EU: “safe and dignified”, voluntary or “forced” repatriation to “safe” third countries

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The meeting of the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council in Brussels on 28-29 November will be discussing a series of new measures for the voluntary or "forced" repatriation of refugees and asylum-seekers to so-called "safe third countries". The measures include: i) the negotiation od re-admission agreements; ii) "return Action programme"; iii) "EU return programme to Afghanistan"; iv) "safe third countries" and v) so-called "integration of immigration policy into the Union's relations with third countries". Below Statewatch presents a report and an analysis of the proposals.

Statewatch report on
Voluntary or “forced” repatriation to “safe” third countries
This report and analysis first appeared in Statewatch bulletin, vol 12 no 5 (October 2002)

The European Union's policy on repatriating rejected asylum-seekers and "illegal" residents is now openly based on "voluntary" and "forced" repatriation to be carried out in a "safe and dignified" manner.

This is to be backed up by two other moves. First, the Declaration that asylum-seekers from the ten EU applicant countries will automatically be refused and returned because they are "safe" countries (Justice and Home Affairs Council, 14-15 October). Second, the Conclusions of the Seville EU Summit in June which threatened trade and aid sanctions against third world countries who refuse to accept readmission agreements - with the automatic repatriation of their own nationals, people who may have passed through their country on the way to the EU and any stateless people in similar situations.

Applicant states "safe" third countries

The decision of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 14-15 October to declare the ten EU applicant countries "safe" to return asylum-seekers is highly questionable. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees says that no country can be declared 100 per cent safe and that each application should be considered individually.

In its report of 23 October the UK Joint Committee on human rights concluded that: "in view of the well authenticated threats to human rights which remain in the states seeking accession to the EU.. we consider that a presumption of safety is unacceptable on human rights grounds".

This position is given added weight by the European Commission's own updated reports on the accession countries. The latest, for 2002, include the following conclusions: Estonia (use of force by police, arbitrary detention); Czech Republic (widespread discrimination against Roma); Hungary (degrading treatment by police, especially of Roma); Latvia (bad conditions at asylum detention centres); Lithuania (degrading treatment by law enforcement officials); Slovakia (degrading police treatment of people, especially Roma) and Slovenia (instances of the use of excessive force by police against people in custody, particularly Roma).

Readmission agreements and “sources” of migration

When it comes to readmission agreements there is no pretence that the countries to which people are to be returned are "safe", it is simply an "obligation" to readmit people as determined by the EU. Third world countries who refuse, or who are "non-cooperative", will face "appropriate measures" which could include a "review" of the "allocation" of funds to combat poverty (Seville point 11).

The Seville Conclusions go beyond the imposition of readmission agreements. The EU is demanding that any country which is the "source" of a "migratory flow" adopt a whole series of measures to prevent people entering and leaving (the first named countries are: Albania, China, Morocco, Russia and Turkey).

The measures include "joint integrated border management programmes [and] comprehensive control measures". Where these plans "do not provide the expected result" the country will be "invited" to cooperate and adopt further measures or face political and economic sanctions.


The new EU's plans for the expulsion of "illegal residents" is based on<

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