Monday

18th Feb 2019

EP lawyers back EU plans for migrant centres in Africa

  • Estimates suggest around 5,000 people are currently trapped in Libyan detention centres (Photo: UNHCR.org)

Lawyers working at the European Parliament on Tuesday (27 November) struggled to provide a detailed analysis of whether stalled EU plans to offload rescued migrants in north Africa were legal - but ultimately backed the controversial concept.

"It was at least a brave attempt to piece together, sort of like bits of circumstantial evidence from a kind of a crime scene, to see what the hell this is," British centre-left MEP Claude Moraes said of their efforts.

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

Speaking at the parliament's civil liberties committee, a lawyer from the legal service was only able to provide an oral summary of their report, citing confidentiality issues.

But EUobserver has obtained a full copy of the 10-page confidential report, which attempted to provide a legal analysis of stalled EU plans to set up so-called 'regional disembarkation platforms' in north Africa and controlled centres in Europe.

The report broadly rubber stamps the legality of both concepts, but with conditions.

It says "controlled centres and/or disembarkation platforms of a similar nature could be, in principle, lawfully established in the European Union territory."

It states disembarkation platforms "could lawfully be established outside of the European Union, in order to receive migrants rescued outside the territory of the Union's member states."

It also says EU law does not apply to migrants rescued at high sea, even with a boat flying an EU-member state flag.

"We can't consider a vessel flying a flag of a member state to be an extension of a member state," the lawyer told the MEPs.

EU law is also not applied if the migrant is rescued in the territorial waters of an African coastal state, states the report.

It also notes that people rescued in EU territorial waters cannot then be sent to disembarkation platforms in an non-EU state.

Morocco and other bordering coastal states must apply the 1951 Geneva Convention and must be considered safe before allowing them to host any disembarkation platform.

Earlier this year, the European Commission tasked the EU's asylum support office to analyse the safety of both Morocco and Tunisia.

But neither country has voiced any interest in hosting such platforms.

The two countries were then presented over the summer by EU heads of state and government as a possible solution to further stem boat migrants from taking to the seas in their efforts to reach Europe.

The concepts, initially hatched by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), were met with disdain by north African states, who viewed them as a veiled attempt by the EU to outsource its problem back onto them.

Furthermore, not a single EU state has expressed any interest to host a controlled centre.

Human rights defenders have also raised alarm given the poor treatment of thousands of refugees and migrants stuck in over-crowded camps on the Greek islands.

Attempting to replicate similar camps or centres elsewhere has only heightened those fears.

But the EU says it is pressing ahead anyway.

"The disembarkation arrangement, the discussion, is proceeding in the Council," said Vincet Piket, a senior official in the EU's foreign policy branch, the EEAS.

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.

Libyan militia cash in on EU's anti-smuggling strategy

More people in Libya are being inducted into slavery as people-traffickers try to monetise their investment by selling them. A senior UN refugee agency official described it as an unintended side effect of the reduction of migrant boat departures.

Agenda

Brexit vote and Merkel's successor top This Week

Europe heads into uncertain territory with France in turmoil, the UK voting on the Brexit deal, and Germany will have a new leader of its largest ruling party. EU leaders will also discuss the eurozone and migration at their summit.

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. EU ministers call climate change 'direct and existential threat'
  2. Seven MPs leave Britain's Labour Party
  3. Czech PM: May's EU elections 'most important ever'
  4. 'History will judge us': May tells MPs on Brexit
  5. Trump warns EU on release of Islamist fighters
  6. Venezuela expels 'conspiratorial' MEPs
  7. Holocaust dispute upsets Israel's EU lobbying
  8. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  2. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  3. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland
  4. ESA pushback against new EU space agency plan
  5. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  6. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  7. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  8. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us