27 October 2020
The UNHCR has issued a paper setting out certain "practical considerations for fair and fast border procedures and solidarity". A proposal for procedures to swiftly assess asylum claims whilst individuals are detained in facilities at the EU's border is a key feature of the EU's new Pact on Migration and Asylum.
It should be noted that given the model for the EU's border processing zones appears to be the 'hotspot' camps in Greece and Italy, it seems doubtful that the prerequisites set out by the UNHCR to make border procedures "fair and fast" can be met.
"Fair and fast border procedures
Current discussions around the introduction of border procedures in frontline MS at the EU external borders, including a mandatory pre-screening of persons arriving irregularly, build on a fiction of non-entry to facilitate eventual returns. However, international legal obligations of States remain applicable despite this artificial construct. When a State is presented with an asylum request at its borders, it is required under international law to provide admission at least on a temporary basis to examine the claim, as the right to seek asylum and the non-refoulement principle would otherwise be rendered meaningless.
In UNHCR’s view, efficient border procedures that maintain fairness safeguards and adhere to international and EU law, including the principle of non-refoulement, are possible. To this effect, UNHCR proposes a three-step border procedure resulting in relocation or return, with a focus on in-merits procedures in lieu of admissibility procedures. This model for border procedures is proposed based on the understanding that the asylum system in its entirety, i.e. at entry and exit points, needs to be practical, fair and efficient, and delivering swift and clear results. This paper therefore takes a “whole of system” approach that considers efficiency and fairness of the asylum procedure as well as the return of individuals not in need of international protection.
The proposed border procedure requires coherence in the implementation as well as a predictable intra-EU relocation system. The absence of coherent implementation and compliance with a solidarity mechanism can have significant implications for the efficiency of the system. Therefore, an independent monitoring framework coupled with immediate sanctions for non-compliance will be essential components for the success of the system."
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