A broad social coalition calls for fundamentally new orientation in sharing responsibility

7–8 March: Jus­ti­ce and Home Affairs Coun­cil deli­be­ra­tes on exten­ding bor­der controls

On the occa­si­on of today’s ses­si­on of the EU‘s Jus­ti­ce and Home Affairs Coun­cil, a broad social coali­ti­on made up of PRO ASYL, Dia­ko­nia Ger­ma­ny, the PARITÄTISCHE Wel­fa­re Asso­cia­ti­on, AWO Workers´ Wel­fa­re Asso­cia­ti­on, Jesu­it Refu­gee Ser­vice Ger­ma­ny, Ger­man Bar Asso­cia­ti­on and the Neue Rich­ter­ver­ei­ni­gung cal­led for a fun­da­ment­al­ly new ori­en­ta­ti­on in sharing respon­si­bi­li­ty for refu­gees in the EU. In view of the standstill in the EU in terms of deve­lo­ping a more huma­ne refu­gee poli­cy, the orga­ni­sa­ti­ons today pre­sen­ted a Memo­ran­dum enti­t­led “Allo­ca­ti­on of refu­gees in the Euro­pean Uni­on: for an equi­ta­ble, soli­da­ri­ty-based sys­tem of sharing respon­si­bi­li­ty”. It aims to spark a deba­te on how Euro­pe intends to deal with refu­gees in future.

The Memo­ran­dum demons­tra­tes that many asyl­um see­kers remain without pro­tec­tion des­pi­te having arri­ved on the “safe ground” of the EU and are for­ced to stay in the EU mem­ber sta­te respon­si­ble for them, or to return to it. The Jus­ti­ce and Home Affairs Coun­cil today pushed ahead on exten­ding con­trols at the EU’s exter­nal bor­ders through “smart bor­ders” while any coor­di­na­ti­on moves to reform the Com­mon Euro­pean Asyl­um Sys­tem have been put on ice. The signa­to­ry orga­ni­sa­ti­ons appeal to the Coun­cil and Euro­pean Par­lia­ment to use the time bet­ween now and the coor­di­na­ti­on expec­ted for the sum­mer on reforming the EU law on respon­si­bi­li­ty for asyl­um (the „Dub­lin Regu­la­ti­on“). Ins­tead of the plan­ned chan­ge of Dub­lin II into Dub­lin III, which does not affect the basic struc­tures of respon­si­bi­li­ty sharing, we need a fun­da­ment­al­ly new ori­en­ta­ti­on in EU refu­gee poli­cy in order to over­co­me the pro­found cri­sis of the Com­mon Euro­pean Asyl­um System.

The Memo­ran­dum high­lights the pro­found cri­sis of Euro­pean asyl­um poli­cy. The rea­son is the Dub­lin sys­tem that allo­ca­tes respon­si­bi­li­ty for asyl­um pro­ce­du­res to the sta­tes on the exter­nal bor­ders. They are dis­pro­por­tio­na­te­ly bur­den­ed and in many cases over­ta­xed. The con­se­quence is that refu­gees in coun­tries like Greece, Ita­ly, Hun­ga­ry and Mal­ta are made homeless, beco­me the object of attacks and are for­ced to suf­fer abject pover­ty. In many cases they are detai­ned in con­tra­ven­ti­on of inter­na­tio­nal law. All this is lea­ding to serious human rights vio­la­ti­ons. In respect to Greece, the Stras­bourg Court of Human Rights and the Euro­pean Court of Jus­ti­ce held in 2011 that refu­gees from other EU sta­tes must not be depor­ted the­re on human rights grounds.

In the Memo­ran­dum the signa­to­ry orga­ni­sa­ti­ons pre­sent their own pro­po­sal for a human rights­ba­sed rest­ruc­tu­ring of the Dub­lin sys­tem: the main cri­ter­ion for deter­mi­ning the sta­te respon­si­ble for an asyl­um see­ker today – the “place of irre­gu­lar bor­der cros­sing” – must be drop­ped. It must be repla­ced by the “princip­le of free choice of mem­ber sta­te”. Asyl­um see­kers are thus to be able to deci­de them­sel­ves on the EU coun­try in which they wish to file their app­li­ca­ti­on for pro­tec­tion and go through their asyl­um pro­ce­du­re. The­re are several argu­ments in favour of such a chan­ge of sys­tem: the princip­le of free choice will lead to asyl­um see­kers going to whe­re they can recei­ve sup­port from their fami­lies or com­mu­nities. This is not just bene­fi­cial for the refu­gees but will also mean they can inte­gra­te bet­ter and find their feet. Fur­ther­mo­re, refu­gees can be spa­red human rights vio­la­ti­ons if they are no lon­ger for­ced to stay in coun­tries that have neit­her a decent asyl­um sys­tem nor pro­vi­de a mini­mum of huma­ne tre­at­ment for them. The­re are also prag­ma­tic argu­ments for such an approach: if asyl­um see­kers are not depor­ted to EU sta­tes to which they do not wish to go, that will pre­vent them from con­ti­nuing to move around from one EU mem­ber sta­te to the next. “Secon­da­ry” migra­ti­on wit­hin the EU will then be avoided. The­re will be a reduc­tion in cos­ts for the bureau­cra­tic pro­ce­du­res necessa­ry to return them from one coun­try to the other. Any imba­lan­ces in capa­ci­ty ari­sing for mem­ber sta­tes may be cor­rec­ted by a Euro­pean Com­pen­sa­ti­on Fund.

If the desi­red chan­ge of sys­tem does not come about the cri­sis of asyl­um poli­cy in the EU will get worse. Con­dem­na­ti­ons on grounds of human rights vio­la­ti­ons against refu­gees will con­ti­nue. If poli­ti­ci­ans pro­ve inca­pa­ble of action and con­ti­nue to rely on courts – the natio­nal courts and the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights in Stras­bourg or the Euro­pean Court of Jus­ti­ce in Luxem­bourg – this will mean years of suf­fe­ring for tho­se affec­ted. They will have to expect a long, labo­rious pro­ce­du­re until they are inter­view­ed and get an oppor­tu­ni­ty to assert their rights. Yet pro­tec­ting human rights is not only the respon­si­bi­li­ty of courts. The pro­blems pro­du­ced by tho­se with poli­ti­cal respon­si­bi­li­ty must be resol­ved by poli­ti­cal solu­ti­ons. The Memo­ran­dum under­stands its­elf as repre­sen­ting civil socie­ty as it pro­po­ses ide­as on dealing with refu­gees in the EU in a man­ner respect­ful of their human dignity.

Memo­ran­dum „Allo­ca­ti­on of refu­gees in the Euro­pean Uni­on: for an equi­ta­ble, soli­da­ri­ty­ba­sed sys­tem of sharing responsibility“