EU-Egypt migration deal negotiations to bolster Egypt crackdown on human rights

EU-Egypt migration deal negotiations to bolster Egypt crackdown on human rights

On 20 September, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Sebastian Kurz, Chancellor of Austria which currently heads the EU’s rotating presidency,  offered a migration deal to Egypt at the Salzburg summit. After their joint visit to Cairo on the weekend preceding the summit, Kurz and Tusk called on Egypt to help stem the flow of migrants entering Europe from Africa. The EU would in exchange increase economic cooperation and enable Cairo to host high profile summits such as an EU-Arab League summit in February 2019.

This potential new deal again illustrates the EU’s failure to shoulder its responsibility regarding the arrival of refugees. With the rise of extreme right parties across Europe, EU leaders prefer to keep refugees out and make deals on migration such as the 6 billion euro agreement made with Turkey, also known as the Joint Action Plan, in 2016, to stop the influx of Syrian refugees.

The Egypt migration deal and the Turkey deal could undermine fundamental human rights. Both countries crack down on political opponents, human rights defenders, trade unions and citizens, yet the EU is prepared to compromise the values it preaches by financially supporting autocratic leaders. Instead of taking a strong position against continuous human and workers’ rights violations, the EU chooses to strengthen cooperation. The creation of hotspots in neighbourhood countries masks the strong pressure exerted by Member States to push away the migration issue and sweep it under the carpet.

SOLIDAR is especially concerned by this migration deal and its potential consequences, as Egypt is among the ten worst countries for workers’ rights violations according to the ITUC Global Rights Index 2018. Indeed, the repression of peaceful strikes, discrimination and the arbitrary arrest of union workers has increased in the last year.  Portraying Egypt as a good migration manager – as Kurz did in Salzburg and Cairo – and an important economic partner without mentioning the internal human and social rights abuses is unacceptable. Moreover, delegating migrant management to a country that does not respect human rights and cannot guarantee the decent treatment of migrants carries the risk of violating international law.

SOLIDAR urges the EU to take a different path and opt for strong cooperation with third countries to tackle the root causes of migration, which lie in the lack of economic opportunities and political freedom in the countries of origin. 

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