ECRE DOCUMENTATION SERVICE
Council of Europe 5
ECRE Papers 6
Country Developments 7
Other Resources 20
ELENA News 21
UN (CAT 21
Council of Europe 23
Country Developments 24
Other information 32
Country of origin information 32
Other information (Discriminatory Detention of Criminal Asylum Seekers) 32
Secretariat News 35
EU Presidencies 36
Justice and Home Affairs Council 36
The EU asylum agenda 37
Commission Scoreboard 38
European Parliament 38
ECRAN News 38
Legal Seminar on the Safe Third Country Concept, Ukraine 39
“Planning Together: NGO co-operation and the protection of refugees in Eastern Europe” Two day workshop in St Petersburg, Russia. 40
Other publications 40
Upcoming events 40
post of project officer for
Eastern Europe 41
ECRE DOCUMENTATION SERVICE
World Conference Against Racism
The World Conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance will take place in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 7 September 2001. It will focus on action-oriented and practical steps to eradicate racism, including measures of prevention, education and protection and the provision of effective remedies. It will be a unique and important opportunity to create a new world vision for the fight against racism in the 21st century. The issue in focus are:
· Gender and Racial Discrimination with a report of the Expert Group Meeting
· Migration and trafficking
· The media
· The UN system
· Political, social, economic exclusion
For more information please see the UN website at and the Conference’s Secretariat website at . There is also a link to the NGO caucus at and the link to the World Conference on Racism homepage is www.hri.ca/racism/
Update on UNHCR’s Global Consultations on International Protection
The Second Track (questioning and guiding the interpretation of the Refugee Convention) comprises four Expert Roundtables, with participants drawn from governments, NGOs, academia, the judiciary, and the legal profession. The first Expert Roundtable took place in Lisbon on 3-4 May 2001. Thirty-two participants from 25 countries met to discuss the exclusion and cessation clauses, two issues relating to the refugee definition that pose legal and operational challenges to State Parties and to UNHCR. The discussions in Lisbon revealed that States have taken an evolutionary approach to the interpretation and application of Article 1F, drawing on developments in other areas of international law since 1951, in particular international human rights law, extradition law and international criminal law as well as international humanitarian law. For further information on the outcome of the Lisbon discussions, see “Update on Global Consultations” on the UNHCR website () under “Global Consultations”.
The second substantive meeting of the Third Track (examination of areas not covered by the Refugee Convention) took place in Geneva on 28-29 June 2001 in the ExCom format. Under the theme "Protection of Refugees in the Context of Individual Asylum Systems", it aimed at discussing "Refugee Protection and Migration Control" (including interception practices and the return of persons not in need of international protection) and the issue of "Fair and Efficient Asylum Procedures". Before the meeting, UNHCR met twice with NGOs to discuss the topics in private and listen to NGOs’ general concerns and the evaluation of UNHCR's background papers. According to usual ExCom rules, during the actual Consultations NGOs were only allowed to make one joint statement per agenda item. These can be obtained (in hard copy only) from ECRE's policy officer, contact .
For each of the topics UNHCR had prepared background papers, on the asylum-migration interface in cooperation with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Among the operational proposals contained in these papers, the establishment of an "action group" between IOM and UNHCR, which could also include other key actors, was in principle endorsed by governments, even if there was a felt need for clarification of its mandate and terms of reference. The idea to adopt new ExCom conclusions defining global standards for asylum procedures was, in comparison, met with more caution, both by governments and by NGOs. It will possibly be further explored by an informal working group, set up by UNHCR and comprising interested governments, UNHCR and – hopefully – NGOs.
As in the first meeting in March, government participation was active and representative of most parts of the world. A wide range of issues were addressed and national experiences shared.
Key issues debated under the first topic included
- the role of interception and border control measures (referring often to the conclusions of the Global Consultations' Regional Meeting in Ottawa)
- help for first countries of asylum and evaluation of secondary movements of refugees
- the fight of root causes of flight and migration
- the return of persons not in need of protection
- information campaigns.
Not unsurprisingly, statements of States varied depending on their respective national experiences. By way of example, a number of developing States hosting great numbers of refugees stressed the need for capacity building and support and the need for responsibility sharing within the global community, whereas some industrialised States rather emphasised their determination to maintain and enforce interception measures (which might prevent asylum seekers from entering their territories) and return persons perceived as not in need of protection to their countries of origin or of first asylum. NGOs called for a rights-based approach rather than a stress on migration control measures, and reminded States of their obligation to uphold and guarantee international protection under the Refugee Convention.
On the issue of asylum procedures, States affirmed their general commitment to fair and efficient asylum procedures within the general framework of international law, while at the same time pointing out the need for flexibility in the application of standards proposed by UNHCR. Again, developing States stressed their need for capacity-building and international solidarity. NGOs noted in particular that UNHCR's suggestions for global standards in asylum procedures, which included "best practice" with regard to a number of contentious concepts such as safe third country, accelerated procedures etc., might lead to an export of concepts which have not proven to be of value in Europe.
All relevant documentation, specifically UNHCR's background papers and the Chairman's summaries of the meeting, may be found on UNHCR's website, (Global Consultations Menu).
In the context of the Global Consultations, UNHCR is also organising a number of Regional Meetings in order to broaden participation on issues on the agenda of particular interest to one or other of the regions. The regional meeting for Europe took place on 6-7 June in Budapest. Its themes were:
· The application of the “third country notion” and its effect on the management of flows and the protection of refugees.
· Inter-State agreements for the readmission of third country nationals and for the determination of the State responsible for examining the substance of an asylum application.
· Legal and practical aspects of the return of persons not in need of international protection.
For the Conclusions of this meeting, see the UNHCR website, under “Global Consultations”. The other Regional Meetings which have already taken place are:
· 26-27/07/2001, Pretoria: Maintaing the civilian and humanitarian character of asylu, refugee status, camps and locations;
· 14-15/05/2001,Ottawa: Incorporating refugee protection safeguards in interception measures;
· 28-29/05/2001, Macau: Identification of persons in need of protection and development of effective protection frameworks
· 7-8/06/2001, San Jose’:UNHCR’s supervisory role and the Inter-American Human Rights bodies: a comparison;
· 3-5/07/2001, Cairo: How to strengthen the capacity of first asylum countries in the region to offer adequate protection.
The conclusions of these meetings are on the UNHCR website.
Concerning Refugee Participation in the Global Consultations process, at the International Conference on the Reception and Integration of Resettled Refugees (ICRIRR), which was hosted by the Swedish National Integration Office in Norrkoeping on 25-27 April 2001, over 50 former refugees from 18 resettlement countries took an active part in the proceedings of the Conference. The consensus of the participants was that their voices provided other partners with a “reality check” on “best practices” and principles, and their contribution infused the planning process with greater integrity. Another event which inter alia gave voice to refugees was “Refugees in Parliament” in Paris on 16 June and “Respect our Right: Partnership for Equality – A Dialogue with Refugee Women in Geneva on 20-22 June. For future events and the Rouen Forum (France) see the April 2001 Documentation Service or the Calendar of events on the UNHCR website.
UNHCR’s 21st Standing Committee Meeting, Geneva 25 – 27 June 2001
The Standing Committee of the Executive Committee of the UNHCR came together in Geneva for its 21st meeting in June. Issues on the agenda included inter alia an update on UNHCR's Global Consultations on International Protection, UNHCR activities in the field of statelessness and resettlement, an update on the annual programme budget and funding projections for 2001, discussions on Europe (including South Eastern Europe) and the Americas, and debates on the economic and social impact of refugee populations on host developing countries and refugee women. The ECRE policy officer made a statement on behalf of NGOs on the strategic presentation on Europe, which is annexed to this documentation service (P030101). Other relevant documents, particularly the UNHCR conference room papers prepared for the meeting, can be accessed on UNHCR's pre-excom site under (not accessible from the general UNHCR website).
