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UK: Britain's refugee 'regional protection zones' proposals deeply flawed

The UK move to create regional refugee protection zones, to be discussed at an EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers meeting tomorrow (Friday 28), are, said the human rights organisation, legally flawed and risk undermining plans for a common EU asylum process.

Discussion of the envisaged regional protection scheme is likely to centre around plans to establish the zones in countries such as Turkey, Iran, northern Somalia or Morocco, as well as the creation of further processing zones at EU borders with Romania, Croatia, Albania or Ukraine.

Amnesty International's EU Office Director Dick Oosting said:

'It is extraordinary that a proposal to reinforce 'Fortress Europe' is being debated at this time when war in Iraq may result in many people fleeing the country. It is doubly incongruous that the present proposals were initiated by the EU member state that is part of the military operations in Iraq.'

Amnesty International's major concerns with the proposals are that they:

  • will reinforce the 'Sangatte syndrome', creating a two-tier system - one for the rich and powerful, and another for countries who are compelled to host the majority of the world's refugees
  • risk compromising the UNHCR refugee protection system
  • risk undermining commitments made at the 1999 Tampere European Council to develop a common EU asylum system
  • contravene the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Refugee Convention

Dick Oosting added:

'The real goal behind the UK proposal appears to be to reduce the number of spontaneous arrivals in the UK and other EU states by denying access to territory, and shifting asylum-seekers to processing zones outside the EU where responsibility, enforceability and accountability for refugee protection would be weak and unclear.'

Amnesty International is calling on EU member states to take the opportunity of Friday's meeting to develop a coordinated approach to ensure adequate protection of refugees and support their humanitarian needs rather than exploring ways of shifting responsibility to more vulnerable countries.

Relevant information can be found online:

Strengthening Fortress Europe in Times of War: Amnesty International commentary on UK proposals for external processing and responsibility sharing arrangements with third countries paper:

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

More about Amnesty International's campaign on refugees and asylum seekers... /p>

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