On the eve of Sweden’s assumption of the EU presidency, ECRE has sent a memorandum to the Swedish Government relating to EU asylum policies and the Stockholm Programme, scheduled to be finalized in late 2009 towards the end of the six month EU presidency.
Excerpts from the ECRE memo:
“… ECRE urges Sweden to take a rights-respecting approach during its Presidency and to seek to uphold Europe’s longstanding human rights tradition, and to play a leading role in promoting fair and humane European policies towards asylum seekers and refugees.
“In recent years the EU has increasingly focused on measures aimed at preventing and combating irregular entry. Many of these border control measures lack the necessary mechanisms to identify individuals in need of protection and allow their access to the territory and subsequently to an asylum procedure. This is leading to the violation of the principle of non-refoulement at Europe’s borders and is having a major impact in preventing refugees from seeking asylum in Europe.
“States have also developed a range of externalised migration controls beyond their borders, which allow people to be returned before they can ever reach European territory.
“ECRE stresses that Member States’ obligations under international and European refugee and human rights law do not stop at the physical boundaries of the EU. Member States cannot abdicate their principles, values and legal commitments by doing outside their borders what would not be permissible in their territories.
“The obligation of non-refoulement does not arise only when a refugee is within or at the borders of a state, but also when a refugee is under its effective or de facto control, including in international waters or those of another state. ECRE is therefore seriously concerned by the situation in the Mediterranean, especially reported pushbacks of possible refugees to third countries such as Libya.
“ECRE is also deeply worried about any proposals envisaging the setting up of external processing which would allow EU States to evade their obligations to protect refugees by shifting the responsibility to third countries with extremely dubious human rights records. While building protection capacity in third countries is a welcome objective, such cooperation must be additional to, and not a substitute for facilitating access to protection within the EU.
“EU states also need to place greater emphasis on developing protection-sensitive border controls, including through FRONTEX, the EU external border management agency. Oversight of FRONTEX activities should be strengthened through increased supervision of its activities, including consultation with and reporting back to the European Parliament concerning the agency’s work programme and activities. FRONTEX should also engage in a structured cooperation with asylum experts such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with relevant expertise, in order to facilitate operations that take account of protection issues.”
Click here for the ECRE Memorandum.