EU: Asylum - new report condemns EU 'transit processing centres' and warns that asylum may be driven underground

The proposals are to be discussed at this week's EU summit in Thessaloniki, Greece, starting on 20 June.

The human rights organisation's 40-page report, Unlawful and Unworkable: extra-territorial processing of asylum claims, examines the legal and political issues involved in setting up special centres where asylum-seekers' applications could be processed and finds all existing plans morally flawed and legally dubious. The practicalities of the measures are also questioned.

A major concern highlighted by the report is that the new centres could drive asylum underground as well as undermining the entire international system of refugee protection. A political obsession with forcing down the number of asylum applications in the UK is also identified as worrying push factor behind the new proposals.

Amnesty International UK Refugee Affairs Programme Director Jan Shaw said:

'Transit processing centre schemes are likely to be unlawful as well as impractical: they are morally flawed, legally dubious and close to unworkable.

'Contrary to their stated aim, the centres could result in more not less illegal migration, driving asylum underground. It could mean that potential asylum-seekers end up in the hands of people smugglers as they desperately attempt to find some means of escaping persecution.

'The proposals effectively suggest locking up tens of thousands of people upon arrival and forcibly shipping them off to prison-like camps outside the EU.

'These are proposals concocted to serve short-term political aims, with little thought for the wellbeing or rights of vulnerable people.'

Amnesty International's report examines existing proposals on the extra-territorial processing of asylum claims from the UK government, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) and the EU Commission. It finds that each of the different measures risk seriously undermining basic safeguards for asylum-seekers and that certain suggested arrangements even raise the prospect of fresh human rights violations being committed against those seeking asylum.

The report examines Amnesty International's key concerns regarding Transport Processing Centres:

  • Possible illegality of transfer (including holding transferees in incommunicado-like detention without access to lawyers)
  • Possible human rights abuses in the course of forced transfers
  • Possible discrimination on the basis of nationality with regard to selective transfers or 'punitive' collective expulsions
  • Extension of the controversial 'safe third country' concept to a totally new territory without legal justification
  • The necessity of detention for the proposals to function at all. Such arbitrary detention is prohibited under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Jan Shaw said:

'Rather than this irresponsible attempt to erect yet more barriers around 'Fortress Europe', EU countries should look seriously at 'resettlement' and 'protected entry' schemes, but only if they safeguard the right of spontaneous asylum application.'

Relevant information

The report, Unlawful and Unworkable: extra-territorial processing of asylum claims, can be found at: http://www.amnesty-eu.org/1/Text_of_document_UK-EU-UNHCR_Unlawful_and_U…

Strengthening Fortress Europe in Times of War: Amnesty International commentary on UK proposals for external processing and responsibility sharing arrangements with third countries - paper, 27 March 2003: www.amnesty-eu.org /p>

UK: Asylum - Dismay at ill-founded remarks on refugee protection and detention - press release, 28 January 2003: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=14317 /p>

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