On the topic of UNHCR's budget, the High Commissioner himself, Ruud Lubbers, took the floor to address Member States. He pointed out that UNHCR's funding crisis has now – despite institutional reforms and attempts to cut down on costs of "non-core activities" - reached a level in which the quality and integrity of even the most essential protection programmes may severely be hampered (this became also clear in the discussion of other agenda items). Lubbers warned States that a situation as in last year, where the Executive Committee in October approved a budget which could not be met by subsequent funding pledges, should be avoided for the future. To achieve this, he floated a proposal for a new funding procedure, in which States should aim at making tentative, "soft" promises for funding earlier in the process, preferably until the ExCom meeting in autumn. States reacted mostly positively to this idea and promised to examine its feasibility further.
The discussion on Europe concentrated to a large extent on developments in the Balkans. Both current developments in Macedonia and the general situation of refugees and displaced persons in the states of the former Yugoslavia were addressed. UNHCR pointed out their preparedness if the conflict in Macedonia would escalate into another major refugee crisis. With regard to the ongoing displacement following the conflicts in other parts of the Balkans, UNHCR – as the majority of States and also NGOs –emphasised the primacy of the right to return and called on States in the region to strengthen their efforts to put up a legal and factual framework conducive to sustainable return.
The ongoing legislation process on asylum in the European Union was addressed mainly in positive terms, by EU Member States, UNHCR and the European Commission. It was only NGOs and the delegation of the United States of America who expressed concerns that EU Member States might set standards only at the lowest common denominator and not take into account international legal obligations and UNHCR guidance. Finally, European issues under debate included the situation of IDPs from Chechnya in the Russian Federation and the CIS Conference on Migration.
The Standing Committee profited from the presence of five refugee women who had attended the Global Consultations' "Dialogue with Refugee Women" in the week preceding its meeting. In a lunchtime meeting on 25 June, these women gave an impressive and heart-wrenching witness of their personal experiences, thereby reminding delegations of the realities of refugees' plight across the world.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE
Seminar on "Human rights standards applying to the holding of aliens wishing to enter a Council of Europe Member State and to the enforcement of expulsion orders"
The seminar, held in Strasbourg on 20-22 June 2001,was organised by the Office of the Council of Europe (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights, as a follow-up to a meeting between the Commissioner and NGOs which took place in Paris in December 2000. The participants were representatives of NGOs, governments and intergovernmental organisations working in the field of aliens and human rights. Presentations were made by staff of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CPT) and a member of the CoE Parliamentary Assembly. The agenda, as presented by the Council of Europe, had a relatively narrow scope, namely human rights standards applying to aliens detained in transit zones of airports and other points of entry, as well as to the (physical) enforcement of expulsion orders. The agenda was obviously inspired by the problematic practices of certain CoE Member States with regard to pre-admission detention in airport transit zones and the numerous recent examples of excessive use of force in connection with forcible removals, resulting in the death or injury of the deportees.
From the presentation on execution of expulsion orders made by the Committee on the Prevention of Torture it transpired that this is an area with very limited transparency. In its country and annual reports, the CPT has provided guidance on the limits to the use of force in expulsion situations. The CPT guidance is symptomatic of the means that are being employed to execute expulsion orders. Thus, according to the CPT, the use of physical assault to coerce a deportee to board a plane is unacceptable, as is the wearing of masks by the agents carrying out the expulsion. The CPT condemned the use of gas and sedatives to pacify deportees and recommended that sedatives only be used on medical grounds and upon prescription by a doctor. The CPT also expressed grave concern about the use of devices that impede the respiratory functions (gagging, cushions covering the face, etc.) and the use of other devices, such as strait-jackets and handcuffs linked to airplane seats or wheel chairs, that can cause a risk of so-called "positional asphyxia" (suffocation).
In the CPT's view, the refusal to use toilet facilities and the use of geriatric pads (incontinence pads) on deportees during flight amounted to degrading treatment. In order to avoid excessive use of force, the CPT recommended training of officials who carry out deportations and that deportees undergo medical checks both prior to and, in the case of aborted deportation attempts, after the removal. The participants broadly endorsed the guidelines of the CPT. One government representative expressed reservations to the introduction of medical examinations, as he thought it would be too costly. The participants were also divided on whether deportations should preferably be carried out with commercial or chartered flights. Governments were in favour of the latter, citing opposition or outright refusal by the airline companies to carry deportees, while most NGOs felt that chartered (or even military) flights would only contribute to bringing deportation conditions and methods further away from the public eye.
As for the rights of aliens held in pre-admission detention, the draft recommendations focused on the guidance that flows from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Strasbourg jurisprudence. Thus, aliens claiming that their expulsion would violate ECHR Art. 3 should have access to an independent review on the merits, and the appeal should have suspensive effect (ECHR Art. 13 and case-law). Aliens should be informed of the reasons for their detention in a language they understand (ECHR Art. 5 (2)) and should be entitled to a judicial review of the legality of the detention (ECHR Art. 5 (3)). Detained aliens should have the right to legal counsel during the court procedure (the principle of equality of arms, as recognized in caselaw). Again, government representatives felt that the right to (free) legal counsel was too far reaching, while NGOs advocated the introduction of maximum time limits.
The Parliamentary Assembly and UNHCR call for firmer application of the 1951 Geneva Convention
At the Parliamentary Assembly on 27 June 2001 there was a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Convention. Mr Lubbers told the Assembly it was no coincidence that the European Convention on Human Rights and the 1951 Geneva Convention on the status of refugees were celebrating their 50th anniversaries within a year of each other. Both were born in the wake of the Second World War and shared the same basic concern: to promote and protect individual safety and dignity. In her report, Manuela Aguiar (Portugal, EPP/CD, Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography) stressed that although the 1951 Convention had been devised in response to the post-war refugee crisis, it was still the world's leading legal instrument for the effective protection of refugees. "Closing the doors to immigrants is the quickest way to ensure illegal immigration and human trafficking", said Mr Lubbers. The Assembly congratulated the High Commissioner for Refugees for its work in favour of refugees and other persons in need of protection by the international community. It asked the Committee of Ministers to contribute, with a joint declaration, to the world-wide consultation process on international protection launched in 2000 to give fresh impetus to the system and meet the present challenges, and also to send a high-level delegation to the formal meeting of Parties to the 1951 Convention to be held in Geneva on 12 December 2001. In the recommendation adopted following the debate, the Assembly shared the High Commissioner for Refugees' concern over the quality of protection offered by some of the legislation in force in Europe. As an organisation that includes some of the main architects of international protection, the Council of Europe should look into the consequences of this state of affairs. The principles enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and in the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights have considerably bolstered the legal protection afforded to refugees. The Assembly also invited those Council of Europe member states that had not already done so, namely Andorra, Moldova, San Marino and Ukraine, to sign the 1951 Convention as soon as possible. It further invited the Committee of Ministers to urge member states to examine and adopt the recommendations concerning refugees and asylum seekers made by the Assembly and the Ad Hoc Committee of Experts on Legal Aspects of Territorial Asylum, Refugees and Stateless Persons (CAHAR). The Assembly also recommended that politicians and the media refrain from exploiting the sensational side of asylum issues for their own short-term benefit, which only encourages racial discrimination and violence. The full text of the recommendation is available at
In early June ECRE produced Comments on the European Commission’s Communication on Asylum, which may be found on ECRE’s website.
A new web-site, , containing up-to-date and authoritative information on the human rights situation in refugee-producing countries around the world has also been launched, in cooperation with ECRE.
Draft law on political asylum
On 6 July 2001, the Armenian government approved the draft law on political asylum. The head of the migration department, Gagik Yeganyan, told journalists that the document would include foreign public and political figures asking for political asylum in Armenia. The status of political refugee will be granted by the Armenian president. Yeganyan said that Armenia was the first amongst the CIS countries to adopt this law. So far, no-one has asked the Armenian authorities for political asylum, Yeganyan said. (Mediamax news agency, Yerevan, 6 Jul 2001)
Amendment of the safe third country clause of the Asylum Act
A legislative proposal for an amendment of the Austrian Asylum Act, concerning the safe third country clause, in particular, has been put forward. It is likely to enter into force on 1 August 2001. The text of the amendment will be available in English and in electronic form within the next few weeks.
