All refugees and asylum-seekers to be vetted under new EU terrorism policy

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On 27 December, just after Christmas, the Council of the European Union adopted four Acts by "written procedure" (the measures were simply circulated to EU governments and adopted unless any objections are raised) on "terrorism". None of the measures was subject to democratic scrutiny.

The first, the "Council Common Position on combating terrorism", is based largely on the UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001) which was passed on 28 September in the immediate aftermath of the 11 September attacks on the USA. There are however very significant differences.

Point 2(a) of the Security Council Resolution says that "states" are obliged to refrain from supporting "entities or persons involved in terrorist acts". Article 4 of the EU's Common Position is instead worded to require Member States to prevent "the public" from offering "any form of support, active or passive" to such persons or entities (Article 4 of the Common Position). The change of meaning by the EU fails to distinguish between between individuals who consciously assist those involved in terrorist acts and those who simply share the same goals as the "terrorists" but who do not pursue these goals by violent means or knowingly assist with the preparation of violent acts. Nor does this EU definition distinguish between support for "terrorist" groups and liberation movements - as does the Statement attached to the proposed EU Framework Decision on harmonising national laws on terrorism agreed by the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 6-7 December (this has yet to be formally adopted).

The last seven points in the EU's Common Position, Article 11 to 17, are not binding in the UN Security Council Resolution but they are in the former. Article 16 says:

"Appropriate measures shall be taken in accordance with the relevant provisions of national and international law, including international standards on human rights, before granting refugee status, for the purpose of ensuring that the asylum-seeker has not planned, facilitated or participated in the commission of terrorist acts. The Council notes the Commission's intention to put forward proposals in this area, where appropriate" (emphasis added)

Under EU law this Common Position is binding on all Member States and will mean that all asylum-seekers and refugees are subject to vetting by the police and security services before their status can be granted. In effect a file will have to be created on each person/family as to their political and trade union activity in their country of origin or any other country they have stayed in. And, certainly in the new UK Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security ACT, they would never know what "intelligence" or suspicions had been recorded against them.

This provision, taken in conjunction with Article 4 of the EU Common Position covering "any form of support, active or passive" for terrorist activities, could mean that a person who had helped raise funds to support the humanitarian needs of , say PKK prisoners in Turkish jails, could be refused refugee status.

Moreover, the interface of surveillance and intelligence-gathering to combat terrorism and "illegal immigration" can easily be combined. At the end of December the UK placed undercover MI6 "Asian operatives" inside the Sangate detention centre in northern France (Sunday Express, 30.12.01). The MI6 (the UK's external intelligence service) operatives were supported by a team of 25 Special Branch officers providing logistical and intelligence support. The Special Branch is comprised of specially trained police officers who work in plainclothes, are proficient in at least one foreign language and who monitor the activities of specific "foreign" national or ethnic groups resident in the UK.

No democratic accountability

The adoption of the two Common Positions by the Council of the European Union (the 15 EU governments) by "written procedure" were made under Article 15 of the Treaty on European Union which gives<

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