Thursday

17th Jan 2019

UN sets conditions for EU 'disembarkation platforms'

  • The UNHCR and IOM want humane reception centres (Photo: unsmil.unmissions.org)

UN agencies are imposing conditions before agreeing to any new EU plans to prevent boats leaving from north Africa to Italy and Spain.

The move could complicate a scheme being discussed among EU heads of state and leaders at their summit in Brussels on Thursday (28 June) to create so-called 'disembarkation platforms' outside the EU.

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

Although still at the conceptual stage, such platforms have gathered traction among EU states as part of a larger bid to further stem migration flows across the Mediterranean Sea.

Donald Tusk, the European Council president, wants the platforms outside Europe with the cooperation of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and International Organization for Migration (IOM).

But a joint confidential letter sent by heads of the UNHCR and IOM says any such country, as in north Africa, must first set up reception centres that provide "adequate, safe and dignified reception conditions."

Seen by EUobserver, the three-page letter, billed as a concept paper, was sent Wednesday (27 June) and addressed to Tusk, as well as to the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, and to the EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. A copy has also been shared with the chairman of the African Union Commission.

It notes, among other things, that state-operated reception centres in countries outside the EU must provide "adequate, safe, and dignified reception conditions."

This would require addressing the needs of arrivals, access to adequate safe drinking water, sanitation, nutrition, shelter, psychosocial support, and immediate healthcare.

Once those reception centres and conditions are met, then both the UNHCR and the IOM would agree to assist national authorities of those countries to determine the status of people rescued at sea.

Disembarkation risks

This means EU states will have to step up the pace of resettlements, which remain dismal given the UNHCR experience in Niger, where only around 170 have been dispatched towards Europe since the programme's launch late last year.

Niger had earlier threatened to dismantle the programme given the slow resettlement pace, tossing a possible spanner in the current scheme to replicate similar programmes under the 'disembarkation platforms' concept being discussed Thursday at the EU summit.

The UNHCR paper also notes people on the boats should have a "right not to be disembarked in or transferred to a place where there is a risk of persecution, torture, or other serious harm."

That makes Libya an unlikely candidate given its open slave markets and deplorable detention centres, although the UNHCR is close to opening a "transit and departure centre" in Tripoli.

Libya also only grants the UNHCR access to people from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Palestine, Somalia, Syria, and some from Sudan.

"Beyond those seven nationalities we have no access to refugees from other countries, that has been a growing concern for the UNHCR," said Vincent Cochetel, a UNHCR special envoy for the central Mediterranean, earlier this year at an event in Brussels.

Both agencies are instead pressing to get the bulk of the disembarkations to take place within the EU, in a bid to offload the pressure on Italy, which has since closed its ports to foreign NGO rescue ships.

"For persons disembarked within the EU, following registration and immediate humanitarian assistance, there would be eligibility assessment for possible transfer to another EU member state," notes the paper.

But Tusk's EU summit invitation letter to the heads of states makes no mention of disembarkation schemes within the European Union, creating a possible clash with UN agency demands.

One EU official said should the UNHCR and IOM refuse to help launch the schemes in north Africa, "then European ports will close" to all rescue boats.

EU migration talks hit Italian rock

As the EU summit opened in Brussels, positions were still apparently irreconcilable on how to deal with people trying to cross the Mediterranean sea, with the Italy's PM Giuseppe Conte threatening to veto conclusions.

Analysis

EU 'migration summit': big on promises, short on detail

Big on promises and short on detail, the EU summit's focus on migration failed to tackle the fractured nature of asylum, leaving the prospect of internal border controls unanswered as leaders appeared to issue victory statements.

Opinion

EU must create safe, legal pathways to Europe

As the rapporteur for the European Parliament on an EU regulation on resettlement, my colleagues and I have outlined an effective plan based on solidarity and humanitarian principles.

EU looks at Morocco and Tunisia to offload migrants

EU member states and the European Commission are pressing ahead with plans to possibly use Morocco and Tunisia as countries to offload asylum seekers and migrants - part of larger bid to create a so-called "safe third country" list.

Eight EU states take migrants stranded on NGO boats

France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania have agreed to relocate the 49 migrants stuck on two NGO boats moored, for almost three weeks, off Malta's coast.

News in Brief

  1. Another referendum 'would take a year', Downing St says
  2. 82-year old Berlusconi to run in EU elections
  3. EU parliament votes to triple funds for democracy promotion
  4. EU parliament backs linking budget payments to rule of law
  5. Verhofstadt voted for Draghi amendment 'by mistake'
  6. 'Plan B' Brexit vote in UK parliament set for 29 January
  7. Verhofstadt wanted Draghi out of G30 group
  8. Putin heads to Serbia amid warnings against West

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  2. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  3. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  4. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  5. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  6. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  7. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  8. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us