The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (“FRA”) presented its opinion regarding the Stockholm Programme as proposed by the European Commission at the beginning of June 2009.
Relevant portions include the following:
“Secure that access to EU territory is dealt with under the rule of law:
Absolute respect for fundamental rights and international protection must accompany any measure of border surveillance and control. Fundamental rights safeguards contained in the Schengen Borders Code, such as respect for the principles of non-refoulement, non-discrimination and the duty to fully respect human dignity must be upheld in practice.”
“Measures to control access to the territory of Member States increasingly take place before third country nationals reach the territory of the European Union; … It should be recalled that according to international law and, more specifically, Article 1 ECHR, State responsibility deriving from human rights obligations may be engaged outside the national territory of the State concerned.”
“Therefore, the EU and its Member States have to dedicate attention as to what effects the extra-territorialisation of its immigration policies has on potential immigrants and their rights as human beings. This is in particular the case for potential mechanisms to process asylum applications outside the European Union. Such mechanisms should be guided by the rule of law principles. They should be set up in a manner that does not limit access to fair and efficient procedures in Member States for those who will continue to arrive in Europe spontaneously.”
“Particularly acute is the situation at sea, where the lives of thousands of people remain at risk. Border control and surveillance measures have to be designed with the necessary safeguards to ensure full respect of fundamental rights as well as search and rescue obligations deriving from international maritime law.”
“The principle of non-refoulement remains applicable on the high seas, thus barring the direct or indirect return of individuals to countries where they are at risk of persecution, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Operational tools, such as the guidelines for FRONTEX operations at sea proposed by the Commission early this year, should be adopted quickly with a view to providing practical guidance on how to act in full respect of fundamental rights. [Ftnt See on this already European Commission, “Study on the International Law Instruments in Relation to Illegal Immigration by Sea”, SEC(2007) 691, 15 May 2007. Compare also UNHCR/IMO, “Rescue at Sea – A Guide to Principles and Practice As Applied to Migrants and Refugees “, 2006, where it is stated clearly at page 8 that if people rescued at sea make known a claim for asylum, “key principles as defined in international refugee law need to be upheld”.] Such guidance should pay due attention to the special needs of vulnerable people, including, among others, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied and separated children and persons seeking asylum.”
Click here for the full FRA document.