Pilot project on holding foreigners awaiting deportation in an open remand centre is an “outstanding success”
On 7 May, six months after having initiated a pilot project on holding foreigners in a part of a prison in Linz that was kept unlocked, the Director of the Linz Police Department, Walter Widhold, gave a press conference to announce the “outstanding success” of the scheme. As a result, the scheme will be used in other Austrian cities, starting with Innsbruck and Bregenz. The city of Linz is also considering having an open remand centre for women.
The pilot project, which began in November last year, involved leaving open an entire floor of the Linz central prison. All the prison cell doors on this floor were left unlocked. “Inmates” were free to make use of a television room and a sports room with table-football or table tennis as well as a kitchen where they could make hot drinks or soup. Their “cells” were like their personal rooms where they could retire when they wanted. During the six-month period there was not one single incident of violence or protest. Reacting to the results, the Minister of Interior, Ernst Strasser, said he was confident that in the medium term it would be possible to keep many of the foreigners awaiting deportation in open remand centres. Every year, about 14,000 foreigners are held in detention pending their removal from Austria (Migration New Sheet/June 2001).
Number of asylum seekers in the first quarter has doubled – Austria mistaken for Australia by Afghans
On 3 May, in presenting the latest data on asylum seekers, the Ministry of Interior pointed out that the figure for the first trimester of this year had “exploded”, reaching a total of 7,488, compared with 3,778 for the same period last year. Afghan asylum seekers have largely contributed to this sharp increase.
The recognition of Afghans is about twice that of other nationalities, the overall rate being some 20%. From 827 for the first quarter of the year 2000, they numbered a total of 3,893 for the same period in 2001. Of this total number, 2,338 Afghan asylum seekers made their applications abroad, mostly at the Austrian Embassy in Tehran and are thus not yet present in Austria. They have to wait abroad pending an initial decision on their claims. This sudden rise in the number of Afghans has partly been attributed to information that Australia has started a reception programme for Afghan asylum seekers and Afghans mistook Austria for Australia.
The Austrian Embassy in Tehran was overwhelmed with the sudden influx of asylum applicants and sent two extra officials to Iran to assist in the screening of applications. It should be noted that the Austrian asylum law provides for the possibility for people seeking asylum in Austria to apply at an Austrian diplomatic mission abroad. The Austrian Embassy then forwards the application to the Austrian Federal Asylum Office which decides whether a temporary asylum visa can be granted. Until now, few people have made use of this possibility. They number about 250 cases per year, mostly of family members of persons already granted refugee status in Austria. In such cases, refugee status is often granted to the family members as well. The reasons for the restricted use of the procedure at diplomatic missions abroad lie in the reluctance of Embassies both to transmit asylum files to the Federal Asylum Office in Vienna and to issue a temporary visa, even after having received the green light from Vienna.
In general, the number of positive decisions is falling, after having reached the height of 3,434 in 1999 when 20,096 asylum seekers were registered. In 2000, when a total of 18,284 asylum seekers were registered, only 1, 002 received a positive decision. The number of asylum seekers receiving refugee status for the first two months of 2001 was 125, out of the total of 4,284 persons registered during that period (Migration News Sheet/June 2001).
Brussels and Moscow reached an agreement after angry reaction to Belgium’s decisions to suspend for two weeks the issuing of entry visas to Russian nationals
On 11 May 2001, the Belgian Prime Minister, G. Verhofstadt, announced that a protocol had been signed with Moscow in view of finding a solution to the problem of rejected asylum seekers. Exactly a week earlier, on May 4, Brussels decided to suspend for a period of two weeks the issuing of entry visas to Russian nationals on account of the high number of Russian asylum seekers.
Last April, about 200 Russian nationals applied for asylum, that is 15% of the total. The Belgian Ministry of Interior considered the number to be too high, given that it represented about a quarter of the total number of asylum applications lodged by the Russians in the 15 EU Member States. The move provoked an angry reaction from Moscow which first announced that it reserved the right to take adequate steps if the decision was not reversed. Russia claimed that many of the asylum seekers in question claiming to be Russian nationals were, in fact, citizens of republics of the former USSR.
On 8 May, Moscow warned that unless the measure was lifted, it would retaliate and stop issuing visas to Belgian nationals. The Russian media aroused great public indignation when they revealed that among those affected by the Belgian measure was a 10-month old Muscovite who was due to be admitted into hospital in Brussels on 14 May for an emergency liver transplant operation. Without the operation, the boy, suffering from congenital liver cirrhosis, would die within a month. Under the terms of the protocol, a Russian delegation was sent to Brussels on 17 May to attend a two-day meeting during which two main issues were discussed: combating illegal immigration, including the trafficking of people and the repatriation of rejected Russian asylum seekers claiming to be Russian nationals. As a matter of fact, the main reason which led Brussels to decide on suspending the issuing of entry visas to Russian nationals was the refusal of Moscow to readmit people claiming to be Russian citizens, without sufficient proof. Russia has refused to readmit people whose nationality is not clearly established. For its part, Brussels agreed to reassume, as from 18 May, the issuing of entry visas to Russian nationals (Migration News Sheet/June 2001).
New centre for rejected asylum seekers who accept voluntary repatriation
On 24 May, a convention was signed between several Belgian ministries and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) on the setting up of a new Federal centre for voluntary repatriation and development (CRVD). This is in line with the policy decided by the coalition government to provide incentives to rejected asylum-seekers to accept voluntary repatriation. Those who accept will be provided with psychological guidance and financial assistance for the return journey, as well as financial and other support for reintegration in their home country, such as aid to medium-size projects, technical assistance, training, etc.
Two NGOs, OCIV and CIRE’ are taking part in this project and have vowed to be “very attentive to see to it that departures are really voluntary”. Volunteers will have the costs of their return journey paid for by the Belgian State, via IOM, as well as BF 10,000 per adult and between BF 1,000 and 5,000 per child, depending on his/her age. Those who persist in their refusal to leave Belgium will be expelled by force, if necessary in small groups on board chartered flights. As long as the convention remains in force, IOM, which will provide the centre with its secretariat, will receive the sum of 743,700 Euros from the Ministry of Social Integration in the beginning of each year.
The idea of assistance for voluntary repatriation is, in fact, not new in Belgium. For already several years similar programmes have been implemented by the afore-mentioned two NGOs in support of asylum seekers. Last year, the IOM organised, with funding from the Belgian State, the departure of more than 3,000 rejected asylum-seekers to their home country or to a third country of reception (Migration News Sheet/June 2001).
Plans to seek funding from EU, CoE for programmes to solve refugee problems
Bulgaria intends to seek support from various EU funds for programmes aimed at solving the problems of refugees, of which one of the most pressing is the provision of housing for people who have already been granted refugee status in the country. One of the principal recommendations of the Council of Europe for Bulgaria is to have a comprehensive national policy on support to, and integration of, refugees, including a national policy on refugee housing, as the projections are that the migration wave towards Europe will increase in the coming years. In fact, Bulgaria is about to open the Internal Affairs Chapter of the Acquis and one of the principal requirements of the EU will be for the country to show serious progress in growing from a transit country into a final destination for refugees. Making progress in this respect will allow Bulgaria to use funding from the EU and the Council of Europe Development Fund for refugee-related programmes.
Plans to amend present asylum law adopted
On 9 April, the Minister of Interior, Stanislav Gross, announced that his Government had adopted a Bill aimed at amending the present asylum law. According to Mr Gross, the amendments will enable an acceleration of the asylum procedure, especially in cases deemed to be unfounded, guarantee the right of review of negative decision by courts and prevent the abuse of the right of asylum.
Asylum seekers will, in fact, be given more possibilities to submit their claims, but there will also be more possibilities to have applications rejected as being unfounded. The Minister pointed out that some 1,900 foreigners applied for asylum in the Czech Republic after being detained for illegal stay last year. These are in his view, the cases of abuse of the right of asylum. Under the terms of the new Bill, a person will be given seven days to submit an asylum application from the time s/he is informed of this possibility. The text specifies the status to be held by a person pending the processing of his/her asylum claim and the social welfare assistance to which an asylum seeker is entitled. On the other hand, financial allowances will not be paid out to certain categories of asylum seekers: those who provide false information on their financial situation or property ownership or those of their family members, those refusing to provide such information and those making repeated asylum applications.
