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Reject proposed shake-up of relocating asylum seekers, and embrace human rights


The European refugee crisis re-entered the political and news arenas last week with a proposal by European Council President Donald Tusk, who labelled existing refugee quotas as “divisive and ineffective” – so Sputnik Radio sought out the expertise of Brunel University London’s Professor Alexandra Xanthaki to comment on the situation and possible solutions.

Professor Xanthaki, a leading expert on minority and migration rights in international law, was questioned in depth by journalist Jason White, with the resulting interview broadcast and repeated as a half-hour programme last weekend.

Listen to Professor Xanthaki’s full interview on Sputnik Radio

When asked whether Tusk’s description was true, Professor Xanthaki explained what was behind the divisiveness:

“It’s been so divisive because there are EU states that for some time have been willing to accept the rules of human rights and the principle of solidarity, so they have been accepting refugees and trying to do the best they can to help these people. And then there have been states that continuously have shown a very cynical and selfish attitude, not accepting refugees and closing their borders.”

Furthermore, she explained: “As an international lawyer, I would say that this is also a fight between states who want to continue and uphold human rights in Europe – the way Europe has developed its human rights principles – and states that either do not have a tradition in human rights, so they think that these issues have to do with only political decisions, or want now suddenly to ignore human rights obligations.”

White then probed whether the EU could withstand the massive pressure. “Although people have been saying how all these challenges have weakened the European Union,” argued Professor Xanthaki, “interestingly we see that the euro has become stronger – so somehow the European Union seems to survive and to do OK.”

The best solution? “First of all, integration measures,” recommended Professor Xanthaki.

“I think the European Union has to become more organised, has to become more focused, but at the same time to have a general overview of what’s happening. The EU gives a lot of money, but because maybe of how big the crisis numbers have been, they’re not on top of everything that is happening.

“And I think that we should be very aware not to give only monetary help to the refugees, but to give them long-term help in terms of employment, in terms of education, so that they can settle and feel at home.

“At the same time, a lot of us hope that the European Union is going to say that proposals, such as the one we heard two days ago by Tusk supported by the Visegrad countries, such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are unacceptable and that the EU will show to the states who do not want to uphold human rights that they really do have to do so.”

Professor Xanthaki leads a project in which Brunel law students travel to Athens, volunteer in refugee centres and receive on-the-ground legal education in human rights and the challenges faced by unaccompanied minors.

(Image: CC by flickr/rasande)

Reported by:

Joe Buchanunn, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268821