31 January 2014

As the Stockholm Programme will be coming to an end in December 2014, the European Council will adopt in June strategic guidelines indicating the way forward in the area of Justice and Home Affairs in the EU. In the context of the debate on the future of Home Affairs policies, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström hosted this week the conference “An Open and Safe Europe – What Next?”, gathering representatives of Member States, Members of the European Parliament and national Parliaments, other EU institutions, international organisations, civil society organisations, academics and researchers. 

Commissioner Malmström opened the conference by declaring that “we will need to step up our efforts to avoid last year’s tragedy in Lampedusa from happening again. We need a Europe that is open to the world, a Europe that ensures the human rights of any individual fleeing conflict and persecution. Today asylum seekers have to rely far too often on traffickers in order to reach Europe. There are basically no legal ways to get to Europe. We need to reflect on how we can ensure a more orderly arrival of those third-country nationals who have strong claims to reach Europe safely.”

Michael Diedring, ECRE’s Secretary General, stated at a workshop on “Legal Routes to Access Asylum in Europe” that “legal and safe channels for migrants and asylum seekers will literally be the difference between life and death”. Diedring argued that, in order to ensure maximum impact, all channels for facilitating access to protection should be explored and used simultaneously, including “protected entry procedures”, resettlement, more flexible family reunification rules and the suspension of visa restrictions for nationals and residents of countries experiencing a significant upheaval or humanitarian crisis.

The Commission’s Communication on the Task Force on the Mediterranean specifically calls for “a feasibility study on possible joint processing of protection claims outside of the European Union without prejudice to the existing right of access to asylum procedures in the EU”. At the conference, Diedring reiterated that ECRE strongly opposes any form of joint processing of asylum applications outside the EU that would include the forced transfer of asylum seekers who arrive on EU territory to processing centres outside the EU.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 31 January 2014
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