As EU leaders are meeting in Brussels to discuss migration, experts denounced current EU migration policy as ineffective in tackling human trafficking and undermining migrant and refugee rights. A public hearing took place in the European Parliament today on the impact of EU external action in the Horn of Africa and addressing the criminalisation of refugees and impunity of human trafficking.
The event was hosted by the GUE/NGL group of Parliamentarians. The speakers emphasised the importance of protection in the region, addressing human trafficking at the highest level and to the source. The experts denounced the cooperation on migration of the EU with governments who are involved in human trafficking. The meeting took place as the European Council met on migration in Brussels.
The meeting was opened by Member of the European Parliament, Marie-Christine Vergiat. “The situation in the Horn of Africa is particularly dramatic.” Ms. Vergiat stated. “The Khartoum process has worsened the situation of migrants in that area of the world and this is particularly true in Sudan and Eritrea.”
Speaker Makeda Saba warned of the consequences of current cooperation programmes with regimes in the Horn of Africa, including those accused of crimes against humanity, such as Eritrea. Currently, there are three international NGOs working in Eritrea, VITA, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and Finn Church Aid (FCA). According to Saba, these organisations do harm by collaborating with the Eritrean regime, accused of committing crimes against humanity, including slave labour.
Sara Prestianni from ARCI Immigrazione spoke about the situation in Sudan and the Khartoum process, stating: “Omar al-Bashir has everything to gain from cooperation with the EU so he can brush up on his image. He is taking ownership of this collaboration to once again play a central role in the international arena. […] The Rapid Support Forces operate to now at the border in Eastern Sudan. Who knows what crimes are being committed?”
Christian Jakob, journalist at the German Tagezeitung, has extensively investigated the effect of the externalisation of Europe’s borders in Africa: “In countries like Eritrea and Sudan, it is very easy for the EU to get what they want because there is no one from civil society who can question it.”
Meron Estefanos, Eritrean-Swedish journalist, covered the situation of human trafficking in Libya, victimising many through human rights abuses, torture and extortion: “Libyan officials are extorting money from people who are intercepted on the sea and sent back. […] Even from within the legal detention, refugees are sold for labour and other illicit purposes.”
Prof. Mirjam van Reisen covered the overall effect of EU policies, communication strategies and the lack of protection for refugees in the region. The policies are irregularising even those that have already integrated or have a legitimate asylum claim.
Three documentary excerpts showed at the public hearing gave striking images of the tragedy.