Interception Practices in Europe and Their Implications

By Sianni, Areti | Refuge, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Interception Practices in Europe and Their Implications


Sianni, Areti, Refuge


Abstract

The dilemma of reconciling migration control functions and State obligations for refugee protection has underlined much of the immigration and asylum debate in the European Union. In recent years, numerous measures have been introduced to block access to refugee status determination. This paper focuses on EU policies of non-entree as they relate to the interception of individuals en route to Europe. It argues that there is a fundamental imbalance in the Union's activities relating to asylum and migration management with recent measures having the effect of undermining the right to seek asylum and effectively blocking access to protection.

Resume

Les debats au sein de l'Union europeenne sur les questions de l'immigration et du droit d'asile ont ete marques par la problematique de comment reconcilier les fonctions de controle de l'immigration et les obligations de l'etat en matiere de protection des refugies. De nombreuses mesures ont ete adoptees au cours des dernieres annees pour bloquer l'acces au processus de determination du droit d'asile. Cet article examine les politiques de non entree de l'Union Europeenne, tout specialement en relation avec la pratique d'interception d'individus en route pour l'Europe. L'article soutient que les activites de l'Union Europeenne en matiere de gestion de la question de l'immigration et du droit d'asile souffrent d'un desequilibre fondamental, et que les mesures recentes ont eu pour consequence d'affaiblir le droit d'asile et d'interdire l'acces a la protection.

I. Interception in Europe

The dilemma of reconciling migration control functions and State obligations for the protection of refugees has underlined much of the debate on immigration and asylum policy in the European Union. In recent years, numerous measures have been introduced to block access to refugee status determination. These have included mechanisms that operate as barriers, either preventing asylum seekers from access to the territory of a European country where they could seek and find protection, or, alternatively, for those who manage to reach the shores of potential asylum states, applying admissibility criteria which allow states to deport them without offering an effective possibility of having their asylum applications examined in substance. This paper will focus on the policies of non-entree or non-arrival as they relate to the interception of individuals en route to Europe.

Interception has been defined by UNHCR as "encompassing all measures applied by a State outside its national territory in order to prevent, interrupt or stop the movement of persons without the required documentation crossing international borders by land, air or sea and making their way to the country of prospective destination." (1) In the context of the European Union, interception practices need to be considered within the broader process of harmonization of asylum and immigration measures. In this process, the management of migration flows has been seen as "one of the three essential elements together with cooperation with countries of origin and the integration of legal immigrants for a comprehensive and therefore effective immigration policy." (2)

In October 1999, the European Council held a special meeting in Tampere, Finland, on the establishment of an area of freedom, security, and justice. There, EU heads of state committed the Union "to develop(ing) common policies on asylum and immigration while taking into account the need for a consistent control of external borders to stop illegal immigration and to combat those who organise it and commit related international crimes." In fighting illegal immigration, the special meeting concluded that "common policies must be based on principles which are both clear to our own citizens and also offer guarantees to those who seek protection in or access to the European Union." (3) NGOs at the time welcomed the formulation of this paragraph as an affirmation of the Union's commitment to ensuring a balanced approach which allowed for full compliance with the absolute respect of the right to seek asylum when introducing immigration control measures. …

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