lampedusa are economic migrants who will not be eligible to reside in Europe.
ASGI considers such declarations extremely dangerous as they promote a superficial and incorrect narrative of international protection and the right to reside in the EU.
- The definition of ‘economic migrants’ is legally irrelevant and cannot be automatically equated with the absence of requirements for legal residence in the EU.
- Making an a priori assessment of the right to legal residence is lacking in legal basis and contributes to the fundamental rights violations of those entering the EU1. In addition to those applying for asylum also unaccompanied minors, victims of trafficking, survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, single-parent families, persons with serious physical and mental health problems, shipwreck survivors, persons discriminated against because of their LGBTIQ membership could be among the people disembarked.
Stating that countries of origin must speed up the readmission of their nationals if progress is to be seen in asylum management and legal entry channels implies legitimising an asylum right bent to the needs of the EU and individual member states. This further statement seems to echo the established, but dangerous, conditional approach to visa policy: more returns mean more cooperation on visas, and vice versa.
ASGI finds unacceptable the UNHCR’s promotion of a legally incorrect and exclusionary view of the right to international protection. Statements of this magnitude, uttered by those with a structured and recognised public profile, have real effects: they legitimise the pre-legal category of “economic migrants” and contribute to the idea that the right to asylum can be bent according to the contingent needs of European institutions and Member States. For these reasons, it is imperative that UNHCR refutes Cochetel’s words and reaffirms the universal and non-selective nature of asylum procedures.
686 persons arrived in Lampedusa yesterday #Italy. Most of them are economic migrants who will not be eligible to reside in Europe. Countries of origin have to be faster in readmitting their nationals if we want to see progress on asylum management and legal migration pathways— vincent cochetel (@cochetel) September 28, 2021
Arrivals in Lampedusa 2/2 the majority of those who arrived last night are coming from countries who are not “refugee producing countries”. Art. 14 UDHR: Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from PERSECUTION.— vincent cochetel (@cochetel) September 28, 2021
- The tendency to prejudge asylum requests is a character of the illegitimate practices implemented under the so-called hotspot approach: people who arrive by sea in Italy are arbitrarily selected, based mainly on their nationality of origin. These practices lead to an arbitrary and illegal exclusion from the right of asylum of many foreign citizens.