“Sophia is a military operation with a very political agenda,” said Barbara Spinelli, an Italian MEP and member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in the European Parliament. “It has become an instrument of refoulement, legitimizing militias with criminal records, dressed up as coast guards.”
Bruxelles, 6 dicembre 2016. Intervento di Barbara Spinelli nel corso della Conferenza “Do increased deportations mean more orderly migration?” organizzata da The Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) e dall’eurodeputata Birgit Sippel (S&D).
First, I would like to thank Birgit Sippel and PICUM for organizing this important conference.
To the question you ask – “Do increased deportations mean more orderly migration?” – my answer is clearly negative. Increased deportations to countries like Turkey, Libya, Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan are deliberately ignoring the reasons of mass flights. They seem to forget that wars, conflicts, State failures which push millions of people out of their country are the consequences of European and US military and foreign policy choices, for which we bear a special responsibility.
It’s an externalisation of European asylum and migration policy, and when I say externalisation I mean de-responsabilisation and something more: EU governments and institution are increasingly falling prey to fear: to be precise, fear of the fear felt by a growing number of EU citizens and voters, incapacity to lead and explain them that the affluence of refugees in our countries represents a mere 0,2 per cent of the EU populations. Roosevelt used to say: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. But we are experiencing something more vicious. The governments themselves are frightened by the fear of their own citizens and voters. Externalization is part of a politics of fear, and that’s the reason why we often have the impression that the EU agenda of migration is de facto in the hands of the extreme rights, and of special private interests representing the security industries.
European governments and institutions are trying to be reassuring, repeating that refugees are returned in safe countries. But the opposition coming from judicial authorities and researchers is growing: their conviction is that readmission agreements, whether bilateral or managed by the EU, infringe the rules of international law on asylum, in particular the principle of non-refoulement recognized in the Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights. The rules are equally infringed when the migrant is returned to transit states, where he risks being exposed to inhuman and degrading treatment and to a second return to his origin country. Some readmission agreements, also at national level, have been criticized by the EU Courts.
I am thinking in particular of the agreement between Italy and Libya concluded in 2001 (between Berlusconi and Qaddafi) that gave rise to the European Court of Human Rights’ case “Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy”, in which the Court found Italy guilty of violating several articles of the European Convention of Human Rights.
The list of migrant’s returns is long. I personally followed two grave cases: the Italian decision last year to return 20 Nigerian women victims of trafficking, and the deportation of 40 Sudanese migrants to Sudan, last summer: in this case, the forced deportations were prepared and facilitated by an agreement signed on Aug. 3 between Sudan and Italy.
These kind of agreements are extremely dangerous, because they link development aid to migration control. In the Italian-Sudanese deal, they also tend to be secretly negotiated between law enforcement authorities and not by Foreign ministries, excluding the national Parliament from any decision. The same happens in the EU institutions, as we have seen with the EU-Turkey agreement: it has been renamed “statement”, and the scrutiny by European Parliament was avoided. The EU-Turkey agreement has become a role model, imitated in the consecutive Migration compact proposed by the Italian government last April. Exactly the same happened last October 2 with the Joint Way Forward Agreement of the EU with Afghanistan, rebaptised “declaration” to avoid – again – scrutiny by this Parliament. There is a method, in European madness.
Let us consider this last agreement, which allows Member States to deport an unlimited number of asylum seekers to Afghanistan. Amnesty International and many human rights groups were appalled to see that EU has put the condition for development aid in return for Afghan citizens.
It’s time to stop lying and fearing. Migrants and refugees returned to Afghanistan or Sudan or Eritrea face greatest dangers, these countries are not safe and that’s all. It’s not true that Afghanistan is safe and stable, as pretended by the US administration. The suffering of the people is increasing, the control of entire provinces by the Taliban has never be so extended since 2001. Isis is controlling parts of the country. It’s simply untrue what has been guaranteed last march in a non-paper written by the Commission and the European External Action Service: that there are “safe zones” in Afghanistan where migrants can be returned notwithstanding the general insecurity of the country.
Interrogazione scritta al Consiglio su rifugiati e accordi con paesi terzi
Authors: SPINELLI Barbara (GUE/NGL), IN’T VELD Sophie (ALDE), KOULOGLOU Stelios (GUE/NGL), SAKORAFA Sofia (GUE/NGL), ECK Stefan (GUE/NGL), WINKLER Iuliu (EPP), BILBAO BARANDICA Izaskun (ALDE), LOCHBIHLER Barbara (Verts/ALE), WEIDENHOLZER Josef (SD), VALERO Bodil (Verts/ALE), JUARISTI ABAUNZ Iosu (GUE/NGL), MATIAS Marisa (GUE/NGL), VAUTMANS Hilde (ALDE), GOMES Ana Maria (SD), VERGIAT Marie-Christine (GUE/NGL), LAMBERT Jean (Verts/ALE), AUSTREVICIUS Petras (ALDE), MALTESE Curzio (GUE/NGL), CHOUNTIS Nikolaos (GUE/NGL), POST Soraya (SD), WARD Julie (SD)
Subject: Respect of fundamental rights and the principle of mutual sincere cooperation in agreements relating to asylum and migration policies
Since 2014 the Council has launched a series of agreements relating to asylum and migration with certain aspects kept secret, without parliamentary scrutiny.
