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Austrian Presidency document: "a new, better protection system under which no applications for asylum are filed on EU territory"
17.7.18
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A crude paper authored by the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU and circulated to other Member States's security officials refers disparagingly to "regions that are characterised by patriarchal, anti-freedom and/or backward-looking religious attitudes" and calls for "a halt to illegal migration to Europe" and the "development of a new, better protection system under which no applications for asylum are filed on EU territory," with some minor exceptions.

See: Austrian Presidency: Informal Meeting of COSI, Vienna, Austria, 2-3 July 2018: Strengthening EU External Border Protection and a Crisis-Resistant EU Asylum System (pdf)

The document was produced for an 'Informal Meeting of COSI' (the Council of the EU's Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security) which took place on 2 and 3 July in Vienna, and the proposals it contains were the subject of numerous subsequent press articles - with the Austrian President one of the many who criticised the government's ultra-hardline approach.

See: Austrian president criticises government's asylum proposals (The Local, link); Austrian proposal requires asylum seekers to apply outside EU: Profil (Reuters, link); Right of asylum: Austria’s unsettling proposals to member states (EurActiv, link)

Some of the proposals were also discussed at an informal meeting of the EU's interior ministers on Friday 13 July, where the topic of "return centres" was also raised. The Luxembourg interior minister Jean Asselborn reportedly said that such an idea "shouldn't be discussed by civilized Europeans." See: No firm EU agreement on Austrian proposals for reducing migration (The Local, link)

The Austrian Presidency paper proposes:

"2.1. By 2020

By 2020 the following goals could be defined:

  • Saving as many human lives as possible;
  • Clear strengthening of the legal framework and the operational capabilities of FRONTEX with respect to its two main tasks: support in protecting the Union’s external border and in the field of return;
  • Increasing countering and destruction of people smugglers’ and human traffickers‘ business models;
  • Significant reduction in illegal migration;
  • More sustainable and more effective return measures as well as establishment of instruments that foster third countries’ willingness to cooperate on all relevant aspects, including the fight against people smuggling, providing protection and readmission;
  • Development of a holistic concept for a forward-looking migration policy (in the spirit of a "whole of government approach“) and a future European protection system in cooperation with third countries that is supported by all and does not overburden all those involved – neither in terms of resources nor with regard to the fundamental rights and freedoms they uphold.

2.2. By 2025

By 2025 the following goals could be realised:

  • Full control of the EU’s external borders and their comprehensive protection have been ensured.
  • The new, better European protection system has been implemented across the EU in cooperation with third countries; important goals could include:
    • no incentives anymore to get into boats, thus putting an end to smuggled persons dying in the Mediterranean;
    • smart help and assistance for those in real need of protection, i.e. provided primarily in the respective region;
    • asylum in Europe is granted only to those who respect European values and the fundamental rights and freedoms upheld in the EU;
    • no overburdening of the EU Member States’ capabilities;
    • lower long-term costs;
    • prevention of secondary migration.
  • Based on these principles, the EU Member States have returned to a consensual European border protection and asylum policy."

And includes the following statements, amongst others:

"...more and more Member States are open to exploring a new approach. Under the working title “Future European Protection System” (FEPS) and based on an Austrian initiative, a complete paradigm shift in EU asylum policy has been under consideration at senior officials’ level for some time now. The findings are considered in the “Vienna Process” in the context of which the topic of external border protection is also dealt with. A number of EU Member States, the EU Commission and external experts contribute towards further reflections and deliberations on these two important topics."

"...ultimately, there is no effective EU external border protection in place against illegal migration and the existing EU asylum system does not enable an early distinction between those who are in need of protection and those who are not."

"Disembarkment following rescue at sea as a rule only takes place in EU Member States. This means that apprehensions at sea not only remain ineffective (non-refoulement, examination of applications for asylum), but are exploited in people smugglers’ business models."

"Due to factors related to their background as well as their poor perspectives, they [smuggled migrants] repeatedly have considerable problems with living in free societies or even reject them. Among them are a large number of barely or poorly educated young men who have travelled to Europe alone. Many of these are particularly susceptible to ideologies that are hostile to freedom and/or are prone to turning to crime.

As a result of the prevailing weaknesses in the fields of external border protection and asylum, it is to be expected that the negative consequences of past and current policies will continue to be felt for many years to come. As experience with immigration from regions that are characterised by patriarchal, anti-freedom and/or backward-looking religious attitudes has shown, problems related to integration, safety and security may even increase significantly over several generations."

See: Austrian Presidency: Informal Meeting of COSI, Vienna, Austria, 2-3 July 2018: Strengthening EU External Border Protection and a Crisis-Resistant EU Asylum System (pdf)

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