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Relocation of refugees in EU has failed so Council turns to draconian returns policy
- including the targeting of children for detention
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The Maltese Council Presidency is working on a plan to "significantly improve the return system within the EU" and "improve cooperation on readmission".

See: EU: Council of the European Union: Return Policy: enhancing effectiveness a) Commission Recommendation on making returns more effective when implementing the Directive 2008/115/EC b) Commission Communication on a more effective return policy in the European Union - A renewed Action Plan = Policy debate (LIMITE doc no: 7112-17.pdf):

It opens with the statement:

"It appears that, while the total return rate from 2014 to 2015 increased from 41.8% to 42.5%, the rate of effective returns to third countries dropped from 36.6% to 36.4% (27% in case returns to Western Balkans are not included)."

And goes on to make two proposals and invite Member States' response.

"The renewed Action Plan"

"The [Commission] Communication proposes a number of actions to deal with internal challenges and notably covers various aspects of the EU return system, setting out several issues and steps to be taken for each to address abuses of the asylum procedures; to enhance the sharing of information, to better use the European Border and Coastguard Agency." [emphasis added]

And also to tackle the "challenges of readmission" through "Partnership Frameworks" in Africa:

"It invites the EU and the Members States to employ their collective leverage in a coordinated and effective manner to improve cooperation on readmission." [emphasis added]

This refers to the "Partnership Frameworks" policy of requiring full cooperation on returns and readmission or African states will "suffer the consequences" through the loss of trade and aid.

Recommendation on making returns more effective

"In order to prevent the risk of absconding, the Recommendation suggests that Member States should use detention as needed and appropriate, as a means for effective enforcement of return decisions."

It cites the powers under the Returns Directive (Article 15) and calls for a "a more targeted use of detention".

It calls for Member States to adopt an initial maximum period of six months detention and;

"for the Member States to use the possibility of further prolonging it up to a maximum of 18 months in cases provided for in Article 15(6) of the Directive. It also mentions the need to bring detention capacity in line with actual needs, including by using, where necessary, the derogation for emergency situations as provided for in Article 18 of the Return Directive. According to this Article, in situations where an exceptionally large number of third country nationals who are to be returned places an unforeseen heavy burden on the capacity of the detention facilities of a Member State or on its administrative or judicial staff, this Member State may, as long as the exceptional situation persists, decide to allow for periods for judicial review that are longer than those provided for in the Directive and to take urgent measures in respect of the conditions of detention derogating from those set out in the same Directive." [emphasis added]

The Presidency then calls for the targeting of children for detention:

"The Return Directive contains a specific provision on detention of minors (Article 17), which can only be applied as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. The Recommendation outlines that the possibility to place minors in detention - in the full respect of their fundamental rights and under the conditions provided for by the Return Directive - should not be precluded in national legislation."

A future foretold

On 1 June 2015 Commissioner for Home Affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos, sent a Letter to EU Home Affairs Ministers which presents a dehumanised portrayal of refugees.

He says that the “relatively low rate of returns of irregular migrants undermines the credibility of our efforts” so:

we must make sure that the countries of origin of these irregular migrants cooperate and take them back” [emphasis added]

The Commissioner says that another reason for the low return rate is the:

"lack of cooperation from the individuals concerned (they conceal their identity or abscond)" [emphasis added]

To deal with this problem, the Commissioner argues that the Returns Directive provides Member States with the possibility “to use coercive measures, including detention” and “detention should be applied, as a legitimate measure of last resort.” The Commissioner reminds Member States that the Directive allows for detention for up to six months and “18 months in case on non-cooperation”

The Commissioner then spells out a strategy when Member States are “confronted with large numbers of irregular migrants” – as they were already in June 2015 - and do not have “sufficient places in closed detention facilities”:

“they can apply the emergency clause of the Return Directive (Article 18).. [which] provides Member States more flexibility regarding the conditions of closed detention of irregular migrants, by enabling them to derogate from the detention-related requirements of the Directive temporarily.” [emphasis in original]

A Footnote spells out that all basic standards can be by-passed:

“This clause offers a possibility for Member States not to apply three detention related provisions of the Directive, namely: the obligation to provide for a speedy initial judicial review of detention; the obligation to detain only in specialised facilities and the obligation to provide separate accommodation guaranteeing adequate privacy to families.” [emphasis added]

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