ECRE, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) have published a joint briefing on the European Commission proposal establishing rules for the surveillance of the external sea borders in the context of Frontex operations.

ECRE, Amnesty International and the ICJ acknowledge that the proposal includes some improvements by introducing new provisions on the protection of human rights. Importantly, the proposal stresses that border surveillance under EU law also entails carrying out effective search and rescue operations during sea operations.

However, the organisations express concern regarding some provisions of the proposal which are not in line with international law. Specifically, the organisations believe that the proposed Regulation must not become a vehicle to legitimize “push-backs” at sea or disregard the procedural guarantees laid down in the EU asylum acquis and the EU Charter to ensure that the principle of non-refoulement and other human rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are fully respected and protected. Furthermore, EU law should not be based on erroneous or incorrect understanding of the principle of non-refoulement, whose distortion may have pernicious effects beyond this Regulation’s scope. As demonstrated by the Hirsi Jamaa and Others v Italy case non-refoulement should apply to everyone. In the Hirsi case, a group of Somali and Eritrean nationals were sent back and handed to Libyan authorities without having the opportunity to claim asylum or receiving any legal assistance. The Court held that Italy had violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment). The Court highlighted that Member States had to find out how the people would be treated upon return to a country, even if they were not asylum seekers.

The proposal aims to replace Council Decision 2010/252/EU annulled in September 2012 by the Court of Justice of European Union (CJEU) which concluded that the rules required the consideration and approval of the European Parliament.

For further information:

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 6 September 2013.

You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.