There is to be a ban on employment during the first 12 months of the asylum procedure. The ban will not, however, affect those foreigners who were already working in the Czech Republic at the time when they submitted an asylum application. Following the examples set by some West European countries, the text contains a list of situations in which an asylum application will be rejected as manifestly unfounded. This will be the case of those applicants providing manifestly false information, refusing to make use of an “internal flight alternative”, presenting misleading information or concealing or destroying travel or other documents.
Asylum will also be refused to those who had been previously expelled from the Czech Republic (Migration News Sheet/May 2001). The changes in asylum law might come into force in autumn (Czech news agency (CTK), 29/05/2001).
Bill aimed at detaining asylum-seekers guilty of petty offences has been approved in Parliament
On 31 May 2001, the Bill submitted by the Minister of Interior, Karen Jespersen, with the aim of carrying out the “administrative expulsion” of asylum seekers guilty of committing petty offences was approved in the Danish Parliament. This amendment to the Aliens’ Act makes it possible to detain asylum seekers in a number of situations which could not have lead to detention in the past.
Since autumn 2000, the debate about criminal asylum seekers has dominated the Danish media, which often omitted to report that the majority of the crimes were committed by a limited number of asylum seekers. As a result, the public outrage was directed against all asylum seekers. In order to safeguard the reputation of the asylum procedure and the vast majority of law-abiding and peaceful asylum seekers, the Danish Refugee Council publicly expressed understanding for the need to curtail the activities of the criminal asylum seekers.
The Danish Refugee Council recognised the need, in some instances, to detain notoriously criminal asylum seekers, but advocated the speeding up of asylum procedures as the preferable and most efficient means of crime prevention. The government in the meantime put forward a draft law which contained provisions for the issuance of administrative expulsion orders and detention for the duration of the asylum procedure of asylum seekers who have committed petty theft (amounting to 500 DKK or more). In addition, asylum seekers who are responsible for violent threatening behaviour against staff or residents at the reception centres can, in certain circumstances, receive an administrative expulsion order and be detained for the duration of the asylum procedure. Finally, the draft law made similar provisions for asylum seekers who significantly impeded the processing of the asylum claim. As examples are mentioned asylum seekers who without good cause fail to show up for interviews with the authorities, or who refuse to provide or seek to withhold information about their identity or travel route.
The new law has been criticised by human rights lawyers, by the Danish Refugee Council and other NGOs for disregarding the principle of equality before the law since Danes who commit the same kind of petty theft will receive a warning or fine, but will certainly not be placed in a detention centre. The Danish Refugee Council further expressed concern that the law contains no upper limit for the duration of detention or criteria for when it should be discontinued. It also criticised the allocation of millions of Danish Kroner for the construction of detention facilities as a costly and not necessarily efficient solution. The Danish Refugee Council instead advocated for the allocation of sufficient (human) resources to the Immigration Service, which would enable it to speed up the processing of the claims of criminal asylum seekers. The law was eventually passed by the parliament. In the meantime, administrative efforts to speed up the processing of asylum claims submitted by persons belonging to the nationality groups responsible for the major crimes has already had a marked effect on the crime rate, which has more or less dropped to its normal level.
Accommodation shortage caused by local mayors anxious to avoid alienating voters in view of elections
In view of the local elections in November this year, many local mayors have refused to extend the contracts of accommodation centres for asylum seekers. This has provoked a serious housing shortage for newly arrived asylum seekers, in spite of the fact that a new accommodation centre has been opened and a few others have increased their capacity by adding extra beds. Newly arrived asylum seekers are now accommodated in containers of 12,5 square metres, each of which can take a maximum of three persons. It is estimated that between 1,000 and 1,500 asylum seekers are affected by the accommodation shortage (Migration News Sheet/June 2001).
Most of the Kurdish asylum seekers who arrived in February are from Syria and not Iraq
Investigations carried out by the French Refugee Office (OFPRA) have led authorities to believe that the large majority of the 908 Kurds who arrived on board the “East Sea” on 17 February 2001 (reported in the last Documentation Service) originate from Syria and not from Iraq as they had initially claimed. Moreover, the German authorities are believed to have alerted the French Ministry of Interior of this possibility after a number of these Kurds were apprehended for trying to enter Germany illegally. After having carried out a thorough search of their personal belongings, some of them were found to be hiding Syrian documents for identity. At the same time NGOs working in support of refugees, like CIMADE and the Forum Refugies, have made efforts to convince these Kurdish asylum seekers to come out with the truth since false information may lead to a rejection of their asylum claims even though they may be in reality well-founded.
The Kurds claimed that they had been told by the smugglers who organised their journey to France to say that they were from Iraq since asylum seekers from this country did not risk repatriation, even if their claims were finally rejected. In addition, they feared reprisals by the smugglers against their family members who have remained behind. As a matter of fact, smugglers often threaten their clients not to reveal their travel itinerary so as to maintain their operations as secretive as possible. It appears that even as Kurds from Syria, their claims to asylum could be well-founded. Most of them originate from Northern Syria, from a region close to the border with Turkey. Many are, as they had earlier claimed, of the Yesidi (or Yasidi) faith, and some were active members of the Yekti Party, a Kurdish political group harassed by the regime in Damascus. Others had been deprived of their Syrian citizenship and lived in Syria as foreigners, deprived of a number of fundamental rights. At the requests of human rights associations, the OFPRA has granted these asylum seekers additional time to reformulate their claims with the corrected information. The processing of their dossiers had therefore been suspended, pending further details. The associations have also requested that the initial lies given by these asylum seekers are not used against them when evaluating the merits of their asylum claims. There are asylum seekers who hide behind another identity even thought they are entitled to protection under their real nationality.
The OFPRA can, in fact afford to be more flexible in handling the claims of these asylum seekers who, on the date of 12 April, numbered no more than 196 (including children) out of the 908 who arrived last February. In mid-March, there were still some 450 of them living in 13 reception centres. Only 130 of them have formally submitted applications for asylum. The number of these Kurds has been falling as more try to seek protection in other countries where they have friends and family ties (Migration News Sheet/May 2001).
Proposals for inclusion of Temporary Protection in the Aliens Act and for linked changes to the law on integration of immigrants and reception of asylum seekers
The most recent policy development in Finland is the Government Bill on changing the Aliens Act in order to include Temporary Protection (TP) in the legislation. This proposal was given to the Parliament a few months ago and is still being discussed. The law on the Integration of Immigrants and Reception of Asylum Seekers will also be changed so that the special (social, health, accommodation etc.) situation of persons under TP is taken into account by this law. The main characteristics of the TP system according to the Bills are:
· The Government will decide when to start implementing TP in a mass influx
· situation (with a decree).
· A mass influx situation is described as a situation in which there is an mass flight from a certain country or geographical area and the consequences have an effect on Finland, in the sense that people come to Finland from this area or a decision on TP is made at the EU level. The reasons for the flight have to be related to armed conflict, generalised violence or environmental catastrophes where people have to flee for security reasons. However, it is not a necessary condition that there should be a large number of arrivals into Finland. TP may also be used when the influx is to another area within the EU and Finland would need to accept persons in need of protection in the name of burden-sharing. Thus, the Government could decide on the implementation of the TP system even before one single person from this area has arrived to Finland.
· The maximum duration of TP is two years.
· Family reunification is granted on the same grounds as for refugees or persons with a complementary status (residence permit which is granted for the need of protection).
· The right to work is granted without limitations.
· People who have been granted TP will not be settled in municipalities, they will thus live in reception centres but they are entitled to better health care services than asylum seekers.
