The protection of vulnerable individuals in the context of EU policies on border checks, asylum and immigration

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Mustaniemi-Laakso, Maija
Heikkilä, Mikaela
Del Gaudio, Eleonora
Konstantis, Sotiris
Nagore Casas, María
Morondo, Dolores
Hegde, Venkatachala G.
Finlay, Graham
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The present report discusses the protection of particularly vulnerable individuals in the context of EU policies on border checks, asylum and immigration. With a view to evaluate human rights integration in the external and internal EU policies in the field, the report studies how the protection of vulnerable individuals is ensured in, for example, border control procedures, asylum qualification, reception conditions and immigrant integration. Based on a critical analysis of relevant literature and reports by non-governmental and international organisations, the report formulates policy recommendations to further enhance the protection of vulnerable groups and individuals in the area of EU border checks, asylum and immigration policies. The report builds upon earlier research conducted within the FRAME project, in particular the report ‘Fundamental Rights in the Institutions and Instruments of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice’ (2014) and the report ‘Critically Assessing Human Rights Integration in AFSJ Policies’ (2016). In these reports, concern was expressed over the fact that security considerations increasingly trump protection concerns in the EU’s policies on border checks, asylum and immigration. Attention was also drawn to the lack of coherence in the integration of human rights in the EU’s policy responses in this field. The present report deepens the analysis by focusing on particularly vulnerable individuals. In the introductory chapter it is noted that vulnerability in today’s human rights rhetoric is typically portrayed in collective terms: vulnerable groups are to be provided with special protection, as their human rights are at a particular risk of being violated. While such a group-based approach to vulnerabilities is often essential it may sometimes, however, be counterproductive. It has been noted that labelling all individuals deemed to belong to a specific group as vulnerable may be (further) disempowering. An overly strong reliance on the group-based notion of vulnerability may also overshadow other sources of vulnerability. The report therefore emphasises the fact that vulnerability is not a static state of affairs attached only to particular groups, but fluctuates with situations and contexts. By looking at the concept in this dynamic and contextual way, and as socially embedded, the report analyses vulnerability as relational to the institutional and societal contexts where it is produced. This approach also entails that the eradication of societal practices and structures that maintain disadvantages or indirect discrimination is seen as especially important.