Wednesday

22nd May 2019

EU looks at Morocco and Tunisia to offload migrants

  • The EU is looking at designating Morocco as a 'safe third country' (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Member states are pressing to get Morocco and Tunisia onto a list of so-called "safe third countries" on to which to offload people seeking asylum.

The move appears linked to stalled plans for setting up centres in countries rimming the Mediterranean to take in disembarked rescued migrants at sea.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The safe third country concept entails dispatching people, regardless of nationality, back to places where they initially transited through.

It means, for instance, a sub-Saharan African who travelled through Morocco to reach Europe could be sent back to Morocco to have his asylum case heard.

In a letter, seen by EUobserver, the European Commission has tasked the EU support asylum agency (EASO) to help draw up an safe third country list on behalf of the EU states.

The list includes Montenegro, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, and Ukraine.

Dated early August, the letter asks Easo's interim executive director Jamil Addou to collect information "relevant for an assessment of whether these countries can be designated as safe third countries at Union level."

The letter, written by Paraskevi Michou, who earlier this year took over as head of the commission's migration branch, wants the Easo probe completed before the end of month.

Michou says Easo's input "would be of upmost value" for the commission's contribution to creating the controversial list.

Not Easo's business?

But the task has riled some EU lawmakers given that the Malta-based agency is not legally mandated to carry out such assessments.

"This is a highly political issue and under the current regulation it is not part of the European Asylum Support Office mandate," said Martina Anderson, an Irish MEP with the Left/Gue group, earlier this week at a committee meeting at the European Parliament.

She said it marks a further shift away from guaranteeing the fundamental right to ask for asylum towards one that is more repressive.

"The aim should always be that the fundamental right to asylum is safeguarded and not to be used as a tool for accelerated returns," she said.

Asked to weigh in on the matter, Addou confirmed it was not in their mandate, stressing it was simply an exercise in collecting information to help guide the commission.

"We are gathering neutral and objective information from a variety of sources and we leave it to others to draw their conclusions on this work," he said.

Meanwhile, Easo has also been hit with scandals following allegations of fraud amid resignations of senior staff, including its director-general.

The commission two years ago proposed to overhaul the agency. Both the European parliament and member states then reached a political agreement last year.

The commission then in September announced additional reforms to the agency, confounding MEPs, because it risks undermining the deal.

"I don't really see what the intentions are behind this new proposal," said the parliament's lead negotiator on the file, Hungarian socialist MEP, Peter Niedermueller.

"I have to say that the commission's proposal comes as a surprise to me since not only does it reopen the provisional agreement of the co-legislators but it also changes the text substantially by including giving new tasks to the agency," he said.

EU promotes 'Egypt model' to reduce migrant numbers

EU council president Donald Tusk wants to discuss deepening relations with authoritarian Egypt, as a model of migrant reduction, with EU heads of state and government at a meeting in Salzburg, Austria on Wednesday.

UN sets conditions for EU 'disembarkation platforms'

Countries in north African coast must first set up humane reception centres before the UN and the International Organization for Migration agree to any migrant camps, such as those being discussed by EU leaders.

EP lawyers back EU plans for migrant centres in Africa

European Parliament lawyers endorsed plans by the EU to set up centres in north Africa to offload rescued migrants, but did so on the basis of making big assumptions given the lack of operational and technical details.

News in Brief

  1. German MPs show interest in 'Magnitsky' sanctions
  2. CoE: Rights violations in Hungary 'must be addressed'
  3. EU affairs ministers rubber-stamp new ban on plastics
  4. Private companies campaign to boost turnout in EU poll
  5. Austrian government chaos as far-right ministers step down
  6. Farage hit by milkshake during campaign tour
  7. New president dissolves Ukraine's parliament
  8. Sweden Democrat MEP ousted for revealing sex harassment

Opinion

Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all

The foreign affairs minister of Haiti calls for the replacement EU-Africa, Caribbean, Pacific 'Cotonou' agreement of 2000 to be updated to take account climate change, infrastructure and tourism to help the country transition away from aid-dependence.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us