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EU Migration Diplomacy: Challenges to the International Protection of Human Rights and Inspiring Principles for a Renewed Approach to Migration Management

Francesca Romana PARTIPILO


Since the outbreak of the so-called “Arab Spring” and the subsequent migratory movements towards Europe, the EU has made increasing recourse to agreements with third countries for the joint control of its external borders. Legal scholars describe this phenomenon as a strategy of “externalization” of migration. This paper addresses EU externalization policies, examining their political rationale, legal basis, and historical trajectory. By means of two case-studies, the contribution stigmatizes the adverse human rights impact of EU’s cooperation with third countries. It argues that migration should not be approached through short-sighted containment strategies enacted by means of agreements with third States aimed at avoiding EU accountability for human rights violations on the migratory route. Despite their proclaimed aims, indeed, such agreements do not strike an adequate balance between European legitimate security concerns and the imperative to protect migrants’ rights. Therefore, adopting a normative approach, this paper suggests that the EU and its Member States cooperate among themselves and with international organizations and NGOs to propose valid alternatives to current, flawed migration policies. Acknowledging the importance of international cooperation in tackling the challenges connected with migration, the paper argues that what needs to be revised is the substantial content of the agreements with third countries, rather than the choice to stipulate them in the first place. Such agreements should be based on the prioritization of a human rights perspective, rather than being hinged on the necessity to contain irregular migration by any means.


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