EU list of safe countries of origin voted by Libe Committee

A new EU list of safe countries of origin  should replace today’s national lists after a three-year transition period, Civil Liberties Committee MEPs agreed on Thursday 07 July 2016.

The Civil Liberties Committee MEPs agreed on Thursday 07 July 2016 that a EU list of safe countries of origin  should replace today’s national lists after a three-year transition period. The EU Commission will be in charge of  assessing what countries should be included, removed or temporarily suspended from the list, which is intended to help member states to process certain asylum applications faster and more consistently.

Decisions on whether adding or removing countries will be taken by ordinary legislative procedure following a proposal by the EU Commission, which will also be responsible for regularly reviewing the situation in the listed and suspended countries. In the event of a sudden deterioration of the situation in a country, the Commission will also decide, under Parliament’s scrutiny, on the temporary suspension of a country from the list.

During the three-year period before national lists disappear, EU countries will not be entitled to consider as safe any country of origin which has been previously suspended or removed from the European list. Nonetheless, Member States will be able to suggest the EU Commission to add other third countries to the common list.

The concept of safe country of origin will not be applied “in the case of applicants belonging to a minority or group of persons that remain at risk in the light of the situation in the country of origin concerned,” as so to strengthen protection for unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable groups.  Accelerated or border procedures cannot be applied to unaccompanied minors originating from a safe country of origin unless they receive “adequate support”, says the amended text.

 May a country be simply labelled as “safe”?

On 30 May 2016, in hopes of finalising a common list of “safe countries of origin” by the EU, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) of the European Parliament discussed amending the regulation proposal previously delivered by the Commission in September 2015. The countries on this list reflect the absence of the risk of persecution for asylum seekers and the upholding of the rule of law.

The proposal of the Commission, seeks to repair the heterogeneity of the “safe countries” list throughout the EU. Collective agreement in the Commission has identified Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey as acceptable.

In addition to the aforementioned list, the Commission will release a common list of “safe third countries” where asylum seekers may submit legitimate asylum applications. The list identifies countries the asylum seekers previously travelled through upon entering the EU where they could be sent back to file the applications.

However, in caution to such identification, the l’Association Européenne des Droits de l’Homme (AEDH), EuroMed Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) have stated that no country may be simply labelled as “safe,” arguing that the EU Member States will “institutionalise” a system of refusing their responsibilities to asylum seekers and international obligations. The term “safety” produces various consequences in the act of controlling migration, hinging on the rights of asylum seekers through the risk of expediting applications, application rejection and repatriation. AEDH wrote, “We oppose a notion which, we believe, is contrary to the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of nationality enshrined in international law. We call on the European Parliament and the Council to reject the adoption of this regulation.”

Eu-Turkey deal visa liberalisation roadmap is hindered

Although the European Commission has announced its commitment of €20 million to support the instrumentality of the Turkish Coast Guard in search and rescue, alongside €27 million towards launching education access for Syrian refugees with the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, the ‘Madad Fund,’ the obstacles are many.

€3 billion stands as the initial commitment to the Facility by the European Union.  Irregular migration and trafficking is to be tackled. Infrastructure development and an increased access to high education are some examples of the stated goals to prevent the risk of a “lost generation.” The collective sum of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, established to focus on the urgent needs of refugees and host communities, currently amounts to approximately €240 million.

Despite efforts to financially boost “the Facility,” a fundamental asset in the EU-Turkey Deal, the visa liberalisation roadmap is stunted due to such various challenges.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz said in an interview with the Cologne daily, Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, that “…Turkey under Erdoğan is on the way to a one man state.” Schulz claimed that the “stunning rejection of the values of Europe” by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan diminished the opportunity for Turkey to become a member of the EU. Describing the membership of Turkey as “effectively impossible”, the visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens will not be approved so long as Erdoğan refuses to meet the EU requirements.

This is proving to be a furthermore controversial situation as development, human rights, humanitarian, medical and migration NGOs and agencies have publically condemned the new EU policies to stem migration. The new Partnership Framework with third countries is believed to uphold the one goal of curbing migration “at the expense of European credibility and leverage in defence of fundamental values and human rights.”

Most concern centres on how the EU will request the third countries to open their borders to host large populations and control external movement, “while at the same time Member States refuse to shoulder their fair share of responsibility for protecting people who flee their homes.”

The joint NGO statement emphasised, “This approach will not only fail to “break the business-model” of smugglers but increase human suffering as people are forced into taking more dangerous routes. Moreover, despite the stated commitment to respect the principle of non-refoulement, there are no safeguards envisaged to ensure that human rights, rule of law standards and protection mechanisms are in place. As a result, people risk being deported to countries where their rights are not safeguarded.  Responsibility and liability for human rights violations do not end at Europe’s borders.

The Framework has been deemed as an “unattainable and inhumane deterrence” in ignoring a rights-based foundation in migration management. But “a good agreement,” as Schulz stated, is still necessary to avoid a cooperative refugee deal between European and Turkish interests.

Joanna Hong and Tommaso Ripani
For more information on the EU-Turkey deal, read “EU-Turkey deal: is Europe doing the right thing?” and  “EU Deal with Turkey on Migrants Condemned by the Council of Europe.”

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