07.07.2016

PRO ASYL and several European organizations say, the concept of »safe countries« is simply a pitiful means for the European Union to ensure under the cloak of law that the right of asylum is not applied

To what lengths will the European Union go in its desire to keep refugees out of its territory at any cost? The sordid realist “every man for himself” mindset soon took over. Whether refusing to host refugees or drastically restricting how many are granted access, the European Union is seeking to legally window dress what amounts to nothing more than a denial of the right of asylum. To this end, the Commission wishes to adopt a list of “safe” countries that would be imposed on all the European Union’s members.

The rationale behind the use of this notion is the following: a »safe« country is a sort of El Dorado where human rights are respected and where persecution or the risk of persecution almost do not exist; in other words, asylum requests lodged by people originating from these countries are presumed to be fraudulent attempts to abuse the EU’s generous system. Consequences are unequivocal for people concerned: no in-depth examination of the grounds of persecution, fast-tracked review of applications with no effective access to an appeals procedure and the risk of facing expeditious returns to the country of origin.

The very idea that a country could be deemed safe is absurd. Simply taking the European Union as an example, who could seriously argue that some minorities do not currently suffer from discrimination, accompanied by sometimes deadly violence, within its borders? What then of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, and others? According to the Commission, even Turkey could qualify as a »safe country of origin« despite the number of reports piling up that document human rights violations in the country.

Several countries in the European Union, including France and Germany, have already drawn up lists of »safe countries of origin«. The criteria for inclusion on these lists are vague, change from time to time with no consistency from one Member State to another. However, this cannot not justify the Commission deciding on the establishment of such lists a general rule, at the risk of seeing countries such as Sudan and Eritrea being included in the future, to name only those with which it is currently negotiating refugees’ removal.

The message must be a strong one. The concept of »safe countries« is simply a pitiful means for hiding the main concern of the European Union and its members under the cloak of law: finding a means to ensure that the right of asylum is not applied.

This denial of the right of asylum is first and foremost a denial of the values that the European Union claims to uphold. At all times and in all places, the fate of refugees has been the measure of a society’s democratic nature. The denial of refugees’ rights promised by the European Commission is bound to be followed by the erosion of the rights of all in Europe. Defending the right of asylum is not an act of charity. Human rights are not negotiable.

Dominique Guibert, President of the European Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AEDH)

Michel Tubiana, President of EuroMed Rights

Karim Lahidji, President of the International Federation for Human Rights

Françoise Dumont, President of the French Human Rights League

Günter Burkardt, Chair of PRO ASYL

 

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