"The year 2016 stands out as a time when the EU decided to shut the door to refugees, and make life harder for those already here… The rush to make the EU a hostile environment and keep people away at all costs belittles the enormous often life-endangering risks people take to escape conflict, persecution and human rights abuses," Human Rights Watch (HRW) Europe and Central Asia Director Judith Sunderland was quoted as saying in a statement after the watchdog released a new report on EU refugee policies.
The report, titled "EU Policies Put Refugees at Risk: An Agenda to Restore Protection," analyzed various aspects of EU migration policy, including the EU-Turkey deal, the EU relocation plan, the Mediterranean rescue operations and cooperation with third countries.
HRW called on the European Union to focus on rescuing migrants arriving by sea as well as opening up broader legal migration channels, improving asylum procedures and pressing ahead with the relocation plan.
Europe's refugee crisis escalated in 2015, when hundreds of thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa headed for perceived as wealthy EU member states. Some 1.8 million illegal border crossings were detected by the EU border agency Frontex in 2015. Thousands have drowned in the Mediterranean while attempting to cross from Turkey and Libya.