Foreign workers are needed but it remains a highly contentious issue
“For decades, Germany’s policy on immigration has been at best equivocal and at worst blatantly discriminatory. Or rather, the country had no policy on immigration, because it denied officially that any such thing existed” (Financial Times Surveys, 12/06/2001). Currently the situation seems set for a change. This is mainly due to a shortage of skilled workers in the high technology, computer and telecommunications sector and years of low birth rates, causing a drastic ageing of the population, bringing with it the prospect of a declining labour force unable to finance a growing burden of pensions and social spending. Rita Suessmuth, former President or the German Bundestag, chaired an independent committee of inquiry into immigration, which delivered its findings on 4 July. The Suessmuth Commission was not simply supposed to reconsider the need for immigration and recommend how it should be organised. It was also to consider was the relationship between new arrivals and long-established foreign residents. And the third subject it was to investigate the law on refugees and asylum seekers, and how effectively and humanely it is working.
Interior Minister, Otto Schily, has said he is optimistic that Germany will have the most modern immigration law in Europe once the new legislation is drawn up (BBC monitoring International Reports, 04/06/2001). He said the new system should be flexible and not tied to quotas so it could react to the circumstances in the individual federal states. He also believes that it would be a good idea to evaluate candidates on the basis of a points system (according to an interview published by the German magazine “Der Spiegel” website on 02/06/2001).
In a press release “the European Council on Refugees and Exiles cautiously welcomed the outcome of the Süssmuth Commission, set up by the German Minister of the Interior, Mr Schily, that the decision about who should be considered a refugee under the Refugee Convention should be left to joint agreement by European Union states. This provides an opportunity for Germany to come to the same principled and legal approach as the majority of states in Europe and the world, who grant refugee status to victims of persecution regardless of the persecutor. People in many parts of the world suffer persecution at the hands of armed groups because of their religion, ethnic background or political opinion, where the state is not able or willing to provide protection. The vast majority of countries agree that such persons deserve refugee status under the Refugee Convention. Germany is one of the few countries in the world that until now has not accepted this position nor the guidance of the United Nations”. The full text of the Suessmuth Commission’s report can be found at .
Five proven cases of Kurds being tortured after repatriation
On 30 May, two NGOs in support of asylum-seekers, Pro Asyl and the Refugee Council of Lower Saxony, announced that they had evidence that torture was used against Turkish Kurds repatriated last year in at least five cases. In the last two years the two organisations have confirmed 35 cases of maltreatment of repatriated asylum-seekers. According to the spokesman of Pro Asyl, Heiko Kauffmann, this is only ‘the tip of the iceberg’ since many repatriated asylum-seekers do not disclose their experiences out of fear. In the meantime, the Federal Refugee Office (BAF) has become more sensitive to the dangers which rejected asylum-seekers can face in their home country and, in certain cases, have, at the request of human rights groups, reviewed cases of asylum-seekers faced with expulsion. A few expulsions were thus prevented in this way. However, NGOs in support of asylum-seekers should not be expected to be final mechanisms of control of decisions on asylum, stressed the two agencies (Migration News Sheet, June 2001).
Administrative Court Judges against constitutional amendment to reduce possibilities of appeal by rejected asylum seekers
On 11 May, the Federation of German Administrative Judges called for the acceleration of court procedures in asylum cases, pointing out that the fact that they last for years is beneficial neither to the State nor to the persons concerned. They suggested there should be an earlier intensive clarification of the facts of the case, for example by oral interviews or evaluation of information, which would lead to relieving the workload of administrative courts. Courts should also be provided with sufficient staff and material means. This would result in a shortening of the time period for handling asylum cases without an acceleration of the asylum procedure. The judges are against the proposal to amend the constitution to deny rejected asylum seekers the same channels of appeal as those available in other kinds of cases. Speaking at the end of a conference of administrative judges, the Chairman of the Federation, Hans-Joerg Lieberoth-Leden, reminded that under the German constitutional asylum decisions should come under the scrutiny of administrative courts. It has so far not been demonstrated that another system of control, such as an appeals board, would be able to attain the same result, added the judges. In a related development, the opposition Liberal Party (FDP) made it clear in the Bundestag on 18 May that it could not vote in favour of either a further limitation of the constitutional right of asylum or a change in the right of appeal that would deny rejected asylum seekers the possibility of addressing themselves to administrative courts (Migration News Sheet/June 2001).
Kosovar asylum-seekers to be granted long-term residence permits if they fulfil certain conditions
On 10 May, the Conference of Interior Ministers (IMK) agreed to grant long-term residence permits to those Kosovar asylum-seekers and war refugees fulfilling certain conditions. To benefit from the new regulation, they must have completed at least six years of uninterrupted stay in Germany by 15 February 2001, provide proof of employment for more than two years, and their employer must furthermore be very dependent on them. In addition, their family members should not be receiving social assistance and have adequate accommodation facilities. Last February, the IMK agreed to a similar regulation regarding asylum-seekers and war refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina. The residence permit to be issued under this regulation will initially be valid for two years with the possibility of renewal. The spouse and children pursing compulsory education of Kosovar asylum-seekers will also be entitled to a residence permit even if they themselves have been living in Germany for more than six years. However, the regulation requires that the family’s costs of living must be covered by the income from their own regular employment on the date of 10 May 2001, without receiving any supplementary social security benefits. Furthermore, Kosovars who are over the age of 65 with family members who have a right of residence in Germany will also be entitled to a residence permit, if they are not receiving any social security allowances. Excluded from the benefits of this regulation are Kosovars who have deliberately obstructed official measures aimed at ending their stay in Germany. Thus, a residence permit will not be issued when there are grounds for expulsion, such as a violation of the penal code. The situation of severely traumatized Bosnian war refugees, unaccompanied minors from Kosovo and witnesses summoned to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague will not be affected by the new regulation. Rejected asylum-seekers and war refugees from Yugoslavia have until the end of September 2001 to apply for a residence permit, the respective deadline for Bosnians being 30 June 2001. Finally, on the above mentioned date (10 May), the IMK also decided to grant an extension of six months to ethnic minorities of Kosovo holding the tolerated status (Duldung).
The “land” of Hessen refuses modifications in dealing with rejected asylum seekers in transit at Frankfurt airport
In its negotiations with the Federal Government on modifications in the transit area of Frankfurt Airport where rejected asylum seekers are kept, Hessen has made known its opposition. On 15 March, the spokesman for the Ministry of Interior in Wiesbaden, Michael Busser, affirmed that his government saw no need for changes. In his letter to the Federal Minister of Interior, Otto Schily (SPD [Social Democratic Party of Germany]), the Minister of Interior of Hessen, Volker Bouffier (CDU [Christian Democratic Union]) wrote that in his government’s opinion rejected asylum seekers should, as before, remain in the airport until expulsion. Mr Bouffier rejected the idea of setting up a “new accommodation centre” in the airport to hold rejected asylum seekers. Since the suicide of a 40-year old Algerian woman while being kept in remand at Frankfurt airport on 8 May 2000, Mr Schily has not made any efforts to facilitate the entry of asylum seekers in remand for a period which often lasts several months. One alternative is to bring all rejected asylum seekers before a judge in view of holding them in detention. This is likely to be opposed by Hessen whose Ministry of Social Affairs has already warned that there is no room in its prisons (Migration News Sheet/April 2001).
Amendments to asylum and immigration legislation
At its 29 May 2001 session the Hungarian Parliament passed four pieces of legislation regulating asylum, immigration and migration matters with the required qualified majority. A completely new act on aliens' policing issues (Act on the entry and stay of foreigners) was adopted, substantial amendments have been made to the Act on Asylum of 1998, and, mainly due to changes in the aforementioned laws, several adjustments to the Act on Citizenship of 1993 and to the Act on Border Guarding of 1997 were passed as well.
Following is a summary of the major amendments to the Asylum Act:
· Notions of temporary protection and safe third country have been reshaped and rephrased.
· The definition of unaccompanied minors has been introduced.
· The administrative procedure has been modified so as to take place in two instances and the time limit for submitting an appeal against the first instance decision is 15 days.
· Reasons for regarding an asylum application as manifestly unfounded have been severely extended. Applications which are considered manifestly unfounded have to be processed in an accelerated procedure (which is already the current situation). Although accelerated procedures have been used by the authorities in very few cases in the past, the legislative change might indicate a policy of attempting to channel more and more cases into accelerated procedures.
