EU: Managing migration: Commission expands on disembarkation and controlled centre concepts

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Managing migration: Commission expands on disembarkation and controlled centre concepts
- Both concepts follow the model of the "hotspots" in Italy and on the Greek islands

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The European Commission has published two "Non-Papers" on disembarkation points outside the EU in north Africa and "controlled centres" inside the EU:

"Following the call by EU leaders at the June European Council, the Commission is today expanding on the concept of controlled centres as well as short-term measures that could be taken to improve the processing of migrants being disembarked in the EU, and giving a first outline of the possible way forward for the establishment of regional disembarkation arrangements with third countries. Regional disembarkation arrangements should be seen as working in concert with the development of controlled centres in the EU: together, both concepts should help ensure a truly shared regional responsibility in responding to complex migration challenges." See - Press release (pdf)

Controlled centres (camps?)

"The primary aim would be to improve the process of distinguishing between individuals in need of international protection, and irregular migrants with no right to remain in the EU, while speeding up returns. The centres would be managed by the host Member State with full support from the EU and EU Agencies and could have a temporary or ad-hoc nature depending on the location."

These centres could be temporary or they could become more permanent "hotspots" with an "ad hoc nature".

Disembarkation centres (camps?)

"the concept of regional disembarkation arrangements in close cooperation with IOM and UNHCR and in partnership with third countries.

The objective of regional disembarkation arrangements is to provide quick and safe disembarkation on both sides of the Mediterranean of rescued people in line with international law, including the principle of non-refoulement, and a responsible post-disembarkation process."


"To reduce deaths at sea and ensure orderly and predictable disembarkation,all coastal states in the Mediterranean should be encouraged to establish search and rescue zones and Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCCs);

Developed by the UNHCR and IOM who will help ensure those disembarked can receive protection if they are in need of it, including through resettlement schemes; or will be returned to their countries of origin if they are not, including through the assisted voluntary return and reintegration programmes run by the IOM.."

The Commission argues that there will be "No detention, no camps":

"Regional disembarkation arrangements mean providing a set of established procedures and rules to ensure safe and orderly disembarkation and postdisembarkation processing in full respect of international law and human rights."

As we shall see both concepts follow the model of the "hotspots" in Italy and on the Greek islands.

The aims in the Non-paper: Controlled centres (pdf) and Factsheet Controlled centres (pdf) read like a rehash of the "hotspots" and predict that the "workflow" will take a maximum of four to eight weeks:

"Such centres aim to ensure that all third country nationals disembarked in the EU are registered and processed in an orderly and effective way that allows differentiating rapidly and securely between irregular migrants, who have no right to stay in the EU, and persons who may be in need of international protection.(...)

Adequate conditions should be provided in these centres, in accordance with legally required EU standards, and a swift case management after disembarkation and until at least an initial categorisation of the applicant's claim and his/her channelling to the appropriate asylum procedure should be guaranteed."

A "pilot" is proposed in a willing EU Member State (elsewhere willing Member States have been encouraged to "step forward"):

"Such pilot phase, targeted at providing assistance to a disembarkation of, by way of example, 500 people, would seek to put at the disposal of the Member State of disembarkation the following number of support staff: from the EuropeanBorder and Coast Guard agency, 50 officers (such as screeners, debriefers, advanced level document officers, and First Line Officers), 50 interpreters, 20-40 escort officers for return and 5-10 officers facilitating flight arrangements and supporting communication with the countries of origin; from the European Asylum Support Office: 25-35 persons for the asylum screening, 25-35 persons for the asylum processing, 10-25 persons for voluntary relocation purposes and 50 interpreters/cultural mediators; from Europol, 10-20 officers."

The Non-paper: Disembarkation (pdf) and Factsheet: Disembarkation (pdf)

"This note presents a first assessment for establishing regional disembarkation arrangements, on the basis of the joint UNHCR and IOM “Proposal for a regional cooperative arrangement ensuring predictable disembarkation and subsequent processing of persons rescued-at-sea (...)

The Region-wide action and responsibility of all countries in the Mediterranean is necessary to make disembarkation of people rescued at sea orderly and predictable, to reduce deaths at sea and to guarantee that those rescued are brought ashore swiftly in safe locations.(...)

UNHCR and IOM have outlined in their proposal a number of steps that would need to be undertaken when disembarkation takes place. First, after determining the place of disembarkation, those rescued at sea would be disembarked promptly and transported to reception facilities providing adequate, safe and dignified reception conditions. There, they would be registered, screened and receive assistance based on their specific needs."

The EU will provide the funds to:

"Enhance border management through equipment, training and other forms of support to enhance the capacities of the relevant stakeholders responsible for securing borders and carrying out SAR;

- Development of communication networks to enhance situational awareness at sea;
- Reception facilities in line with adequate, safe and dignified conditions;
- Development of biometric registration, including training and equipment;

- Assistance to cover essential needs;
- Support in the identification of vulnerabilities, referrals, case processing, Refugee Status Determination;
- Support for returns, including Assisted Voluntary Returns/Voluntary Humanitarian Returns and Reintegration assistance."

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"Quite contrary to the "No detention, no camps" claims the above processes clearly mirror those in the proposed EU "controlled centres" and the hotspots in Greece and Italy."

See: Libya rejects EU plan for refugee and migrant centres (Guardian, link)


Frontex: proposals to reinforce EU border agency may be published in early September(Statewatch)

UN sets conditions for EU 'disembarkation platforms' - full-text of the letter from the IOM and UNHCR (Statewatch)

See further: European Council on migration: documentation and reactions to the "summit of shame" (2 July 2018)

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