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Destination Europe

There is no talk of fair treatment for refugees

Karl Kopp, spokesman for Europe for human rights group Pro Asyl, says Europe's treatment of refugees is scandalous. He wants Europe to disarm at its external borders and grant asylum to those in need.

Karl Kopp

Europe is losing sight of its duty to uphold human rights

Karl Kopp is the Europe spokesperson for human rights organization Pro Asyl.

Deutsche Welle: More stringent surveillance of external borders, overcrowded detention centers, so-called third state regulations meaning asylum seekers are denied entry if they pass through a safe third country - in your opinion, is Europe on the right path with regards to dealing with refugees fleeing Africa and other parts of the world?

Karl Kopp: Europe is increasingly losing sight of its obligation to uphold human rights and respect refugee law. Rather than receiving protection, those seeking just that are blocked at Europe's borders. They are detained and deported to their home countries or the transit countries through which they came. Europe's treatment of refugees is exemplified, dramatically, in the ignored cries for help from so-called boat people stranded in the Mediterranean. The fact that people die daily at the southern gateway to Europe is a sign of a lack of solidarity and an inhumane refugee policy. Over the past two decades, more than 18,000 people have died on our borders. There can be no talk of any just or decent treatment of asylum seekers.

How should Europe deal with the many undocumented immigrants already living in the EU?

There are many different reasons why some people live in Europe without a residency status. Some are failed asylum seekers while others are "over-stayers" who initially entered an EU member state legally with a visa. It can't be that tens of thousands of people can live in Germany for years in such a precarious residency situation, continuously threatened by possible deportation. The lack of a legal status equates to deprivation and exploitation. Images of plantations in Southern Europe are symbolic of an ambiguous policy that others can exploit for cheap labor and a tolerated lawlessness. Anyone who has been living in Europe for so long should be given legal residency status. We need humanitarian legal regulations in Germany and in other EU states. It's important that Europe opens the way for future immigration opportunities. Asylum seekers need risk-free access to fair asylum procedures in Europe. Unfortunately, however, a common European asylum and immigration policy is still a ways off.

Is Europe in some way responsible for the exodus of asylum seekers from places like Africa through, for example, its use of unfair economic policies?

The effects of European trade and agricultural and fisheries policies are closely linked with migration and refugee crises in regions around the world. European fishing fleets off the West African coast hinder the livelihoods and prospects of the local people. The nets of Senegalese fishermen are coming up empty, and they're being forced to sell their boats and attempt the perilous journey to Europe. The cynical answer to this type of migration to Europe is simple: defense. With the help of the European border protection agency, Frontex, boat people are intercepted at sea and forced back. This contradictory and inhumane policy is also reflected in the linkage of development aid to so-called "readmission agreements."

In recent decades, poor countries have lost a significant portion of their academics through emigration to industrialized countries. Has migration to Europe destroyed the development potential of these countries?

This brain drain means these countries are losing highly skilled migrants and valuable employees. This is particularly the case in the health sector where the continued migration of doctors and health professionals will further contribute to shortfalls in many countries. Europe is supporting this development through its selective immigration policy. Europe tries to attract highly competitive workers with incentives, whilst the less qualified are repelled from the European "island of prosperity."

What would a forward-looking European migration policy look like?

Europe should be a safe haven for those seeking protection and an open space for people who want to live and work here. Any future European asylum and immigration policy must put an end to the greatest scandal in human rights - the deaths of thousands on our doorstep. A continent that is highly selective when granting immigration permits betrays its humanitarian tradition and gambles its future.

Interviewer: Jan-Philipp Scholz / dfm
Editor: Sam Edmonds