Accessibility links

Breaking News

Rights Group Blasts 'Fortress Europe'

Human rights activists stage a protest on a sandy beach to call on EU leaders to do more to protect the rights and lives of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers arriving at Europe's borders, ahead of a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, March 20,

Rights group Amnesty International claims Europe is cracking down on illegal immigration, which is costly, and closing the doors to refugees fleeing conflict.

Issued Wednesday, a new report by Amnesty International claims measures adopted by European governments to staunch illegal immigration are not only costing taxpayers billions of dollars, but are creating new dangers for Syrians and others seeking refuge from conflict.

Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Director of Amnesty's Europe and Central Asia program, said, "The European Union is doing its utmost to protect its borders and is building a fortress Europe. But the cost of all of this is actually the human rights violations of migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe, and taking very dangerous journeys to reach the continent."

According to Amnesty, the European Union spent about $2.8 billion protecting its external borders between 2007 and 2013. Amnesty says the 28-member bloc spent less than a third of that amount to improve conditions for refugees and asylum seekers within its borders.

The report, Tigani said, aims to raise public awareness.

"[We're] trying to make Europeans think about what is happening at their doorstep, what is happening at their borders and what their governments are doing — not to allow people [in] who are in need of international protection," said Tigani.

New statistics show nearly half a million people applied for asylum in the European Union last year, the highest number recorded since the block began collecting data, six years ago. Many refugees from the Middle East and North Africa make a perilous journey across the Mediterranean to reach Europe's doors.

Earlier this week, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom urged member nations to take in more Syrians and other asylum seekers.

"There is a strong emphasis on assisting Syrians at the moment, but there are also other countries that would need support and people do embark on vessels on vary dangerous travels because there are very few, if any, legal ways to get to Europe, and one way to achieve [coming] to Europe in a safe way would be through increased resettlement," she said.

At the same time, Malmostrom said new European laws will lead to fairer and better asylum decisions in Europe, and better protection and reception for asylum seekers. Amnesty says more needs to be done, however, to turn legislation into action.