Roundtable discussion on pushbacks in the House of Representatives
Volt organised the roundtable discussion around one main question: what can the Netherlands do to deter pushbacks? MPs from GroenLinks, Bij1, PvdA, SP, ChristenUnie, D66 and VVD were present at this meeting. We shared our views about pushbacks along the borders of Europe, as did Tineke Strik (member of the European Parliament), Eefje Blankevoort (maker of the documentary ‘Shadow Game’), UNICEF, Doctors without Borders, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee and the Dutch Advisory Council on Migration (ACVZ).
No clear statement
For years, we have known that refugees are being violently driven away from Europe’s borders. However, nothing has improved; it just seems to get worse. The new coalition agreement includes little about pushbacks; instead, it focuses on ‘protecting borders against irregular migration’. This raises many questions about the position of asylum seekers and refugees in the Netherlands and Europe.
‘What can the Netherlands do to fight pushbacks? That question requires reflection on the Netherlands’ role to date’, Femke de Vries stated on behalf of DCR. ‘Our first appeal is to speak up and follow the example of Germany. The new German government included a clear statement against pushbacks in its coalition agreement, but the Dutch coalition agreement is quiet about pushbacks. Why is that?’
What can the Netherlands do?
DCR sent a letter to the cabinet with three concrete recommendations. First, the Netherlands must take a credible stand against pushbacks and speak out openly against these gross human rights violations.
Second, the Netherlands should call on the European Commission to take action against countries that carry out pushbacks. The moment a country is guilty of this – as Poland recently was – the EC must actively intervene and impose sanctions.
Finally, the Netherlands must commit to a humane and solidarity-based European asylum and migration policy. The EC made a first proposal to this effect at the end of 2020. The Netherlands must adopt a constructive attitude in these negotiations. Now, countries on the external borders of Europe, such as Greece and Italy, are responsible for these newcomers’ reception and asylum procedures.
Those countries feel abandoned and are increasingly trying to keep refugees out, which creates the need for rapid screening and fair redistribution of asylum seekers across all EU countries. Pushbacks can only be stopped when benevolent countries work together and look for solutions.