EU JHA Ministers: Commit to a common asylum policy that effectively respects human rights

EU JHA Ministers: Commit to a common asylum policy that effectively respects human rights

(Brussels, 3 June) EU Home Affairs Ministers should give a clear political signal that they are committed to create a common asylum policy based on high standards of protection for those fleeing persecution and serious human rights violations, says Amnesty International ahead of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg tomorrow. Ministers are due to discuss amending current EU asylum legislation as well as irregular immigration in the Mediterranean.

In a letter addressed to the Czech Presidency (available here) Amnesty International called for a protection-orientated approach by ministers to the Commission proposals on asylum and stressed that EU asylum policies must fully comply with international human rights and refugee law.

“The EU has the potential and the capacity to develop a Common European Asylum System that could serve as a model to other regions in the world. It is time for the EU to live up to expectations and to ensure that the right to asylum is respected in practice” said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office.

Amnesty International also condemned Italy’s decision to send migrants rescued at sea to Libya without proper assessment of their protection needs. The organization is concerned that they may be at risk of serious human rights violations and called on the EU to denounce such practices by member states. It recalled that this is in breach of international and regional refugee and human rights law.

Amnesty International is particularly concerned with recent suggestions to outsource the determination of protection needs of asylum-seekers to third countries, including Libya. At present, Libya is not a party to the Geneva Refugee Convention and has no asylum system in place to properly identify persons in need of international protection.

“There is a huge difference between genuine capacity-building efforts by EU member states with third countries in order to protect the rights of refugees and migrants, and simply offloading their responsibilities to these countries” said Beger. “The EU cannot just outsource its obligations under international law to places where there are effectively no guarantees for persons in need of protection. People forcibly returned to Libya from EU member states risk degrading detention conditions and further expulsion to countries where they may face imprisonment and torture”.

Amnesty International visited Libya in May 2009 and was granted access to the Misratah detention centre in which several hundreds of alleged irregular migrants are held in severely overcrowded conditions. Many were nationals from Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan, countries where serious human rights violations occur on a daily basis. Some told Amnesty International that they had been detained in Misratah for two years. The organization has also received reports about inhumane conditions in other detention centres for migrants in the country.

“The current practice at the EU’s southern borders once more illustrates the need for the Common European Asylum System to be based on high standards of protection in line with international refugee and human rights law” said Beger.

For further comment/background and interviews:

     Amnesty International EU Office (Brussels):
     Tel: 32-2-5021499
     Fax: 32-2-5025686
     Email: [email protected]  

  Download PDF attachement