|Author (Person)||Cronin, David|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.12, No.19, 18.5.06|
By David Cronin
The European Commission will next week propose a list of 'safe countries' from which applicants for asylum will be not be assessed.
The idea of designating countries as safe is one of the main tenets in an EU directive on asylum procedures. Supporters of the idea believe that the asylum system operating in the Union's member states could be made more efficient if applications coming from certain countries can be systematically rejected on the grounds that it is highly unlikely that the asylum-seekers involved would be persecuted after being sent home.
But the question of which countries should appear on the list has proven fraught.
An initial list debated by EU justice and interior ministers in March was largely limited to African and Latin American countries, triggering queries from some governments about why the US had been excluded.
The disagreement prompted Franco Frattini, the European commissioner for justice, freedom and security, to request that EU member states make submissions to him about which countries they believed should appear on the list.
Frattini is hoping to win the backing from his fellow commissioners for a proposed list at their next weekly meeting (24 May). The list is understood to include only seven African countries. But an aide to Frattini said it was "extremely difficult to predict" if this list would be accepted by EU justice and interior ministers, who are to discuss the asylum procedures dossier at their 1-2 June meeting.
Pro-refugee groups have criticised the entire concept of labelling countries as "safe", arguing that each asylum claim should be analysed individually and that no country could be deemed free of human rights abuses.
Carla Ferstman from Redress, a group campaigning against torture, noted that the European Convention on Human Rights forbids expulsion of asylum-seekers if there are "substantial grounds" to believe he or she would be mistreated when returned. "There needs to be a case-by-case analysis of whether such a risk exists," she added.
Peer Baneke from the European Council on Refugees and Exile, a network of organisations working with asylum-seekers, also argued that the 'safe countries' idea did not make practical sense. "There has been a lot of pain and tears to get agreement on a list that will most likely be highly irrelevant," he said. "There will be such a limited number of countries on that list that the numbers of asylum-seekers arriving in Europe from them will be miniscule. What's the point?"
The asylum procedures directive was originally proposed by the Commission in 2000.
Although the UK's then presidency of the EU brokered an agreement on the main contents of the directive in December last year, the European Parliament's civil liberties committee decided in February to challenge the law at the European Court of Justice.
Article anticipates deliberations at the European Commission, scheduled for 24 May 2006, on a list of 'safe countries' from which applicants for asylum would not be assessed.
|Subject Categories||Justice and Home Affairs|
|Countries / Regions||Europe|