Expelling migrants from the EU: Fast-track legislation and sham consultation

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In April 2002, the Commission released a Green Paper on an EU policy on 'return' (expulsion, deportation or repatriation) from the EU: Green paper (pdf)

The Green Paper suggests that the EU develop a detailed policy on expulsion of migrants who never had documents authorising them to enter and reside or who documents authorising them to reside have expired ('irregular migrants'). This was the first time that the Commission had issued a Green Paper on any aspect of EU immigration or asylum law. The purpose of EU 'Green Papers' is to launch a wide-ranging public discussion on whether the EU should have a policy on a particular subject at all and what the content of that policy should be. Usually, the Commission leaves a year or more after the submission of the Green Paper so that there is time for national and sub-national parliaments, the European Parliament, civil society, EU consultative bodies and national executives to comment on the issues.

For this Green Paper, the Commission organised a public hearing on 16 July 2002, at which civil society groups which came to speak were allotted the princely period of five minutes each to respond to the Green Paper: Public hearing notice

The Commission also encouraged responses in writing by a deadline of 31 July 2002. In response to this Statewatch has submitted comments raising a number of concerns about the implications of the Green Paper for human rights and civil liberties: Statewatch submission

Implementing the Green Paper

One important part of the Green Paper was implemented when the Council adopted criteria on states which the EC wanted to adopt new readmission agreements with, as well as a list of such states (China, Algeria, Albania and Turkey): Council criteria and list

The criteria and list were adopted just over two weeks after the release of the Green Paper - barely enough time to read the Green Paper, never mind hold a public discussion on the desirability and details of an EU policy.

Subsequently the Seville European Council requested the Council to agree a policy based on the Green Paper by the end of the year: Seville Conclusions (background documents and Conclusions on Asylum & Immigration)

This presupposed an answer to the most basic issue the Green Paper raised: should there be an EU policy at all on expulsion of migrants?

Alternatively it could be argued that development of such a policy had to wait until other aspects of EU policies are developed. Logically it is difficult to have a policy on expulsion of irregular migrants until after the EU has developed policies on when migrants should be permitted to enter and reside. Also if an expulsion policy also covers rejected asylum-seekers (as the Green Paper suggests) there logically needs to be agreement on asylum procedures first, as such procedures are closely related to expulsion procedures where an application is rejected. But the deadlines agreed in Seville require agreement on an EU expulsion policy before agreement on legislation on legal migration and asylum procedures, even though the latter measures should logically be agreed first.

At least the Seville deadline in principle leaves just enough time for the public reaction to the Green Paper, as expressed at the hearing in July and in the written submissions sent in July, to be considered. But the Danish Council Presidency nonetheless took action without waiting to hear from the public. On 11 July, it submitted a note to Council working bodies on a draft programme on expulsion: note on draft


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