IDC calls on states to introduce safeguards in advance of the new EU Migration Pact

A Rohingya child refugee, 2018. (Richard Juilliart/Shutterstock)


With preparations underway for the introduction of the EU’s new Migration and Asylum Pact, IDC condemns the lack of safeguards for human rights in the new legal framework. IDC joins UN experts in calling for states to implement critical protections for migrants and refugees, — and particularly for children — in preparation for the implementation of the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum.

The EU’s new Pact on Migration and Asylum is a contentious new policy framework that sets out a plan for how to manage migration in countries across the EU. It is IDC’s view that the Pact undermines the fundamental rights of refugees and migrants.

It introduces expedited border procedures and extensive detention measures, which could lead to inadequate processing of asylum claims and increased risk of human rights abuses, like arbitrary detention and forced returns. And the pact’s focus on externalising border controls through partnerships with non-EU countries also raises concerns about reduced access to asylum and increased incidents of pushbacks, potentially endangering lives and human rights.

Recent IDC research conducted with Linklaters reveals that, despite the pact’s assertion that detention should be a measure of last resort, structural changes such as the ‘fiction of non-entry’ policy could make alternatives to detention (ATD) less viable and increase the likelihood of detention across the European Union.

The ’fiction of non-entry’ allows migrants to be physically present in an EU state while not being legally recognised, significantly restricting their freedom and access to services. This approach can be particularly detrimental as it is likely to increase immigration detention in  the European Union and it will also affect children — mandatory border procedures will also apply to them, potentially leading to widespread detention. This is in direct conflict with international law, which clearly outlines that immigration detention is never in the best interest of the child and that it is a form of violence against children.

IDC is concerned that the Pact implies a serious deterioration in child protection standards and a breach of children’s rights. IDC’s research underscores the profoundly negative effects of detention on children, including severe harm to their mental and emotional health and disruption to their family life and development.

IDC’s Executive Director, Carolina Gottardo, says:

“The new pact is likely to expand immigration detention across European borders and will have devastating consequences on migrants and refugees, particularly on children. The Pact takes us a long way backwards in terms of rights and protection in Europe.

“We must protect the inherent dignity and rights of all children and uphold our international obligations. Member states in Europe need to ensure that they are not detaining children. There is simply no excuse to detain children for immigration-related reasons.”

Based on our analysis, IDC’s position is that the EU Pact may lead to prolonged and extensive use of detention with diminished safeguards, especially for vulnerable groups.

However, IDC emphasises that viable alternatives exist. Since 2017, the European Alternatives to Detention Network has been working with migrants and people seeking asylum to enable them to live freely in the community while their case is processed, rather than in immigration detention.

An evaluation of the pilot programs conducted by the European Alternatives to Detention Network in Bulgaria, Poland and Cyprus in 2020 showed very high rates of engagement, increased case resolution, improved mental health and very low rates of absconding. The programs were also shown to be a fraction of the cost r  of immigration detention. s Independent evaluations of community-based pilots in the UK — led by the Action Foundation (2022) and the King’s Arms Project (2023) — showed similar positive results. The success of these community-based programs shows that there are kinder, safer and more cost-effective alternatives to detention, which benefit host communities, governments and individuals.

IDC calls on EU Member States to reform their policies in line with these findings and to ensure that the rights of children, migrants and refugees are fully protected in their migration procedures. We stand ready to assist in the development and implementation of policies that prioritise human rights and the well-being of all migrants.