Missing: An Ambitious, Coherent, Protection-Centred Common Asylum Policy

Amnesty International open letter released on the eve of the JHA Council

Brussels (26 November) As European Justice and Home Affairs ministers prepare to meet in Brussels on 28-29 November 2002, Amnesty International releases its analysis of the subjects up for discussion, but also presents its concerns about where the overall Common Asylum Policy is heading. (See: “Missing: A Common Asylum Policy that is ambitious, coherent and protection-centred” available on link at end of page).

 “Instead of concentrating on harmonizing protection of refugees at the highest possible level, it is clear that many EU Member States are continuing to adopt a “go it alone” approach,” said Dick Oosting, Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office. “Many elements of the EU’s so-called Common Asylum Policy may effectively end up as ‘empty boxes’ which refer back to national legislation for the critical issues.”

“The whole crisis surrounding the closure of the Sangatte refugee camp in France is indicative of the lack of political will in Europe to deal fairly and equitably with refugees. The result is likely to be “harmonization” at the lowest common denominator.”

Amnesty International’s analysis released today outlines the organization’s specific concerns about proposals to be discussed at this week’s JHA Council including:

Dublin II based on flawed principles
A proper common asylum policy depends on a coherent and regulated flow of refugees and asylum seekers inside the EU. Basing criteria on the issue of border controls is not working. Amnesty International calls on the JHA Council to abandon the current system based on border controls and to further strengthen provisions of the so-called humanitarian clause that takes into account cultural or family links.

Definition of refugees/complementary forms of protection – eroding international obligations/new interpretations following September 11
Who qualifies to be a refugee, and what procedures are adopted in relation to refugees, are key elements of the Common Asylum Policy. Amnesty International underlines that the Geneva Convention must be paramount, and that complementary forms of protection should only be used in cases where the claimant does not fall under one of the five grounds in that Convention.

Amnesty International fears that in the aftermath of September 11 provisions of the directive may include reference to public order and national security, in such a way as to broaden the scope of exclusion clauses and undermine the absolute nature of the principle of non-refoulement.

Afghanistan: few safeguards for repatriated refugees
Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the draft EU repatriation plan does not include appropriate safeguards regarding the security of returnees. The plan lacks an appropriate monitoring mechanism and clear obligations not to go ahead with repatriation if the human rights situation does not allow for safe return.

Readmission agreements/partnership with countries of origin: burden shifting rather than burden sharing
Amnesty International believes that the “integrated approach” to migration management has so far produced little more than an extension of the restrictive asylum and immigration policies, rather than directing of political, development or economic co-operation from a human rights perspective to prevent the causes of people fleeing their countries. Partnership with countries of origin and transit is the euphemism for a policy orientation that is rooted in the well-known phenomenon of burden shifting rather than burden sharing. Amnesty International is also concerned that readmission clauses, which are negotiated as standard elements in agreements the EU concludes with third countries, may amount to trading human beings in exchange for financial aid.

For further comment/background and interviews:
Amnesty International EU Office (Brussels):
Tel. +32-2-5021499
Fax +32-2-5025686
[email protected]

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