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Rights bodies: Why right of asylum is under threat in EU

European human rights organisations have criticized the European Union’s move to come up with a list of “safe countries” saying it will deny many the right of asylum.

“Whether refusing to host refugees or drastically restricting how many are granted access, the European Union is seeking to legally window dress what amounts to nothing more than a denial of the right of asylum,” PRO ASYL and several European human rights organizations said in a joint statement.

The European Commission, they said, planned to adopt a list of “safe” countries that would be imposed on all the EU Member States.

Asylum-EU

The so-called “safe countries” are places where human rights are respected and where persecution or the risk of persecution almost do not exist.

This means that asylum requests lodged by people originating from these countries are presumed to be fraudulent attempts to abuse the EU’s generous system, the organisations said.

“Consequences are unequivocal for people concerned: no in-depth examination of the grounds of persecution, fast-tracked review of applications with no effective access to an appeals procedure and the risk of facing expeditious returns to the country of origin,” the human rights bodies said. “The very idea that a country could be deemed safe is absurd.”

They pointed out that there were many countries even within Europe where some minorities continue to face discrimination, accompanied by sometimes deadly violence.

“According to the Commission, even Turkey could qualify as a “safe country of origin” despite the number of reports piling up that document human rights violations in the country,” they said.

They human rights organisations criticised countries including France and Germany, that have already drawn up lists of “safe countries of origin”.

“The criteria for inclusion on these lists are vague, change from time to time with no consistency from one Member State to another. However, this cannot not justify the Commission deciding on the establishment of such lists as a general rule, at the risk of seeing countries such as Sudan and Eritrea being included in the future, to name only those with which it is currently negotiating refugees’ removal,” they said.

The human rights organisations said the concept of “safe countries” was “simply a pitiful means for hiding the main concern of the European Union and its members under the cloak of law: finding a means to ensure that the right of asylum is not applied.”

They warned that by denying people the right of asylum, the EU would be denying the values it claims to uphold.

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“At all times and in all places, the fate of refugees has been the measure of a society’s democratic nature. The denial of refugees’ rights promised by the European Commission is bound to be followed by the erosion of the rights of all in Europe. Defending the right of asylum is not an act of charity. Human rights are not negotiable,” the organisations said.

The statement was signed by Dominique Guibert, President of the European Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AEDH); Michel Tubiana, President of EuroMed Rights; Karim Lahidji, President of the International Federation for Human Rights; Françoise Dumont, President of the French Human Rights League; and Günter Burkardt, Chair of PRO ASYL.