27th Mar 2017

Sweden to push for more transparent EU migration rules

  • Victims of illegal trafficking and migration should come to the forefront in EU's policies in the next five years (Photo: nobordernetwork)

The upcoming Swedish EU presidency will push for more transparent rules governing migration when it begins negotiations on a five-year justice and home affairs programme later this year, Europe minister Cecilia Malmstrom said on Monday.

"We want to focus more on the individual as a victim and to have clear and transparent rules on migration," Ms Malmstrom told journalists after presenting the priorities of the upcoming Swedish EU presidency, due to start on 1 July.

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She said the commission's proposals in this area, put forward earlier this month, were "a good starting point" for discussions, although they have been strong criticised by some civil liberties group for potentially leading to a "surveillance society."

But Ms Malmstrom admitted that it will be a challenge to strike the right balance between "the more repressive measures taken under police cooperation" and safeguarding civil rights.

The five-year policy framework, dubbed the "Stockholm programme" is expected to be adopted by EU leaders at a summit in December, after talks with the European Parliament in autumn.

Civil liberties watchdog Statewatch has criticised the proposals, saying they focus too much on data-sharing and on creating an EU-wide "information system architecture."

"What is new is the clear aim of creating the surveillance society and the database state. Future generations, for whom this will be a fully developed reality, will look back at this era and rightly ask, why did you not act to stop it," Statewatch director Tony Bunyan said.

On irregular immigration, the commission's proposals echo the pressure from the EU's southern states – facing big flows of African migrants crossing the Mediterranean in perilous conditions - to have other member states help shoulder their burden and to tighten up the borders.

The bloc's external borders agency, Frontex, would be given a larger budget and more power in patrolling the EU's borders to prevent both human trafficking and irregular immigration.

Italy's centre-right government led by Silvio Berlusconi has put the issue at the centre of its ruling platform and has already taken some controversial measures, such as returning migrants to Libya, where they have no protection from abuses and crimes.

EU leaders last week asked the commission to come up with concrete proposals by October on how to tackle irregular immigration and underlined the need for "strengthened border control operations coordinated by FRONTEX, clear rules of engagement for joint patrolling and the disembarkation of rescued persons, and increased use of joint return flights."

In a policy paper drafted before the publication of the commission proposals, the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies, a centre-right think-tank, deplored the "substantial concessions" to member states in the drafting process of commission proposals.

"The resulting legal outcomes are therefore minimum standards allowing for a large degree of exceptionalism by national authorities and at times hardly compatible with fundamental rights. This statement especially applies to policy measures aiming at establishing a common European asylum system," the policy paper reads.

The think-tank also criticises the commission for adopting a "criminalised perspective on migration" and for promoting the false idea that "electronic technical capabilities in the field of security" are a "technical fix for social problems."

"This is a false idea that leads to the stigmatisation of groups of individuals in communities based on the collection and use of their personal data. The ability to create databases that manipulate large amounts of personal data to search for persons with certain characteristics leads to racial and religious profiling, which violates the non-discrimination obligations contained in the Charter of Fundamental Rights," it notes.

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