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Secret US-EU meeting on asylum: the construction of a common EU-US area of migration, asylum and borders?
01 February 2002
Details of secret discussions between EU and US officials on 26 October 2001 have been revealed by Jelle van Buuren, Eurowatch, who obtained a document refused to him by the Council of the European Union. He was refused access by the Council because US officials assume that "these kind of meetings are of a confidential nature" and that release of the document would be "contrary to the common interest to take effective measures to make travelling safe".
In fact, although the document refers to countering terrorism most of the impact of the measures discussed would radically change the EU's policies on asylum and the rights of asylum-seekers.
Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, commented:
"This secret meeting between the EU and US directly follows up the demands in a letter from President Bush to the European Commission last October. We may be witnessing the creation of a new northern "Fortress Europe-USA".
Story by Jelle van Buuren on: Telepolis
Full-text of the leaked document: "Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum - meeting with the United States, 26.10.01: Text
Full-text and analysis of the Bush demands on the EU (16.10.01): Text
The basis for the meeting between the EU-US officials were the demands set out for the EU to change its policies and practices set out in the letter to the EU by Bush on 16 October 2001 (see above).
The meeting with members of the EU's high-level Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum covered eight major areas for joint EU-US action:
1. The US wants the EU to introduce immigration and customs controls in airport transit areas. However, "several" EU member states said that: "terminating airside transit would have major repercussions for European hub airports and underlined the need to distinguish between intelligence based policing of transit areas and the blanket control of all passengers".
2. The US wants a list of data: "to be exchanged between border management services of the [EU] Member States and of North America".
The US delegation listed the data which might be exchanged:
"view to increasing border control capabilities, including intelligence driven data (review of passenger lists), data on persons known to be inadmissible due to involvement in criminal activity (trafficking, dealing in false documents, etc.), customs data (e.g. on drugs smuggling), harder intelligence data on terrorist threats, data on visas, data on migration flows."
The US said that it had a database, drawn from different US agencies, on the 10 million a year visa applications made and the database contained the names of people "involved in various kinds of activities giving rise to concern." US consular officials when processing visa applications check names against the database and "signals" are given for: green (OK), red (refuse) and yellow (where a person should be checked/vetted futher). A change in the US law meant this information could now be shared with other governments.
The European Commission representative at the meeting said that the EU was intending to create an online database on visas issued but shared a view - expressed by several member states - that "sharing information could give rise to difficulties at the level of data protection requirements". The US responded by saying that "data concerning US residents was protected" which begs the obvious question about non-US people.
However, it should be noted that the planned EU visa database will also hold information on people for whom visas are refused, ie. on a visa applications' database.
3. The US wants all EU governments to extend usage of airline passenger details held on APIS (Advanced Passe