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The EU’s fear of migration is back

On Friday, European Union Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly expressed concern over an agreement between the European Commission and Tunisia on migration. She said the Commission should explain how the agreement does not violate human rights standards.

Emily O’Reilly claimed:

“Did the Commission carry out a human rights impact assessment of the MoU before its conclusion and consider possible measures to mitigate risks of human rights violations?”

On Friday, the ombudsman sent a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The letter stated that the EU executive should conduct human rights assessments before signing deals with foreign countries. O’Reilly wrote in the letter:

“Does the Commission intend to carry out a periodic, systematic and effective HRIA [human rights impact assessment] of actions undertaken in the course of the implementation of the MoU?”

O’Reilly asked how the EU intends to safeguard rights in the migrant agreement signed over the summer with Tunisia’s government. She also asked whether the Commission has defined criteria for suspending funding if human rights are not respected.

O’Reilly has asked the Commission to reply by 13 December 2023. She said:

“Where fundamental rights are not respected, there cannot be good administration.”

Last July, the European Union and Tunisia signed a memorandum of understanding for a “strategic and comprehensive partnership” on irregular migration, economic development and renewable energy. The deal was inked in the presence of von der Leyen, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte.

O’Reilly sent her letter a day after Tunisia denied entry to a five-member delegation of the European Parliament and it increased scrutiny over the contentious deal.

Tunisia lies about 130 kilometres (80 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa and has long been a departure point for migrants hoping to reach Europe, risking their lives and health.

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