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Refugee crisis: Returns policy - unworkable
6.10.15


EU: RETURNS POLICY: Council of the European Union: Draft Council conclusions on the future of the EU return policy (LIMITE doc no: 12420-15, pdf) for adoption at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 8-9 October 2105. Includes:

"The visa regime in Turkey was a source of concern for many delegations. Both Egypt and Algeria have introduced visa requirements for Syrian nationals. Turkey maintained visa-free travel, which has been identified as a source of concern. Turkey had the capacity to act as a significant transit point for migrants from the wider Middle East-North Africa region: migrants may legally enter Turkey but then illegally enter the EU. Along with Syrians, Moroccan, Tunisian, Libyan, Georgian, Jordanian, Lebanese and Iranian passport holders do not require a visa to enter Turkey." and

"The Council invites the Commission and the EEAS, and the Member States, in particular through their representations outside the EU, in close cooperation with the liaison officers mentioned in paragraph 9, to promote the EU laissez-passer (standard travel document for the expulsion of third-country nationals) which should become the travel document commonly accepted for return purposes by third-countries. Moreover, Member States commit to using more regularly the EU laissez-passer in return operations." (Point 14, emphasis added])

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"The Commission and the Council have never understood that refugees, who have fled from war, persecution and poverty, do not want to return to the country they have come from. The idea that returns can be fast-tracked through issuing EU laissez-passer to return refugees to third countries is reminiscent of the apartheid pass laws.

This is compounded by the Council is relying on 1994 Recommendations as the legal basis for issuing these co-called EU laissez-passer return documents which were adopted before the European or national parliaments had any say. Furthermore these "Conclusions" are "soft law", non-binding but enabling two or more Member States to undertake operational measures - again parliaments have no say. Measures which will have such a profound effect on refugee's rights and freedoms should be the subject of formal EU legislative procedures.

The returns policy proposed is not going to work. There are currently 17 readmission agreements in place and national lists of "safe countries of origin". Very few of the refugees who have arrived in the EU come from either list of countries - with the exception of Turkey which has a readmission agreement and it cannot be seriously expected that Turkey - a transit country- would accept the return hundreds of thousands of refugees."

Currently 17 readmission agreements (link) are in force with the following countries: Hong Kong, Macao, Sri Lanka, Albania, Russia, Ukraine, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Moldova, Pakistan, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Cape Verde and the "safe countries of origin" list (pdf) to which people can be returned. Very few of the refugees who have arrived in the EU come from either lists of countries - with the exception of Turkey which has a readmission agreement and it cannot be seriously proposed to return refugees there - only Bulgaria has Turkey on its list of "sate countries of origin. The Council of the European Union is proposing that Turkey be included - the European Parliament is opposed to this move. To return refguees to many African countries the EU has to rely on the controversial Article 13 in the Cotonou Agreement which " commits all participating States to readmit their own nationals without further formalities."

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