World Refugee Day 2018 – Human Rights at Sea Statement

Press Release

20 June 2018

World Refugee Day

London.UK. World Refugee Day 2018 and the news for refugees and others in need of protection are worse than ever before.

The European Union considers for yet another time the idea of processing migrants and asylum seekers offshore, in countries of Africa. The idea of extraterritorial processing of asylum seekers had in the past proposed by the UK government in 2003 in a “ New Vision for refugees” that would revolved around the idea of offshore processing. Fifteen years later, a leaked document on the upcoming ‘mini and informal’ summit on migration and asylum this Sunday 24th of June claims that the EU considers the idea of ‘regional disembarkation platforms’ in Africa that would process to distinguish between economic migrants and those in need of international protection, reducing thus the incentive for further perilous crossing.

Apart from the legal and practical challenges that such a policy would give rise to, it is preposterous, if not inappropriate to insist still today on the absolute distinction between economic migrants and others in need of protection, given the socio-economic deprivation that force people to flee their homes. Human Rights at Sea’s publication on the African economic migrant in the Sahel is evidence of  the blurring of the distinction between voluntary and forced migration.

This week the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released the global trends and statistics on forced displacement for the year 2017. The forcibly displaced population increased in 2017 by 2.9 million in comparison to 2016. By end of 2017, there were 25.4 million refugees, 40.0 million internally displaced and 3.1 million asylum seekers. Adding to this 85% of the developing regions hosted the majority of refugees under the UNHCR mandate.

On World Refugee Day 2018, we must all remind ourselves that the protection of the world’s refugees and forcibly displaced is the common, shared responsibility of the international community.  Asylum containment policies and barriers to protection must end.

In the context of European Union, Human Rights at Sea condemns flagrant violations of the duty to save people in distress at sea illustrated in the Aquarius incident by Malta and Italy and calls all EU Member states to act in solidarity with first response member states such as Italy and Greece.

Finally, Human Rights at Sea stands with refugees today and every day and advocates for the right of any person to freely seek asylum as a fundamental human right.


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