EU seeking readmission (repatriation) agreements with 11 countries
The meeting of the EU's Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) on 14-15 October received a report from the European Commission on progress being made to get readmission agreements with seven countries (Morocco, Sri Lanka, Russia, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Macao and Ukraine) and the drafting of negotiating mandates for a further four countries (Albania, Algeria, China and Turkey). The purpose of readmission agreements is to introduce an obligation on the third country to automatically readmit its nationals and stateless people coming from or having lived in that country.
The EU brings to bear economic (trade and aid), diplomatic and political pressure on third countries to sign readmission agreements which are described as "an extremely useful and efficient instrument in the fight against illegal immigration" (JHA Council press release, 15.10.02). The JHA Council emphasised the importance of an expected report from the European Commission on the financial cost of:
"- the repatriation of illegal immigrants and rejected asylum-seekers,
- for the management of external borders,
- for asylum and migration projects in third countries... in particular in order to conclude readmission agreements"
Although still awaiting this report the JHA Council concluded that:
"A combined action of the European Community and of Member States in the fight against illegal immigration will be much more cost-effective than providing support to a growing number of illegal immigrants"
In simple terms the Council of the European Union is seeking to justify in terms of "cost-effective" measures, not of rights and obligations: the automatic return of asylum-seekers from third countries through readmission agreements or to EU applicant countries in central and eastern Europe (see: EU Ministers declare applicant countries "safe" to send back asylum-seekers) plus the tracing and repatriation of "illegal" immigrants living in the EU combined with effective external border controls which is "much more cost effective" that having to entertain lengthy asylum procedures and the cost of housing and looking after people who have fled from persecution and poverty.
The report from the European Commission on: "Community readmission agreements - state of negotiations" (for text see below) dated 10 October shows that of the state of play with the seven selected countries as follows:
1. Morocco: although the EU's demand for a readmission agreement was formally sent in May 2001 there has been "no formal response" and after two informal meetings this year it is concluded that: "Morocco did not agree to launch formal negotiations".
2. Pakistan: although the EU's demand for a readmission agreement was formally sent in April 2001 there has been "no formal response" and no informal meetings.
3. Russia: although the EU's demand for a readmission agreement was formally sent in April 2001 there has been "no formal response" despite "repeated contact at diplomatic level".
4. Sri Lanka: a final text was "initialled" in Brussels in July 2002 and the Commission is starting "the two-step ratification procedure" (agreement by both sides).
5. Hong Kong: this is likely to be "the first ever Community readmission agreement". The agreement was initialled in November 2001 and on 23 September 2002 the Commission was authorised to sign on behalf of the EU.
6. Macao: agreement expected to be "initialled" on 18 October 2002.
7. Ukraine: text sent in August 2002 and formal negotiations expected to start in Kiev in November.
1. Readmission agreements, from the Commission to the Council: 12625/02, 10.10.02.
2. Criteria for the identification of third countries with which new admission agreements need to be negotiated - draft Conclusions: 7990/02, 16.4.02.
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