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.
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