New powers have been created and conferred to the asylum authority. According to the new provisions, parallel to rejecting one's application for asylum, the asylum authority (the eligibility officer) can expel the foreigner. However, at this stage, it is still unclear what the basis for this kind of expulsion decision should be and what the legal remedies going against the 'asylum' expulsion decision will be.
Proposal for special identification cards for ethnic Hungarians
The Hungarian government has proposed a law that would grant special Hungarian identification cards to three to four million ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring Austria, Croatia, Romania (1.7 million), Slovakia (600,000), Ukraine (200,000), Yugoslavia (350,000) and Slovenia. More than a million Hungarians were put outside Hungary by the 1920 Treaty of Trianon after World War I. However, Hungary hopes to avoid a mass immigration of Hungarians as it prepares to join the EU. Ethnic Hungarians would be eligible to receive basic subsidies within their own country paid for by Hungary, as well as preferential treatment while travelling or working in Hungary. Special Hungarian identification cards, which require knowledge of Hungarian and allow holders to work in Hungary for three- to six-month periods, would be issued by representatives of ethnic Hungarian organisations.
Romania and Slovakia criticized the proposal, saying that it would give special privileges to ethnic Hungarians. However, Romania adopted a similar law for ethnic Romanians in 1998, after Slovakia did the same for ethnic Slovaks in 1997. Croatia and the Ukraine are also preparing initiatives to provide benefits to those of Croatian and Ukrainian ancestry outside the country (from the electronic version of Migration News, Vol. 8, No. 6, June, 2001).
Asylum seekers to be housed in open reception centres
On 20 May, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Justice informed that approval would soon be given for the construction of the country’s first reception centre for asylum seekers near Dublin international airport. The new centre, which will have medical and recreational facilities, will have an accommodation capacity for 400 people. The Ministry plans to have at least 10 other similar centres built near towns and cities throughout the country to cope with the current accommodation shortage. At present, some 4,000 asylum seekers are being accommodated in hotels, guesthouses and hostels throughout the country.
The implications of the new Aliens Law
Please see the legal section of this Documentation Service for an explanation of the implications of the entry into force of the new Dutch Aliens law of 01/04/2001.
Decision not to extend residence permits for Kurds from Northern Iraq
As of April 7, the Directorate of Immigration (the UDI) has decided that Kurdish asylum seekers from Northern Iraq who are found not to have an individual need of protection will be rejected. Since February 2000, Kurdish asylum seekers from Northern Iraq have been given temporary residence permits with no right to family reunification. According to this new practice, these will not have their permits renewed. It is up to the Immigration Appeals Board to decide on the appeals and settle through precedence whether they share the considerations and conclusions of the UDI, also regarding the evaluation of the general security situation in the area.
After a two week fact finding mission to Northern Iraq in April-May 2001, the Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers (NOAS)' conclusions are that the security situation in Northern Iraq, particularly vis-à-vis the Iraqi regime, has not changed in such a way as to allow for a new policy. It is only a question of time before a new invasion from the Iraqi Baath regime might be expected. The persons spoken to at all levels of society in Northern Iraq unanimously stated that the primary reasons for people fleeing the area are not economic concerns, but the prolonged fear and continued threat of new persecution at the hands of the Iraqi government. In relation to a possible individual need for protection, NOAS' conclusion is that the situation in Northern Iraq is so complex that it is to be doubted that most Western authorities actually possess the updated and detailed knowledge necessary to properly determine the cases based on the circumstances of individuals (also in relation to the UNHCR note of June 1999). NOAS' report is available at
Liberalisation of labour immigration
The Parliament has decided on a limited liberalisation of immigration, mainly to allow the Ministry of Local and Regional Affairs to make exceptions for certain categories of foreigners from the main rule that persons have to apply for work permits from abroad. The Ministry has explained that such an exception will be introduced for high skilled workers, such as medical doctors and for seasonal workers but not for asylum seekers or for persons who have previously sought asylum. Thus, people who have sought asylum have to leave Norway, return to their home country and apply for work permits from there.
Belgium threatening to re-introduce visa requirements. Slovakia responding with possible passport withdrawals.
In an effort to reduce the number of asylum seekers from Slovakia, Belgium recently threatened to re-introduce visa requirements for that country. Towards the end of May 2001 Deputy Prime Minister for Human and Minority Rights and Regional Development, Pal Csaky, said that Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda’s cabinet had adopted stricter measures to prevent Romanies from seeking asylum abroad. There have been allegations that Slovakia has begun to withdraw passports from citizens likely to apply for asylum abroad. Although the Deputy Premier denied this, some Human Rights organisations, such as the US Helsinki Committee, have strongly criticised the move. On 30 May the United States Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. C.H. Smith stated that “not only are such restrictions a violation of OSCE commitments, this short sighted policy would contribute to a vicious cycle of intolerance and discrimination”.
Up to 15,000 Afghans apply for asylum at the Swedish Embassy in Pakistan
Since the summer of 2000 the Swedish Embassy in Islamabad has received between 10,000 and 15,000 asylum applications and applications are still coming at a steady flow. These Afghans live in Pakistan without a residence permit along with about two million others. The Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman has pointed out that the Embassy has an obligation to provide application forms to those who wish to seek permission to enter Sweden. This is not the policy of many other embassies. However, according to Swedish law, an asylum application made at a Swedish embassy outside the applicant’s home country cannot be processed. The Migration Board has handed down negative decisions in a few cases, demonstrating that the law will be applied. The only route open is via the UNHCR and the resettlement quota. This information has had little effect so far. The Swedish Embassy has reported that some Afghans have sold all their belongings in order to pay for the journey to Islamabad so as to hand in an application at the Embassy (Migration News Sheet/ June 2001).
Kosovars remaining in Sweden
At the end of April 2001, there were about 800 Kosovars remaining in Sweden after their final appeal for asylum had been rejected. Another 1,100 were awaiting the outcome of their appeals at the Alien’s appeals Board. Of the 4,200 persons from Kosovo who sought asylum after their temporary residence had expired, around 1,800 have so far been granted permanent residence permits, most of them on humanitarian grounds (Migration New Sheet/June 2001).
Use of deception to arrest and deport rejected asylum seekers. New ethic guidelines issued to counter the trend.
Opposition parties, church leaders and humanitarian associations have stepped up their protests against the authorities’ use of deception to arrest and deport rejected asylum seekers. Similarly to what happened in Belgium at the end of September 1999, when 74 asylum seekers were summoned to provide complementary information on their claims and then repatriated on a military aircraft, there have been recent cases of rejected asylum seekers being lured into traps by the Migration Board’s officials. Thus, on 4 May, the Directorate of the Board approved clearer guidelines on its interaction with the police authorities, according to which Migration Board officials must not take their own initiative to help the police locate rejected asylum seekers. In future asylum seekers will be informed in writing of when their case is handed over to the police. The information will state that the police can use all their powers to remove the rejected applicant from the country. The Board has also decided to set up an ethics advisory committee with external experts.
Draft of revision of the asylum act
A draft of revision of the asylum act has been sent out for consultation. It contains proposals on a new safe third country rule according to which the government would get the competence to declare a list of safe third countries and transit countries with the possibility to send persons back on the basis of accelerated decisions of non-admissiblity. Persons under complementary forms of protection would get the right to a residence permit after 6 years of complementary protection. A possibility to claim a residence permit would also be introduced for humanitarian reasons if an asylum procedure is pending for more than six years. A new system in the field of social assistance would set incentives for the cantons to follow the asylum policy of the confederation. New systems of health insurance aimed at reducing costs would be introduced (no free choice of doctors) as well as a new tax system for asylum seekers.
The process of consultation will end on September 20. The text of the draft proposal can be found at (in German and French). After the consultation process has terminated, a revised draft will be sent to the Parliament for discussion and adoption. OSAR (the Swiss Organisation for aid to refugees)’s first reaction may be found at ; a detailed position will also soon be drafted.
Government decisions on the return of minorities to Kosovo.
