Translation of a speech given by Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo (Osservatorio Solidarieta Carta di Milano) at the session ‘Decriminalizing Solidarity: an ever more topical challenge’, Sabir Festival, Palermo, 13 October 2018.
In the summer of 2018, after concerted efforts since 2014 by the EU and its Member States to block off the eastern (Turkey to Greece) and central (Tunisia and Libya to Italy) routes across the Mediterranean used by migrants and refugees to reach Europe, there was an increase in crossings using the western route (Morocco, and sometimes Algeria, to Spain). This was accompanied by an increase in deaths at sea and, in Morocco, extensive police operations to remove black African migrants from the north of the country, based on racial profiling and flagrant breaches of human rights.
This analysis looks at key critiques of EU plans to create a pervasive EU state database covering existing and future Justice and Home Affairs databases.
In order to facilitate free movement within the EU, the introduction of some mandatory EU-wide standards for identity cards may well be justified – but the proposal to fingerprint 175 million people as part of that is irrelevant and unjustified, and should be rejected by the European Parliament and the Council when they begin discussing the Commission’s proposals on standardising national identity cards.
The rule of law means putting limits ‘from below’ and from outside upon the power of the state. In a strict conception of the democratic principle, the law cannot be a mechanism for covering up abuses of power, but a brake upon them or their primary antidote.
Ten years after the ‘Tarnac affair’ began with accusations of terrorism against a group of people from a libertarian community, the key individuals in the case, subsequently accused of sabotaging railway lines, have been cleared of all charges. The process has demonstrated a set-up designed to create an internal enemy.
This analysis is based on the charges levelled at Proactiva Open Arms and was published in the wake of the crew’s interrogation and the impounding of the Open Arms rescue boat. It was written by the steering group (direttivo) of the Osservatorio Solidarietà della Carta di Milano, which was formally constituted in January 2018. It was originally published in Italian. A prosecutor has now ordered the freeing of the Open Arms, although judicial proceedings are ongoing. Statewatch will be publishing further information on the case.
German authorities use a number of databases that collect data on political activists, even if they hadn't been sentenced or tried. Names are stored if people have had their identity checked, or if they have registered a demonstration under their name. Many are recorded under false designations. Such entries have raised concerns around them being used for further repression, including the revocation of journalists’ accreditation. Discriminatory and stigmatising labels have also been applied to people whose data is held by the police.
“the Parliament maintains that the principle of transparency and the higher requirements of democracy do not and cannot constitute in themselves an overriding public interest [for the disclosure of documents].”
In late 2017, a prison-to-be was converted into a detention centre by Spain’s interior ministry, and used to hold some 500 Algerian nationals travelling to the country by dinghy. One of them subsequently died, isolated in his cell. The majority of detainees have now been deported, and an official investigation into the death remains open, despite a preliminary verdict of suicide. The penitentiary centre, meanwhile, has now officially opened as a prison, but the episode highlights how the treatment of such situations as ‘emergencies’ – despite the fact that they have been ongoing for decades – leads to numerous and serious human rights violations.
In mid-August 2014, a group of around 80 people attempted to enter Melilla, a Spanish enclave in North Africa, by climbing the three razor-wire topped fences that divide the territory from Morocco. The majority remained balanced atop a fence for around nine hours while some held onto their perches for up to 16 hours, “despite the suffocating heat and the lack of food and water,” as one news report noted at the time. But regardless of how long they held on, as soon as they came down from the fence they were all returned to Morocco by officers from Spain’s Guardia Civil.
Ten million stateless people wander or barely survive around the world without nationality, rights or basic freedoms. Another 65 million have been forced to leave their homes, including more than 22 million refugees, the equivalent of half the population of a country like Spain. About 244 million migrants risk their lives in search of a better future in other countries on a life-threatening journey, often facing inhumane conditions, illegal detentions, sexual assaults, violence, slavery or kidnappings. Sometimes, the journey turns out to be the final one.
How should the EU deal with the perceived ‘migrant/refugee crisis’? It has done a number of things, but back in September 2015, when the numbers of arrivals were peaking, it did something truly remarkable – requiring Member States to relocate 160,000 asylum-seekers from the ‘frontline’ states of Italy and Greece, which were bearing most of the burden of new arrivals....
Europol removes content from the internet. This approach goes beyond regular measures in the fight against terrorism propaganda and mixes police work and media regulation. Should a police agency be responsible for the surveillance and control of Facebook posts and tweets?
The topic of counter-terrorism in Europe remains closely linked to the development and expansion of police (and secret service) databases. This was the case in the 1970s, after 11 September 2001 and has also been the case since 2014, when the EU Member States started working on their action plans against 'foreign terrorist fighters'.
The formal process of developing and implementing EU counter-terrorism law and policy begins with the heads of government, in the European Council, setting out strategic guidelines. Thereafter, the Commission produces proposals for laws and policies that are discussed by the Council of the EU (made up of government officials) and the Parliament. However, this formal task-sharing between the institutions of the EU does not say much about the power relations and impulses surrounding counter-terrorism policy.
The lorry attack on the Berlin Christmas Market on 19 December 2016 was the perfect reason for the German government to demand even stricter laws on counter-terrorism. With 12 people killed and 55 hurt it was the most severe individual attack since the neo-Nazi assault at the Oktoberfest in 1980.
This year, there has not been any migrant boat arriving from Egypt so far. Is this an effect of the new Egyptian anti-smuggling law? In the meantime, migrants in the North African country experience arbitrary detentions for indefinite periods, deportations which violate international law and scarce or non-existent protection for those who supposedly have a right to it. Asylum is a taboo for the authorities in Cairo, and the UN agency for refugees does what it can (but also - according to accusations by several workers - a lot less than that), while the work of humanitarian organisations in this sector is limited by the Egyptian regime’s repressive actions. In the meantime, the IOM, Italy and other EU countries renew their programmes to support Egyptian border guards, and the EU has agreed a five-fold increase in its budget for Egypt from the Africa Trust Fund.
While the White Paper has thought some issues through in detail, there are some key points on which it is either vague or unconvincing (or both). In particular, it contains no real detail or substantiated argument on the most important issue: the power of the executive to amend laws without an Act of Parliament.
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