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Thousands of refugees may lose right of asylum under EU plans

Fatima Kurdi, whose three-year-old nephew Alan drowned and was found dead on
a Turkish beach, urges EU leaders to act.

European governments are aiming to deny the right of asylum to innumerable
refugees by funding and building camps for them in Africa and elsewhere outside
the European
Under plans endorsed in Brussels on Monday evening, EU interior ministers
agreed that once the proposed system of refugee camps outside the union was up
and running, asylum claims from people in the camps would be inadmissible in Europe.
The emergency meeting of
interior ministers was called to grapple with Europe’s worst modern refugee
crisis. It broke up in acrimony amid failure to agree on a new system of
binding quotas for refugees being shared across the EU and other decisions
being deferred until next month.
The lacklustre response to a refugee emergency that is turning into a
full-blown European crisis focussed on “Fortress Europe” policies aimed at
excluding refugees and shifting the burden of responsibility on to third
countries, either of transit or of origin.
The ministers called for the establishment of refugee camps in Italy and
Greece and for the detention of “irregular migrants” denied asylum and facing
deportation but for whom “voluntary return” was not currently “practicable”.
The most bruising battle was over whether Europe should adopt a new system of
mandatory quotas for sharing refugees. The scheme, proposed by the European
commission last week, is strongly supported by Germany which sought to impose
the idea on the rejectionists mainly in eastern Europe.
Hungary’s hardline anti-immigration government said it would have no part of
the scheme, from which it would benefit, while Thomas de Maizière, the German
interior minister, complained that the agenda for the meeting was inadequate.
The ministers agreed “in principle” to share 160,000 refugees across at least
22 countries, taking them from Greece, Hungary, and Italy, but delayed a formal
decision until next month, made plain the scheme should be voluntary rather than
binding and demanded ‘flexibility’. De Maizière, by contrast, called for precise
definitions of how refugees would be shared.
Luxembourg, chairing the meeting, signalled that there was a sufficient
majority to impose the quotas, but that the meeting had balked at forcing a
The ministers went further than previous proposals about outsourcing
asylum-processing to countries mainly in Africa where “reception centres” or
refugee camps would be built.
 In what will be seen by humanitarian and refugee
professionals as draconian, the statement said: “Implementation shall start on a
medium-term strategy aimed at developing safe and sustainable reception
capacities in the affected regions and providing lasting prospects and adequate
procedures for refugees and their families until return to their country of
origin is possible.”
Once the system was functioning, EU members would be “in a position to find
asylum applications of these persons inadmissible on safe third country
The proposal was supported by the home secretary, Theresa May. She said: “We
also need to be setting up removal centres in transit countries in Africa. By
doing these things we can be sure we offer protection to those who need it and
return the economic migrants who do not.”
Claude Moraes, the Labour MEP who chairs the European parliament’s civil
liberties committee, said the proposal was invidious.
“The principle of asylum must be preserved at the heart of one of the key
proposals. The idea of safe countries could potentially corrupt this right,”
said Moraes who worked for many years as an immigration lawyer.
The European commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, admitted that
the proposed policy was flawed since target countries in Africa were “not
willing” to host EU-sponsored refugee camps on their soil.
Schengen borders
Monday night’s meeting took place as curbs on free movement across Europe
snowballed following Germany’s unilateral and controversial decision on Sunday
to re-establish
national border controls at the centre of Europe’s free-travel Schengen area
of 26 countries.
Austria and Slovakia followed suit on Monday, while the Dutch
said they were stepping up “border area patrols” and the Belgian authorities
said they were considering parallel action. The Hungarians are to implement
draconian border controls from Tuesday, criminalising migrants who cross the
border from Serbia without permission.
The political disarray was reflected in the chaos on the ground as thousands
sought to beat the new rules in Hungary by entering from Serbia. The Hungarians
filled trains to Austria where the borders to Germany were clogged as a result
of the new German regime.
The ministers called for the quick creation of refugee camps in Greece and
Italy and for the detention of those failing to win asylum but who could not be
deported from the EU quickly and who might move on to other EU countries.
“Reception will be duly organised so as to temporarily accommodate people
until a decision is quickly taken on their situation. When voluntary return is
not practicable ... detention measures should be applied urgently and
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