Lighthouse not Fortress
A Migration and Asylum policy for Europe
Our organisations represent Christian
Churches throughout Europe,
including Roman Catholic, Orthodox,
Protestant and Anglican churches, as well as church agencies particularly concerned
with migrants and refugees . As
Christian organisations, it is
part of our tradition to care for the
oppressed and to uphold the dignity of the human individual.
The European Council of Tampere in October 1999 expressed a strong commitment of the European Union to establish a fair common European asylum system and comprehensive immigration policy. Two years later several main weaknesses can still be perceived in both areas. Even people in need of international protection are forced onto the irregular track by the non-arrival policy of the European Union Member States. The decision-making in asylum procedures remains flawed, public attitude towards asylum seekers continues to be negative. Combating illegal immigration seems to overshadow the discussions about legal channels of immigration and establishing a welcoming society.
We take the opportunity of the upcoming Laeken summit to express our appreciation to the EU Institutions, especially the Commission and the Parliament of the work carried out to date, and urge continuation of the harmonisation process. In particular, we call for:
Genuine harmonisation based on best
harmonisation should neither lower standards nor be undermined by allowing
common policies to be applicable by Member States on a
· An asylum system that is based on the full and inclusive application of the 1951 Convention, that ensures that those in need of protection have access to the territory, and once on the territory, that they are received in dignified conditions, and have their asylum claims examined in a full and fair way;
· A migration policy that balances Europe’s need for labour with fairness to migrants and increased resolution to cooperating with countries of origin.
Any harmonisation will need to overcome the major obstacle of Member
States counteracting their political commitment to establishing an area of
freedom, security and justice. We are
very concerned by the fact that some Member States seem hardly able to
compromise beyond their sole national interests. The Council negotiations on
the Family reunification Directive are only the most worrisome example.
The most adequate way out of the actual dilemma in decision-making is the abolishment of the unanimity principle on asylum and immigration policy.
Evaluation of work to date
We recognize progress made by the European Institutions (Commission,
Parliament and Council) to have reached agreement on the Directive establishing
the European Refugee Fund, the Directive on temporary protection in the
situation of mass influx, the anti-discrimination
package and the Regulation on Eurodac. At the same time, we are concerned
about the lack of an adequate humanitarian provision in the Council Decisions
on unauthorized entry and residence, carrier sanctions and combating
trafficking in human beings. documents.
Regarding the pending issues we wish to commend the European Commission
for the draft legislation it has proposed to date. We have already commented in
detail on a number of these proposed measures like on minimum standards on
asylum procedures; minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers; the
revision of the Dublin Convention determining the Member State responsible for
examining an asylum application; family reunification of third-country
nationals; and the status of long term resident
s. In particular we appreciate the
Commission’s long-term considerations put forward in its two
Communications on a future common asylum and immigration policy on which we
have provided detailed comments.
We would like the Council to consider
concerns regarding some Commission proposals, such as safeguarding asylum
seekers’ legal protection in asylum procedures, fair and non-punitive
reception conditions, an efficient and workable system of determining the
Member State responsible for examining an asylum claim. We re-emphasize the
need for a comprehensive European immigration policy involving all relevant
policy areas , especially the external dimension[DP1]. In order to achieve full integration one crucial precondition will
be the creation of a welcoming society. This reflects our understanding of integration
being a two-way process requiring also programmes directed at the local
population. Furthermore, we would wish that intercultural communication and
human rights education be enhanced in training programmes of executing
In the current context of the EU’s fight against terrorism we share UNHCR’s and other human rights organisations’ concerns about the definition of terrorism and by moves of Member States putting in question human rights obligations. We do not see any necessity to adapt asylum legislation since the 1951 Convention offers sufficient tools to exclude from refugee protection those [DP2]guilty of terrorist acts.
Finally, we recall that global migration [DP3]is an expression of inequality, which ought to be addressed also in view of establishing just relationships. When evaluating the progress made since Tampere, the Heads of State and Government are called upon to assume responsibility beyond National and European interests in establishing fair burden sharing and equal opportunities on a global level.
To be published: Brussels, 10 December 2001