EU: Asylum - 'Safe countries' list and other policy proposals risk discrimination and human rights abuse

Amnesty International has published a set of recommendations on the EU asylum policy proposals, known as the Amended Proposal for a Council Directive on Minimum Standards for Granting and Withdrawing Refugee Status. Amnesty International's comments on the EU proposals show that they may be in contravention of international refugee and human rights law.

Amnesty International EU Office Director Dick Oosting said:

'As we move towards the final stage of this area of the EU Common Asylum Policy, it is evident that the overall picture is a bleak one for refugees fleeing to Europe.

'The combined effect of the various proposals being discussed at this week's meeting of JHA ministers is that refugees will be hindered at every step of the way - when they try to enter EU territory, claim asylum status in particular countries or lodge a meaningful appeal.

'In particular, Amnesty International is concerned by the creeping confusion between EU asylum and immigration procedures and deplores the ambiguity that has been introduced into the proposal on border procedures, in order to tighten migration control.'

Amnesty International's concerns cover the following issues:

  • Safe country of origin

    Amnesty International strongly opposes the use of lists of safe countries of origin to restrict access to asylum procedures. Such lists constitute discrimination among refugees that is strictly forbidden by the Geneva Convention. Although the draft proposal maintains the principle of an individual assessment of claims, Amnesty International fears that in practice this list may be used as an automatic bar to accessing asylum procedures and that the decision on which countries to include on the common list may be the result of political bargaining influenced by national interests, rather than human rights considerations. Amnesty International calls for the use of lists of safe countries of origin to be abandoned altogether.

  • Border procedures

    Rather than ensure protection of refugees, the proposal has been distorted to put the emphasis on efficient immigration control. As a result, immigration authorities will be de facto involved in carrying out an assessment of how well-founded an asylum claim is, even though they do not have the necessary qualifications, thus contributing to the confusion between asylum and immigration procedures. Amnesty International calls for this provision to be withdrawn.

  • Access to EU territory

    Amnesty International expresses serious concern about amendments put forward by some Member States on the basis of which access to territory and to refugee status determination procedures can be denied altogether where the applicant has transited through a safe third country, regardless of the situation of that particular individual. This provision has the potential to violate the Geneva Convention and the principle of non-refoulement. Amnesty International calls for this provision to be withdrawn.

  • Amendments put forward by some Member States may undermine the principle of 'effective remedy' before a court or tribunal, or may restrict the scope of judicial control to a marginal appreciation of 'relevant facts' contrary to the standards developed by the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. Amnesty International also notes with great concern the proposal to allow Member States to derogate from the suspensive effect of appeals. Amnesty International calls for appeal procedures to comply with international standards and the jurisprudence of supranational courts.

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