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Migration, Human Rights and the European Elections

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The annual report of Human Rights Watch “lists ‘repressive’ migration policies, discrimination against marginalised communities and democratic backsliding by certain member states as some of the EU’s human rights shortcomings in 2023” and stresses that “the EU’s migration policies have contributed to ‘death, torture and abuse’ in 2023, as the death toll of those trying to reach EU territory by sea reached more than 2,500.” 

The report notes that the European Union’s agreement with Tunisia, aiming at limiting the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach European shores, has clearly failed. The agreement was signed on July 2023 after a meeting in Tunis between Tunisian President Kais Saied and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, together with the Prime Minister of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, and the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte. The agreement was considered controversial given the evidence concerning the Tunisian “authorities’ abusive treatment of sub-Saharan migrants, including illegal pushbacks, racial hatred and human rights violations.” [1] Moreover, Said argued in February 2023 that “‘hordes of illegal migrants’ arriving from Sub-Saharan countries were part of a ‘criminal plan to change the composition of the demographic landscape of Tunisia’ and were the source ‘of violence, unacceptable crimes and practices’.” [2] Migration, one of the agreement’s five components, is certainly a thorny issue since Tunisia is one of the main points of departure for asylum seekers trying to reach EU territory.

The EU Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch, Phillippe Dam, stated that “Mainstream political parties do not have the courage to tell their voters that there are ways to have migration policies that respect the human rights of migrants (…) to regain control and borders while at the same time protecting the rights of asylum and ensuring accountability when migrants’ rights are under attack.” [1] In essence, Dam criticised the rhetoric of European political parties for the use of divisive language with regards to migration in view of the European Parliament elections in spring 2024. It is certain that the issue of migration will dominate political rhetoric in the following months, as parties seek to expand their electorate ahead of the European-wide elections.

Christos Kassimeris, PhD

Christos Kassimeris, PhD

Professor Christos Kassimeris heads the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at European University Cyprus and is coordinator of the BA in European Politics and Communication. Before joining European University Cyprus, he was teaching European Integration Politics and International Relations of the Mediterranean for three years at the University of Reading. He is the author of European Football in Black and White: Tackling Racism in Football (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007), Greece and the American Embrace: Greek Foreign Policy Towards Turkey, the US and the Western Alliance (I.B. Tauris Academic Studies, 2009) and Football Comes Home: Symbolic Identities in European Football (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 2010), editor of Anti-racism in European Football: Fair Play for All (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009), The Marketing of War in the Age of Neo-Militarism (Routledge, 2011) and The Politics of Education: Challenging Multiculturalism (Routledge, 2011), and has several publications in political science journals. He is also Visiting Research Fellow at the University of De Montfort.


  1. Euronews, ‘Troubling gap’ between EU promises and actions on human rights, watchdog says, by Mared Gwyn Jones (11 January 2024).
  2. Euronews, The contentious EU-Tunisia deal is finally here. But what exactly is in it?, by Jorge Liboreiro & Vincenzo Genovese (17 July 2023)

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