27th Feb 2024

Over 200 academics dub new EU border asylum law 'inhumane'

  • Critics say EU-funded reception centres on the Greek islands are a harbinger of what is in store under new EU asylum and migration pact (Photo: EC - Audiovisual Service)
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Over 200 academics spanning 66 mostly European universities are raising the alarm on new EU asylum rules they say will lead to mass detentions and erode rights.

Their letter follows an agreement earlier this week in the Council, representing states, signing off on a whole host of reforms that make-up the EU pact on asylum and migration.

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Among those files is the asylum procedure regulation (APR) that aims to identify and return people with weak protection claims within 12 weeks.

But critics, including the 200 plus academics who signed the letter, say APR is "dangerous, inhumane, unfeasible and ineffective."

Among the signatories was PhD researcher Gaia Romeo from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, a Dutch and English speaking university in Brussels.

"This is not going to make anything better, it's just going to make things worse," she said on Friday (9 February). Romeo had drafted the letter and launched the campaign.

The border procedure file had been spearheaded by French liberal MEP Fabienne Keller on behalf of the European Parliament.

In December, following a provisional political agreement on the overhaul, Keller said the updated border rules would entitle people to legal counselling.

"And there will be fundamental rights monitoring — monitoring to ensure that these rights are real," she also said.

But critics say the European Parliament largely caved into member state demands to make the procedure mandatory for everyone.

The parliament managed some exceptions. For instance, children travelling alone will not be shuffled into the procedure unless they pose a security threat.

Such exceptions had already been largely floated by the European Commission, when they first proposed the overhaul in late 2020, including the amended APR.

At the time, Margaritis Schinas, the Greek vice-president of the European Commission, warned of the inhumanity of the procedure itself.

"We exclude them [kids] from the border procedure so that we make sure that they do not go into this cumbersome, lengthy and often inhumane processes," he said then, in what appears to be an admission of what critics have long warned.

However, the co-legislators had also agreed to cap the procedures to 30,000 reception places.

Once reached, they would then be moved into an ordinary asylum procedure to avoid overcrowding, they say.

The academics' letter also comes ahead of a vote on the asylum overhaul next Wednesday in the civil liberties committee, Libe, where MEPs will likely rubber stamp the proposals ahead of a final plenary vote in April.

The pact as a whole spans 10 files, including five new laws proposed by the European Commission in 2020.

The five files include the asylum and migration management regulation (AMMR), the crisis and 'force majeure' regulation, screening regulation, asylum procedures regulation, and Eurodac.

The basics

The basic plan under the reform is to first identify everyone arriving at an external border during a five-day screening procedure where people are placed in a legal limbo, the so-called 'legal fiction of non-entry'.

Those with legitimate claims will have access to a normal asylum procedure.

Everyone else, including nationalities with less than a 20 percent successful asylum rate in the EU, are shuffled into a separate fast track 12-week border procedure.

This procedure, or APR, could reject anyone that has a connection with a country deemed already safe — possibly including the Western Balkans.

The latest consolidated text, seen by this website, says that connection includes having family in the country or if he "settled or stayed in that country".

This story was updated on 12 February 2024 at 10:40 to add that Romeo had also drafted the letter and launched the campaign.

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