According to the Directive of the Swiss Federal Office for Refugees of 7 April 2001 (), a complementary form of protection shall be offered to Serbs, Roma/Ashkaelia, Egyptians, Slavic Muslims (Bosniacs), Torbes and Gorani with Kosovo as their last place of residence. Persons from FRY, especially Albanians from Southern Serbia, will get an extension of their leave to remain until the end of October 2001, upon request, but may be sent back earlier if the situation in the country of origin changes.
Jean-Daniel Gerber, director of the Swiss Federal Office for Refugees publicly announced that the Swiss practice on Non-state agents of persecution is to be examined and might be changed (up to now Switzerland does not accept non-state agents except if the State tolerates persecution and does not intervene against it or if the agent fulfils quasi-State-criteria).
Green light for immigration?
The scale of Tony Blair's victory in the general election can be taken as a welcome rebuff to William Hague's illiberalism towards immigration and asylum. But Labour hardly distinguished itself when it joined the populist game. The government must now frame principled policies towards immigrants and asylum-seekers. Home secretary David Blunkett's proposal for a US-style "green card" is an encouraging sign that the government intends to reform the immigration rules. A green card system would allow foreign workers to work in Britain for a specified period in areas where certain skills were needed. Employers would not have to apply for a permit for each foreign employee but could tap into a ready pool of workers.
Proposals for changes in the law allowing refugees and asylum seekers to be recruited as Special Constables
These are plans revealed at Scotland Yard by Britain's most senior ethnic minority officer. Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur believes that such a move would help to boost the number of ethnic minorities in the Metropolitan Police, beleaguered by accusations of institutional racism. Mr Ghaffur, the first non-white officer to hold the rank – equivalent to a chief constable in other forces – also suggested setting recruitment "targets" for ethnic communities, and disclosed that black and Asian officers regularly complained to him of racism within the force. He said the Metropolitan Police was unlikely to meet the Home Office's ambitious target for recruiting and retaining ethnic minority officers. Mr Ghaffur, 46, is in charge of operational crime strategy and policy for the Metropolitan Police, and thinks that refugees with useful skills could do a range of civilian police jobs. He wants the law to be changed to allow people without British nationality to become voluntary Special Constables and to help in patrols, particularly in ethnic minority communities. He has sent proposals to relax the current regulation to the Home Office, which is considering them. Anyone working for the Metropolitan Police would have to be vetted first.
Asylum-seekers are allowed to work six months after applying to remain in Britain, but only people with British nationality status can join the police. Mr Ghaffur went on to outline his ideas on setting recruitment "targets" for ethnic minorities. On a recent visit to Newham in east London, he spoke to Pakistani leaders about ways of encouraging members of their community to join the Metropolitan Police. The police needed to "reach out", he said.
Minister of Interior points to latest statistical data as evidence of success in combating abuse of the right to asylum
The latest data on asylum made public by the Home Office on 25 May were interpreted by the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw, as showing “the increasing effect of measures we have put in place to deal with the abuse of the (asylum) system”. The number of asylum applications registered in April 2001 was 5,000, the lowest monthly figure for two years. The processing of cases has, it appears, greatly accelerated with a total of 9,455 initial decisions made in April, thus bringing the number of dossiers pending from over 100,000 two years ago to 33, 795 at the end of April, the lowest level in ten years. Of the 9,455 initial decisions, 885 (9%) resulted in receiving refugee status and 1,540 (16%) were granted exceptional leave to remain. 74% were rejected, many on grounds of non-compliance, that is for procedural reasons, without examining the merits of their case. This explains why the number of appeals received by adjudicators reached a record level of 11,890. Asylum seekers are required to fill-in a statement of evidence form (SEF) comprising 19 pages with some 120 questions which deals essentially with reasons for seeking protection in the UK. Regardless of whether the applicant knows any English at all, the SEF must be completed in English and is available in English only. From the moment a SEF is issued, an asylum seeker has no more than 14 days to fill it in completely and accurately. If s/he fails to do so, his/her application will be rejected on grounds of non-compliance and s/he may stop receiving benefits. Even if it is filled in correctly and submitted in time, the applicant has to make sure to get a receipt since it is not rare that application forms get lost in the Home Office. Last year the number of asylum applications rejected on grounds of non-compliance reached an all-time record that exceeded the total of the seven previous years.
Immigration officials have special powers to discriminate against certain foreigners who arrive in the UK to prevent them from seeking asylum
As from 2 May 2001, immigration officers have special powers to discriminate against categories of foreigners without running the risk of being sued for racist behaviour. This measure was, in fact, planned by the Home Office more than one and a half years ago and was introduced without much publicity, into the Race Relations Act to provide the necessary legal safeguards. It was included in a series of new amendments to the 1976 Act, which came into force in April 2001. The Minister then responsible for immigration, Barbara Roche, informed that immigration officers would be allowed to put tough questions to certain foreigners. She named Afghans, Sri Lankan Tamils, Somalis, Kurds, East Europeans of Romani origin, Albanians, Pontic Greeks, as well as people of Chinese ethnic origin travelling on Malaysian or Japanese passports.
Ms Roche said that these foreigners were included in a list which would be reviewed every month. They constituted a large majority of people applying for political asylum. The new powers will allow immigration officials to carry out intensive interrogation before deciding on whether to grant entry. The Home Office stressed that the merits of the asylum claims would continue to be examined. The aim is to deny entry to “ bogus asylum seekers” and have them quickly expelled on board the same plane or vessel on which they arrived. An asylum application can be lodged only when the person has entered the country. It is most doubtful whether the new powers would serve the announced aims and would probably lead to unnecessary and obnoxious interrogations of many innocent travellers. On the other hand, it could have served another purpose, that of being a “public relations” measure to ensure the public that the Labour Government was taking serious steps to prevent the entry of “bogus asylum seekers” before the General Elections of 7 June 2001 . For example, in the case of the Chinese asylum seekers travelling on forged passports, Heathrow Airport is undoubtedly huge enough for them to take a long rest before presenting themselves at the immigration control desk after disembarking from their flight. There is then a wealth of opportunities to get rid of the forged passports and travel documents before presenting themselves at the immigration control desk, with or without their real passports. Besides, it is not rare that a facilitator travels with them on board the same flight so as to collect their travel documents which can then be used or sold again. As a matter of fact, the only way to ensure that undesirable foreigners are expelled on board the same means of transport which brought them to the country is to carry out interrogations at the point of disembarkation, that is as soon as the passengers leave the aircraft. Some countries are known to have already instituted this practice many years ago, such as Spain and especially Germany (Migration New Sheet/June 2001).
Secret U-turn to send Kurds back. Asylum refusal rate soars after change of practice by Home Office
According to a Guardian Article of 25/04/2001, the government decided to order Iraqi Kurds seeking refuge from their war-torn country out of Britain. The Home Office has admitted to an unannounced change of practice in the way it assesses asylum claims from Iraqi Kurds who say they are fleeing Saddam Hussein and conflict in the region. This has led to a dramatic increase in the refusal rate. In February, 78% of Iraqi applicants were refused asylum or exceptional leave to remain, compared with 14% in July 2000. The refusals peaked in October when 91.4% of those seeking asylum were ordered out of Britain. On 24 April Amnesty International accused the government of putting its efforts to clamp down on asylum claims ahead of its duties under international guidelines to shield people fleeing persecution. The Home Office says part of northern Iraq, which it calls the Kurdish autonomous area, is safe for the asylum seekers, as it is under control of Kurdish groups. But in some cases Iraqis from outside the safe area are being ordered out of Britain. In one case a man who says he was tortured after defying President Saddam was told that Jack Straw, the home secretary, regarded his case as one of prosecution not persecution and his arrest as having a valid cause. Some of the Iraqis ordered out of Britain say they will commit suicide rather than be sent back. Critics say the change in policy is hypocritical, considering that Britain joined the US in bombing Iraq in January, citing as a justification the continuing danger its leader poses. The deportations cannot be enforced yet as there are no direct flights to the parts of Iraq not controlled by President Saddam. Control of northern Iraq falls between three groups, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Islamic Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan. Some of those refused asylum say they are fleeing these groups.
