PRO ASYL and EuroMed Rights are appealing to the German government not to further the externalization of refugee protection

After her visit to Egypt, Chancellor Angela Merkel is visiting President Beji Caid Essebsi and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed in Tunis today. On the top of the agenda will be the bilateral co-operation on issues of migration and security.

This visit follows the strong opposition by both civil society organisations and the Tunisian governments to the German Chancellor’s announcement, prior to a meeting with the Tunisian Prime Minister Chahed on February 14th, 2017 that potential »reception camps« may be funded by Germany in Tunisia in the near future. The virulent ongoing debate around »camps in North Africa« raises concerns about pressure continuing to be exerted on North African states by the EU and its members states – with dire consequences for refugee protection.

The German-French note, promoting the reproduction of the EU-Turkey deal with other countries (including no substantial examination of asylum claim before removal) to deal with what is deemed »mass influx«, leaked mid-February by Statewatch, is yet another example of the dangerous direction being pursued at regional and bilateral level. To keep asylum seekers away, Germany is officially ready to resort to any means, including total withdrawal from international conventions as well EU law obligations guaranteeing refugee protection.

EuroMed Rights and PRO ASYL have repeatedly stressed that Tunisia does not have a functioning asylum system. There is no law and thus no examination and reception procedures in place to process individual claims for international protection and no legal remedies to appeal negative asylum decisions.

For over a year, the German government has also been trying to list Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco as »safe countries of origin« to accelerate deportations of nationals and potentially third-country nationals to North African countries after their asylum request has been fast-tracked and rejected. Our organisations oppose the use of the notion of safety which is detrimental to a fair examination of an asylum claim. Although no majority was reached in the Bundesrat (»Federal Council«) on this proposal, the government remains undeterred and is negotiating directly with the concerned countries behind closed doors, irrespective of repeated warnings by human rights organisations  very concerning human rights situation in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco: criminalisation of homosexuality, frequent instances of police violence, torture and ill-treatment in police custody as pointed out by the UN Committee Against Torture in 2016 and Amnesty International a few weeks ago.

Our organisations denounce the intolerable pressure, including conditionality on external cooperation at large, exerted against Tunisia and other countries in the region to accept, at any human rights costs, to be the only responsible for the reception of migrants and refugee communities.

PRO ASYL and EuroMed Rights are calling on the German government to show solidarity with Tunisia’s democratic transition and are warning against the further externalization of refugee protection to North African states. Attempts to suspend all legal safeguards for refugees under the pretence of an alleged mass influx are scandalous. Instead of taking the lead in promoting an »Australian solution« for Europe – offshoring asylum procedures at the expense of international asylum law standards –, the German government must do all it can to finally make a true system of protection a reality in Europe.

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