Statewatch News online: EU internal security threatens refugee rights

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Statewatch critique of Commission report on asylum and "safeguarding internal security" post 11 September

Commission report:

- displays a flagrant disregard for basic human rights obligations;
- suggests solutions that are not coherent;
- and would apply to situations wholly unrelated to terrorism

A special analysis by Statewatch (Analysis: html pdf) makes a devastating critique of a European Commission paper on safeguarding internal security and protection and asylum. The Commission's paper (COM(2001) 743 final) was prepared in response to the "Conclusions" of the specially-called meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 20 September 2001. One of the measures agreed in response to 11 September was to call on the Commission to: "examine urgently the relationship between safeguarding internal security and complying with international protection obligations and instruments".

On 16 October President Bush sent a letter to the EU institutions making a series of demands for EU-US cooperation including eight substantive migration/asylum issues. This was followed on 26 October by a special meeting of the EU's high-level Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum (SCIFA) with US officials: EU-US meeting

On 6 December the JHA Council reached agreement on the Framework Decision defining terrorism which was later supplemented by a binding "Common Position" giving a different definition of terrorism on 27 December.

Statewatch analysis: no 10
Critique of the European Commission’s paper on asylum, protection and internal security: html pdf

Background notes

Definition of terrorism

The practical effect of the Commission's proposals will depend on the interpretation of the common definition of terrorism agreed by the Council of the European Union. This is set out in the Framework Decision on combating terrorism agreed by the JHA Council on 6 December 2001. However, this was supplemented by another binding measure adopted by "written procedure" on 27 December 2001 - Council "Common Position on combating terrorism". The latter refers to "active or passive" support for a terrorist organisation (and does not contain the qualifications in the Framework Decision which appear to exclude normal political and trade union activity and protests). These two definitions of terrorism vary in their scope. In practice it will be the application of these definitions intelligence (external), security (internal), police and immigration agencies in drawing up reports on individual asylum-seekers that will determine their future.

All asylum applicants to be vetted

This ambiguity over the EU's definition of terrorism is compounded by the Commission's view (in line with the Council's "Common Position" of 27 December which was made binding a non-binding provision in the UN Resolution) - that:

"before considering to grant refugee status, States should take appropriate measures to ensure that the asylum-seeker has not participated in terrorist acts"

In effect all asylum applicants would be vetted. As the report notes a number of EU member states are:

"considering introducing standard "front-security checks", by which all claims for asylum would be checked upon potential security risks, running personal data through the available and relevant databases. Such logistical measures are fully compatible with the legal international obligations upon Member States and could prove potentially useful"

The results of this screening might be based on an allegation that a person had been involved in "war or other serious crimes" or "these suspicions may emerge during the course of assessment" by EU agencies.

Extending "terrorist" measures to crime in general

What is further deeply worrying is that throughout the Commission's paper it is clear that such vetting and resultant refusing of refugee status could apply to alleged or actual criminal acts and also lead to the removal of migrants having residence status. Not only does the Commission extend its proposal from terrorism to crime in general it also includes the all-embracing "catch-all" of "public order and national security". For example, for:

"an individual asylum-seeker [who] has criminal affiliations likely to pose a risk to public or and national security, detention would be an appropriate tool"

However, "criminal activities" in an undemocratic state could include peaceful freedom of expression and trade union activity and, in any state, this phrase could cover public order offences which fall well short of "terrorist" activities in the true sense.


1. Full-text of Commission report (COM(2001) 743 final): Text (pdf)
2. Letter from President Bush to the European Commission's President on 16 October: Text and analysis (pdf)
3. Meeting of the EU Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum (SCIFA) with US: EU-US meeting

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