No time to waste: NGOs call upon EU and its Member States to expand the use of safe and legal channels for refugees

Twenty-five NGOs, including SOLIDAR, have signed a statement urging Member States to expand the number and range of legal pathways for ensuring refugee protection for people trying to flee conflict areas such as Syria and currently stuck in the overcrowded hotspot on the Greek islands. Left without any accessible legal alternatives and confronted with ever stricter border controls reaching far beyond European territory, those in need of international protection are forced to resort to irregular ways to access it, with the consequent exposure to abuse and exploitation perpetrated by smugglers and human traffickers.

EU Member States should increase the use of the available toolbox of safe and legal routes to protection, among which are resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes, humanitarian visas, community and private sponsorships, as well as more effective and extended family reunification procedures and opening labour migration, education exchange and scholarship programmes to refugees. The ongoing reform of the EU Visa Code is a unique opportunity to further strengthen the EU legal framework in this regard.

The letter also points out that resettlement programmes should not be used as a bargaining tool to force countries to cooperate on migration control, readmission and preventing irregular migration and quid-pro-quo deals that exchange asylum seekers for refugees like interchangeable commodities.

You can read the full statement here.