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06/08/2023 22:27

“Minors will be detained at European borders”: Parliamentarian Bricmont warns of EU asylum reform

Andreas Edel Pressestelle
Population Europe

    EU-Parliamentarian Saskia Bricmont has issued a stern warning of the EU interior ministers’ Asylum reform plans. At the VULNER conference in Brussels on Thursday, the Green politician said that if the current agenda is not reversed, it will be detrimental to EU values.

    BRUSSELS | Saskia Bricmont, Member of the European Parliament, has sharply criticised the asylum reforms envisioned by the EU interior ministers. “The screening regulation currently negotiated foresees that children as young as 12 years old will undergo security checks and screening procedures,” said the Belgian Green politician on Thursday in Brussels, shortly before the agreement in Luxemburg was reached. “This will clearly lead to the detention of minors.” Bricmont spoke at the final conference of the VULNER project, which brought together policymakers, civil society, and experts on migration policy and law.

    Bricmont is a Member of the Committee of Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament, as well as of the spyware inquiry committee. She has been a defender of childrens’ rights and a vocal critic of surveillance. “Member States at Council are very eager to discuss fingerprinting and screening,” she said, “but not how to ensure solidarity and decent reception in Europe.”

    At the meeting of the European Union’s interior ministers in Luxemburg on Thursday, the necessary majority voted in favour of sped-up asylum procedures at the EU’s external borders. The reform plans have to be negotiated with the EU parliament next.

    Bricmont went on to warn of what she called a “securitisation of migration and asylum policies”. “We are not talking about how to ensure the well-being and safety of migrant people, nor are we talking about how to make migration an opportunity both for exiled people and host countries. We are only talking about how to prevent people from migrating”. Bricmont called on policymakers, civil society and researchers to counteract these trends. “We need to reverse the current agenda and narrative. If we don’t, we can only expect current issues to worsen over the coming months and years, to the detriment of migrants, especially those in the most vulnerable positions, but also to the detriment of EU values as a whole.”

    The VULNER conference is hosted by an international transdisciplinary research project, which includes academic researchers from Europe, Uganda, Canada, and Lebanon. In unprecedented depth, the VULNER project has examined and documented the reality of Europe’s migration complex. It has done so from the perspectives of law, policy, and migrants themselves. VULNER experts are meeting EU policymakers as well as civil society organisations this week in Brussels to discuss possible ways forward at the conference “Better Policies and Laws to Address Migrants’ Vulnerabilities”.

    “Vulnerability” is a legal concept which refers to the special protection to certain groups of migrants. Recently EU migration law and policy mention “vulnerability” ever more frequently. For example, the 2020 EU “Pact on Migration and Asylum” calls for special protection of migrants in dire situations such as persecution or poverty, but also of migrants who face challenges due to their age, gender identity, race, disability or health. The new EU asylum agency EUAA is tasked with streamlining the “assessment” of these vulnerabilities by the EU member states. However, civil society actors fear that focusing on the most vulnerable merely serves as a justification: to downgrade rights which should be granted to all asylum seekers and refugees. Moreover, they criticise the lack of any clear definition of who is ‘vulnerable’.

    Who exactly are the people Europe wants to protect? And to what extent are vulnerability assessments successful? These have been research questions of the VULNER project over the past three years.

    ”Policy makers are relying on ‘vulnerability’ so they can be tough on borders while also guaranteeing humanitarian protection” says Luc Leboeuf, an expert in international migration law, and VULNER research coordinator at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany. “But rather than simply making a list of vulnerable groups, member states need support in making good assessments and carrying out adequate protection. For this, there must be solidarity among the member states.”

    The VULNER project is composed of 7 research teams in 7 countries with a total of almost 40 researchers from law and social sciences. These researchers have conducted over 800 qualitative interviews in the past 3 years - with migrants, social workers, asylum officers, judges and other decision-makers. VULNER has received funding from the European Union‘s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870845.

    VULNER’s findings cover issues like: the staffing conditions of reception centres; cooperation – or lack thereof – between authorities; federalism; refugee resettlement programmes; and the treatment of vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied minors.

    In order to communicate these findings directly to policymakers and the public, they were condensed into 10 key messages. These 10 key messages are being discussed with policymakers at the final conference this week.

    “10 key messages”:

    1 “While waiting, asylum seekers need to be connected to their application process through strengthened information channels.”

    2 “Mandatory housing in large-scale accommodation centres violates the rights of asylum seekers and does a disservice to asylum management as a whole.”

    3 “Difficult and precarious conditions for reception centre workers can have serious impacts on the vulnerability faced by migrants seeking protection.”

    4 “Instead of being left to fend for themselves, unaccompanied minors turning need support during their transition to adulthood.”

    5 “Different actors in the protection system need to coordinate to address the vulnerabilities of trafficked and exploited people.”

    6 “In addition to asylum seekers and refugees, temporary migrants and undocumented migrants should not be overlooked.”

    7 “Resettlement and legal migration pathways must be expanded and improved.”

    8 “Long-term planning and funding are needed to address the vulnerabilities faced by people living in situations of protracted displacement.”

    9 “Vulnerabilities intersect! Addressing only one category of vulnerability at a time is ineffective.”

    10 “The adverse effects of the legal and bureaucratic uses of “vulnerability” must be acknowledged and managed to uphold the rights of migrants seeking protection.”

    The complete “10 key messages”:

    For further questions or interview requests please contact Peter Weissenburger:

    More information:


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