Friday

23rd Feb 2024

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

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns

Germany is expanding agreements to return rejected asylum seekers to their countries of origin as part of a wider shift in Europe to curtail migration. Berlin has reached deals with Georgia and Morocco since December.

Opinion

Ukraine refugees want to return home — but how?

Fewer than one-in-ten Ukrainian refugees intend to settle permanently outside Ukraine, according to new research by the associate director of research and the director of gender and economic inclusion at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

Latest News

  1. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  2. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  3. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  4. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  5. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament
  6. Blackmailing the Global South on EU carbon border tax won't work
  7. EU auditors: rule-of-law budget protections only partial success
  8. EU's €723bn Covid recovery fund saw growth, but doubts remain

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us