Allegedly, the 23rd of March the Commission, the EEAS and the COREPER discussed partnerships with Countries around the Horn of Africa – including Sudan – aimed at stopping refugee flows to Europe through EU funds, mirroring the EU-Turkey “statement” and Italy’s “migration compact” proposal. It should be noted that the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against the Sudanese President on charges relating to his alleged role in the Darfur genocide.
Art 13 TEU (2) states that EU institutions shall practice mutual sincere cooperation, act within their powers and in conformity with the procedures, conditions and objectives set out in the Treaties.
How does the Council believe:
– it has respected the principle of mutual sincere cooperation in proposing these agreements, given that the Parliament was neither consulted or informed of their existence?
-EU funds allocated under this action plan will not be used to repress civil populationsquestion?
-these agreements respect Art 3 TEU on the objectives of the EU to protect human rights and to strictly observe international law including the right to seek asylum?
GUE/NGL MEPs urge the Commission and member states to stop discussing asylum and search and rescue outsourcing and focus instead on safe and legal ways to the EU for asylum-seekers and migrants.
The MEPs are strongly critical of information published in the international press this weekend on immigration talks currently taking place at EU level that, if implemented, would result in a de facto refoulement of asylum-seekers.
The international press revealed the existence of a proposal by Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano to outsource search and rescue to countries such as Egypt or Tunisia who would then bring the rescued migrants to their shores. Originally leaked by Italian news agencies Asca and Redattore Sociale, the proposal, which aims to produce a “real deterrent effect, so that fewer migrants would be ready to put their life at risk to reach Europe’s coasts”, was presented to France, Germany, Spain and the European Commission in the margins of the Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) last Thursday 12th March and discussed further at a meeting at the Commission on Tuesday 17th March.
Parallel to these talks at the JHA Council last week, interior ministers discussed setting up refugee camps in Northern Africa and the possibility to process asylum applications in these camps, a proposal that been repeatedly dismissed in the past 15 years by the Commission given the numerous legal and practical obstacles, including the risk of breaching the international principle of non-refoulement.
Cornelia Ernst, GUE/NGL coordinator on the LIBE Committee, said: “This is yet another attempt by member states trying to get rid of the people arriving at our shores in search of help and hope. This time they are exploiting the fact that search and rescue in the Mediterranean has not been working for years. But instead of trying to improve that situation they are prescribing a poison as medicine. The paper makes it perfectly clear that the overall aim is to make sure that nobody leaves the African coast for Europe. So to remedy the humanitarian catastrophe of people dying at sea, they propose to lock people into Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, risking another humanitarian catastrophe in those countries.”
French MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat said: “We are facing one of the biggest refugee crises since the Second World War. And how do member states respond? ‘Clear off!’ These two proposals represent a real danger and their message is quite clear: a further tightening of Fortress Europe and handing over our responsibility to third countries. Once again we see member states using every possibility not to comply with their international obligations of non-refoulement of asylum-seekers. This is just unacceptable.”
For Spanish MEP Marina Albiol: “They want other countries outside the EU to do their dirty work for them, they want the blood on the hands of others. They are trying to hide poverty and despair, they don’t want us to see how human rights don’t exist for these people so they send them to other countries, where they are not respected. This is another step towards total lack of respect of human rights and it goes directly against rights granted by European legislation.”
Italian MEP Barbara Spinelli commented: “Italian Interior minister Alfano’s proposals for outsourcing EU asylum policy and for search and rescue operations in cooperation with third countries are an underhanded and delusive tactic to prevent refugees from reaching Europe and seek international protection here. The actual purpose is the refoulement and repatriation of the refugees to the countries they escaped from. This instrumentalisation of the deaths in the Mediterranean is even more revolting knowing that the discussions at European level on safe and legal access to the EU for asylum seekers as well as the creation of more channels of legal migration are currently blocked by the Council of the European Union.”
For Swedish MEP Malin Björk: “This is an unacceptable process of externalising the EU’s borders and refusing responsibility for the current refugee situation in our neighbourhood. The EU and its member states must face up to their responsibilities and organise search and rescue operations and develop legal asylum entries and proper reception of people seeking protection in the EU.