There have been a number of EU proposals to deal with the perceived ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe over the last year. The latest batch, issued this week, are perhaps the most significant to date. They concern three related issues: visas (notably a short-term Schengen visa waiver for Turkish nationals); Schengen (partly suspending the open borders rules for six months); and asylum (changing the Dublin system on responsibility for asylum seekers, and creating a new EU asylum agency). Further proposals on legal migration and other EU asylum laws are coming in the months ahead.
An overview of the requirements for Schengen visa liberalisation for Turkey and information on whether or not they have been fulfilled, as set out in a Commission working document.
How to fix the EU’s troubled Common European Asylum Policy? The Commission has given its views today in the form of a discussion paper, with plans for further legislation. Will this fix the problems?
The Commission’s proposal to extend the fingerprinting of short-stay visa applicants to children from the ages of 6 and up is part of a list of possible “enhanced functionalities” (i.e. expanded uses) of the Visa Information System (VIS). These “functionalities” will be examined as part of a larger process of trying to beef up EU and national databases and information systems.
Back in December 2015, the Commission proposed the text of a Regulation creating a new EU Border Guard, which would replace the current Frontexagency. EU leaders have already asked for this law to be agreed by June. Most of the text of this proposal has already been agreed by the Council, although after that it will still have to be agreed with the European Parliament.
The EU and Turkey have now reached an agreementon refugee issues, which has aroused considerable legal and political controversy. To examine the arguments about the deal, I present here the main text with my legal assessment of each point annotated. This builds upon my comments (together with Emanuela Roman) first of all in general on the relevant points last month, and then secondly on the leaked draft text of the final deal earlier this week (I have reused here some of the latter analysis where relevant).
The EU’s deal with Turkey on refugees and migrants has been presented by its proponents as a quick and effective way to deal with the ongoing arrival of people in Europe. Its opponents maintain it is morally bankrupt and contrary to international law. Yet the EU’s approach to migrants and refugees is not solely concerned with such high-profile actions, and a whole host of new projects have been launched or given a new lease of life in recent months.
After the events and horrors of the past year it might be hoped that EU institutions and power elite will reflect on the cost with nearly 4,000 dead or missing refugees in the Med and reassert Europe’s humanitarian and welcoming history. Unfortunately all the indications are that a controlling and repressive “Fortress Europe Version III” will be put in place.
On 15 December 2015, the Commission’s “Progress report on the implementation of hotspots in Italy” was sent to the European Parliament and the Council, calling for further progress to be made in the fields of hotspots, relocation, returns, border management and reception capacity. Lamenting the slow progress in implementing “European Union Law” to build a “Common European Asylum System” in mid-October, the Commission called on Italy to “operationalise all hotspots”, make “full use of the existing detention capacity” while reforming norms on detention and ensuring “swift” transfers to either “second-line reception facilities” or “detention centres”.
Europe’s answer to the refugee crisis has so far been to intensify existing policies and practices, conveniently overlooking their role in the genesis of the problem and in demeaning the rule of law in its member states.
The EU’s response to the refugee situation has included the deployment of warships, plans for mass refoulement and the possible introduction of “one-for-one” schemes, none of which were mentioned in the priority actions proposed by the European Commission in February 2016.
The greatest mistake would be to analyse the current situation and try to resolve it by following the same policy principles and approaches which produced it, as the EU is currently doing, by intensifying and militarising them. The current model has been based on restricting “illegal” or “irregular” immigration as absolute policy goals, by portraying the figure of the irregular and illegal migrant, or “clandestine”, who would be better termed “irregularised” or “illegalised”, as a security threat.
The term ‘safe country’ has been applied to countries which can be considered either as being non-refugee-producing or as being countries in which people fleeing persecution can enjoy asylum. The ‘safe country’ concept in European law has multiple meanings related to the process of asylum seeking and refugee protection: the concepts of ‘safe country of origin’, ‘safe third country’, ‘first country of asylum’, and ‘European safe third country’, all appear in the Procedures Directive, which establishes the common legal standards and guarantees for how to apply for asylum in EU Member States. This article scrutinizes the concepts of ‘safe country of origin’ and ‘safe third country’ as applied to current developments in Turkey.
Over the past year EU institutions – the Council of the European Union (28 Member States) and the European Commission – have been quarrelling publicly, Heads of State have been attacking eachother and national government Ministers openly expressing xenophobic and racist views. Plans for relocation within the EU are in tatters as are the pledges of funding.
Years ago, shortly before the creation of Frontex (the EU’s border control agency) and the big EU enlargement of 2004, I discussed the future of EU borders policy with a senior German civil servant. Anxious about the forthcoming enlargement of the EU (and,in time, Schengen), his vision was that every Lithuanian or Polish border post would be jointly staffed by a friendly German.
A very big effort is always made following commercial disasters such as shipwrecks or airplane crashes, and following humanitarian disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis. A well-oiled system swings into operation, albeit that respect for the rights of the dead and their surviving family members, may not be the sole or main concern of those who are or may be responsible for the disaster, with commercial considerations normally playing a part. Nevertheless, full investigations take place. Conventions and protocols apply. There is painstaking collection of evidence and of data as a matter of routine, and there will be detailed reports, payment of compensation, and surviving family members will be enabled to identify, bury and mourn their dead.
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