Civil society organisations: new EU Commission plans on returns and detention will create more harm and suffering

Europe, Migration and Asylum, Statement

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BRUSSELS, 3 March 2017 – Bowing down to political pressure to be “tough” on irregular migration, the European Commission has turned its back on the full implementation of human rights safeguards in its Returns’ Directive and is actively pushing member states to lower the bar.

Yesterday morning, the European Commission launched a set of recommendations to member states on return and detention. The policy was released without any prior consultation with civil society and local authorities, on the same day they gathered for the EU Migration Forum, the Commission’s official annual forum to consult stakeholders. As well as falling short in terms of good governance, the Commission document puts forward an interpretation of human rights that effectively undermines them. It urges member states to detain migrants more quickly and for longer periods of time, and presents increased returns as a key deterrent to migration. The results of such policies are expected to be a weakening of human rights safeguards in the return and the asylum process. The linking of asylum to return, as well as the explicit targeting of specific nationalities of asylum seekers accused of « abusing » the asylum system is shocking.

As just one of the extremely worrying examples, the Commission instructs member states to opt for prolonged detention and to apply the maximum possible detention period, specifically targeting member states that apply shorter periods as “bad examples”. It encourages widespread detention of persons deemed to be at risk of absconding, a notion which the Commission has significantly broadened. It promotes the wide use of entry bans and insists that member states use all of the flexibility foreseen in the legislation to derogate from the full application of the safeguards in the Returns’ Directive.

There is no evidence that immigration detention or forced removal has a deterrent effect, or is sustainable. Detention and forced returns are extremely harmful practices that have long-lasting severe physical and mental health impacts as well as high risks of suicide. Re-emigration rates among returnees are high and forced removal has not been shown to lower the migration aspirations of the communities where people are returned to.

The Commission has set out to dismantle the key tenets of the EU Returns’ Directive by encouraging member states to interpret the directive in a way that would allow for the lowest possible safeguards to be applied, abandoning positive advances made by a number of member states. The Commission has also stated that it stands ready to revise the Returns’ Directive if it transpires that the safeguards presented in the directive will stand in the way of increasing return rates.

As civil society representatives of citizens and migrant communities we would like to be proud of the Europe we live in and continue to support the European project. We cannot do this unless the EU Commission will hold firm to its commitments to human rights and rule of law, promote the implementation of the highest human rights standards in its legislation, consult with civil society and rely on the strength of evidence on how to best manage a complex social and economic phenomenon in the face of pressure to find quick fixes.

Press Contacts

Signatory organisations

ACCEM – Aditus Foundation – Afghan Association in Sweden – Algerian Human Rights Association – Animus Association Foundation – APDHA, Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos Andalucía – Association for Intergration and Migration Czech Republic – Association for Legal Intervention Poland – Association Pro Democratia – Romania – Associazione Studi Giuridici Sull’Immigrazione – ASTI – Association de Soutien aux Travailleurs Immigrés Luxembourg – Bayt Al-Thaqfa Foundation – CARE International – Centre for Legal Aid – Voice in Bulgaria – Centre for Youths Integrated Development Finland – Chilenos en Polonia – Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe – Citizens’ Assembly in Turkey – COFACE – Committee for the Respect of Liberties and Human Rights in Tunisia – Defence for Children International – Detention Action – Detention Forum – DIESIS – Doras Luimni Ireland – Ebony African Organisation – Eurodiaconia – EuroMed Rights – European Alternatives – European Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AEDH) – European Association for the Defence of Human Rights (Bulgaria) – European Association for the Education of Adults – European Civic Forum – European Council on Refugees and Asylum – European Network Against Racism – European Network of Migrant Women – European Trade Unions Confederation – Fair Work – Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux – French Human Rights League (LDH) – Frontiers Ruwad – Lebanon – Genvej til Udvikling (Shortcut to Development – Denmark) – Global Migration Policy Associates – Greek Forum of Refugees – Immigrant Council of Ireland – Immigrant Institute Sweden – International Catholic Migration Commission-Europe – La Cimade – La Strada International – La Voix des Femmes – LADDER Consortium – the Migration Thematic Path – Latin American Women’s Rights Service – Liga voor de Rechten van de Mens – Netherlands – Ligue des Droits de l’Homme Belgium – Ligue des Droits de l’Homme France – Maisha e.V.- African Women in Germany – Migrant Rights Centre Ireland – Migrant Voice UK – Migrant Women Association Malta – Migrants’ Rights Network UK – Migration Policy Group – Monde des Possibles – Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH) – OKIA Foundation – ORBIT vzw – Organisation for Aid to Refugees Czech Republic – Organisation for Undocumented Workers Belgium – Plate-forme Mineurs en Exil- Kinderen op de Vlucht – Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants – Red Acoge – Réseau Education Sans Frontiers – RESPECT Network – Romanian-Arab Cultural Centre Timisoara – Social Platform – Solidar – SOS Racismo – Spanish Commission for Refugees (CEAR) – Spanish Justice and Peace Commission – STATEWATCH – Stichting LOS – Stichting Ros Rotterdam – Tamkeen Fields for Aid Jordan – The European Association for the Defence of Human Rights Bulgaria – The Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups – Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights – Uphold Europe – Visible Outcomes 4U – VolontEurope – Wezesha – Youth Included Czech Republic

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