“A Europe that protects” was the tagline of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union speech this week, in which he announced plans for an additional 10,000 border guards. This is a massive six-fold increase on the current brigade of 1,600 border guards.
But if it means tighter control and policing of Europe’s borders, then let’s not forget Europe’s other responsibility to ‘protect’, enshrined in the 1951 International Refugee Convention to which all European governments are signatories. This commits governments to provide asylum to people fleeing persecution in their own countries. It also commits governments not to forcibly return people to countries where their lives may be in danger, otherwise known as the ‘principle of non-refoulement’.
Here is a case in point. Many Sudanese arriving irregularly in Europe – usually on flimsy boats attempting to cross the Mediterranean – are Darfuris fleeing persecution in their own country. Those living in refugee camps and student activists are particularly targeted, forcing many young Darfuri men to leave. In search of safety and a secure future, most take a well-worn route to Libya. These days, however, ‘work in Libya’ often means bonded labor.
Political instability and/or conflict in countries neighboring Sudan – such as South Sudan and Egypt – means they have few alternatives when seeking sanctuary from their own country.
So what does Juncker’s ‘Europe that protects’ mean for this group?
[Overseas Development Institute]