03 July 2015

ECRE has expressed its disappointment following the Conclusions of the European Council meeting of 25 June and is particularly concerned about the incapacity of EU leaders to reach an agreement on a mandatory scheme to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers and resettle 20,000 refugees. In ECRE’s view, even these numbers are insufficient, notwithstanding the complete failure to achieve solidarity and trust between Member States on asylum policies; at the expense of asylum seekers.

ECRE is concerned about the setting up of “hotspot” reception and first reception facilities to identify, register and fingerprint migrants in frontline Member States, as the Council Conclusions do not specify whether these centres would be closed or open facilities. More worrying, a letter sent by Commissioner Avramopoulos to the Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs seems to legitimise the use of physical coercion, including detention, when taking migrants’ and asylum seekers fingerprints. ECRE fears detention might become the norm. Thereby, ECRE argues, the respect for migrants’ and asylum seekers’ fundamental rights, the rule of law,  as well as the principles of necessity and proportionality, as enshrined in the European asylum law, all risk being undermined.

ECRE considers that the opaque and broad reference to detention for the purpose of sending irregular migrants back to their country of origin, encouraged by the European Commission, does not correspond to the narrow scope of detention, which can only be applied if a significant risk of absconding exists and other alternatives to detention cannot be applied.

Commenting on the decision to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers and resettle 20,000 refugees, the UNHCR spokesperson, Adrian Edward said: “It is an important step along the way to finding answers to this crisis, but clearly much more will have to be done”. “This initiative,” he added, “needs to be accompanied by a better functioning of the Dublin system”, as well as by legal venues for people seeking international protection, including “a more effective, timely and consistent application of family reunification procedures.” “For that purpose”, he stressed, “It’s essential that states work together to find answers”.

Nils Muiznieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, also comments: “Divided as they are, European leaders do share a view of migration as a security problem, often using inappropriately militaristic language. The European Commission exhibited the same approach in last week’s proposal to strengthen the powers of the European Union border agency, Frontex, to fingerprint, detain and expel migrants.” Therefore, he calls Member States to increase legal avenues for migrants to reach Europe, including humanitarian visas and family reunification, to stop criminalizing migrants who enter and stay irregularly in Europe, to set up a European search-and-rescue operation and offer more support to UNHCR proposals to resettle refugees.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 03 July 2015
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