‘Returns’ Directive: EP and Member States risk compromising respect for migrants’ rights

‘Returns’ Directive: European Parliament and Member States risk
compromising  respect for migrants’ rights.

Brussels (20 May) – Member States’ representatives meet tomorrow to reach an agreement on common rules on the return of persons irregularly staying in Europe. Amnesty International and ECRE have joined voices to urge the European Parliament and Members States not to accept the text provisionally agreed and to work to improve it. The two organizations warned that accepting the proposed directive as it stands will seriously undermine the fundamental rights of the individuals concerned.        

“By accepting this compromise text, the European Parliament will undermine its own mandate to protect human rights and allow EU law to erode existing international human rights standards,” said Nicholas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office.
“We need a Directive on returns, but not at all costs. We are particularly concerned about the excessive detention periods in this Directive and the lack of real opportunities for migrants to leave of their own accord before being removed by force”, added Bjarte Vandvik, Secretary General of ECRE.

Detention for up to 18 months of people who have committed no crime is excessive and disproportionate. International law states clearly that detention in order to return irregular migrants should be exceptional and as short as possible. If this compromise text goes through, the Directive would allow families with children and unaccompanied minors to be detained for up to 18 months and in some circumstances in ordinary prisons. The prolonged detention of persons in sometimes appalling conditions should never be sanctioned by Community law.
Amnesty International and ECRE consider entry bans prohibiting  deportees from returning to Europe for up to five years to be a blunt and inappropriate instrument. They do not take account of changing circumstances in countries of origin and consequent changes in individual’s need for international protection. Entry bans are also likely to interfere with the right to family life, and risk encouraging the use of irregular migration channels in order to reach the EU.
In the current compromise, individuals are only granted a period from 7 to 30 days to leave a member State at their own initiative and this is not granted automatically. 

Underlining some of their main concerns, the organizations urge MEPs and Members States to:

– Reject the prolonged detention period currently envisaged in the draft directive and ensure detention for the purposes of removal remains an exceptional measure;
– Reject the detention of unaccompanied minors;
– Reject the imposition of EU-wide entry bans for people returned from the EU;
– Effectively ensure the priority of voluntary departure over forced return.

For the first time the Parliament and the Council are on an equal footing to adopt legislation in this field. This Directive is a test case that will set an important precedent for the role of the European Parliament in upholding human rights.

Click here to read the Amnesty International and ECRE’s letter to MEPs.

For further comment/background and interviews:

     Amnesty International EU Office (Brussels): 
     Carmen Silvestre: Press Officer
     Tel: 32-2-5021499
     Fax: 32-2-5025686 
     e-mail: [email protected]

     Ana Fontal: Press Officer
     +32 2 234 38 12
     e-mail: [email protected]