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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