Asylum seekers could be trained as teachers, doctors and nurses to fill a gap in services
In Scotland, Glasgow City chiefs and the NHS Primary Care Trust are conducting an audit of all the refugees and asylum seekers in the city to establish what skills and qualifications they have. It is then hoped they can be retrained to fill the city's massive shortage in those fields. The plan was put forward as the Scottish Asylum Seekers Consortium (SASC) launched a campaign to raise awareness of the refugees' plight. Together with Glasgow City Council, which houses some 3500 asylum seekers, they have launched a website in a bid to explode the myths surrounding the new arrivals. Jim Laird, manager of the consortium, said: "There are a lot of people within the refugee community that are very highly skilled, incredibly well qualified and very eager to share their skills. "They want to put something back into the country and we are presently trying to establish what skills they have”.
The position of aliens in relation to the European Convention on Human Rights, Human Rights File No.8 revised, 2001
This study examines the standards of treatment afforded to aliens under the European Convention on Human Rights and examines the concept of alienage under specific provisions of the Convention as well as in Strasbourg's case-law. It is available from Council of Europe Publishing - 67075 Strasbourg Cedex, e-mail : .
Its ISBN is: 92-871-4618-7
The International Helsinki Federation has published its new report on Human Rights in the OSCE Region: The Balkans, the Caucasus, Europe, Central Asia and North America, Report 2001
It can be accessed at . Excerpt from the Introduction: “In the year 2000, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) engaged in the broadest and most comprehensive program of human rights monitoring and advocacy in the history of the organization. Large-scale project grants from the European Union and the Ford Foundation, with other funds donated by national Governments, the Council of Europe and other sources, made it possible for us to undertake regional programs in which many Helsinki Committees and other NGOs participated. Included in the Report is a list of the main activities of the IHF that illustrates, in a cursory way, our efforts over the past year…”
Amnesty International’s Annual Report was published on 31 May 2001
Among other things, Britain’s treatment of refugees is attacked in this report. It describes an “alarming shortfall” in access to legal advice to dispersed asylum seekers, many of whom have been sent to areas where the local people have no experience of living with them. Amnesty also condemns what it calls negative media coverage. The full report may be found at:
New BMA handbook says routine prison detention abuses the human rights of asylum seekers
At the end of April 2001, the British
Medical Association launched a new handbook on human rights for doctors. The
Medical Profession and Human Rights: Handbook for a Changing Agenda, to be
, has been written for both domestic and international audiences. It looks at the wide variety of human rights violations that doctors may encounter and at practical steps doctors can take to prevent, detect, deter and publicize abuse. The BMA's publication deplores the hardening of attitudes towards asylum seekers in this country. The BMA is opposed to the detention of asylum seekers and to the voucher scheme and is strongly critical of the way the dispersal of asylum seekers has been managed.
UNESCO has published on the Internet a database of more than 600 human rights research and training institutions world-wide. This database is the electronic version of the World Directory of Human Rights Research and Training Institutions. Searches on the database may be performed in English, French and Spanish. An overview of the state of ratifications, successions and adhesions to human rights instruments as well as membership of the United Nations, UNESCO and major regional organizations is available in English and French. The database is available at:
ECRE DOCUMENTATION SERVICE
A new ELENA Network has been established in Denmark. The Network, the purpose of which is to inform lawyers about the latest news and jurisprudence in the area of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as to arrange seminars on different subjects within the refugee area, will be coordinated by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and lawyer Hannah Krog. The Network is supported by special funding.
The first edition of a Newsletter has been published, containing the latest information about the jurisprudence from the Refugee Appeals Board as well as information from the ECRE Documentation Service. The Newsletter will be sent out via e-mail every two months.
In the forthcoming year, the Danish ELENA Network will not only be a focal point for the Asylum Department, but also one of the main fields of interest for the whole DRC.
UN COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
Communications Nos 130/1999 and 131/1999: Sweden. 02/09/2000. CAT/C/24/D/130 & 131/1999.
The authors of this communications are two Vietnamese nationals who came to Sweden as quota refugees and subsequently received refugee status and permanent residence permits in 1991 and 1992 respectively, but were later sentenced to imprisonment under Swedish law followed by permanent expulsion. The authors, who had both been imprisoned and subjected to torture in Vietnam during the 1980s for opposing the Communist government, submitted that they would be at risk of torture if returned to Vietnam and that their forced return to that country would therefore constitute a violation by Sweden of article 3 of the Convention.
Sweden submitted that the communication should be declared inadmissible, claiming that the cases of the authors had already been examined by UNHCR to ascertain whether or not an expulsion would be compatible with the State party’s obligations under the 1951 Convention.
Regarding the admissibility, the Committee noted that neither the 1951 Refugee Convention nor the Statute of UNHCR provides for the establishment of a procedure of international investigation or settlement, and further considered that a written opinion or advice given by a regional or international body on a matter of interpretation of international law in relation to a particular case does not imply that the matter has been subject to international investigation or settlement.
In its consideration of the merits of the communications, the Committee considered the authors’ activities in Vietnam and their history of detention and torture relevant in deciding whether they could be in danger of being subjected to torture upon return. However, notwithstanding these facts, as well as the human rights situation in Vietnam, the Committee concluded that the facts found as presented did not reveal a breach of article 3 of the Convention. Reference was made to the considerable time that had elapsed since the escape of the authors, and the fact that the illegal departure from Vietnam in the mid-1980s is no longer considered an offence by the Vietnamese authorities. The Committee also noted that the issue of whether a State party has an obligation to refrain from expelling a person who might risk pain or suffering inflicted by a private person without the consent or acquiescence of the State falls outside the scope of article 3.
Communication No 107/1998: Switzerland. 04/07/2000. CAT/C/23/D/107/1998.
The author of this communication is a Turkish citizen of Kurdish ethnic origin who had his request for asylum in Switzerland rejected by the Appeal Commission for Asylum Matters (CRA) in January 1998, and therefore was at risk of being expelled. He submitted that his forced return to Turkey would constitute a violation by Switzerland of article 3 of the Convention.
The State Party’s observations on the admissibility and merits of the communication focused on a wide range of discrepancies, which the authorities had found to exist during their interviews with the author. These discrepancies concerned inter alia the author’s profession, the circumstances surrounding a request to make shoes for the PKK, and dates and duration of an arrest in 1994, elements argued by the State party to relate to the grounds for the persecution to which the author was allegedly subjected by the authorities.
The Committee did not consider the inconsistencies and contradictions highlighted by the State Party undermining the truthfulness of his allegations to be of such a nature as to be relevant for the assessment of the risk that the author might face if he was returned. However, the Committee, noting that the events that prompted his departure from Turkey dated back to 1995, concluded that the author had failed to show that he would risk torture upon return to Turkey. The Committee also noted with concern the numerous reports concerning the use of torture in Turkey, but did not consider that the foreseeable, real and personal risk of being tortured, required for the purposes of article 3 of the Convention, had been established. Thus, it concluded that the decision of the State party to return the author to Turkey did not constitute a breach of article 3 of the Convention.
Committee Against Torture expresses concern about long-term detention of undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers in Greece
On 18 May 2001, the CAT concluded its twenty-sixth session. In the report on Greece (CAT/C/XXVI/Concl.2/Rev.1, 8 May 2001), the Committee expressed concern about evidence that the police sometimes use excessive or unjustifiable force in carrying out their duties when dealing with ethnic and national minorities and foreigners and the harsh conditions and long-term detention of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers awaiting deportation. The Committee specifically referred to the practice of long-term detention in police stations without adequate facilities, the severe overcrowding in prisons which aggravated the already sub-standard material conditions and which might contribute to inter-prisoner-violence, and the lack of comprehensive training of medical personnel and law enforcement officers at all levels on the provisions of the Convention.
The Committee recommended that urgent measures be taken to improve conditions in police stations and prisons and that undocumented migrants and asylum seekers who had not been convicted of a criminal offence not be held for long periods in such institutions; and that such measures as were necessary to prevent overcrowding of prisons should be taken as well as continuing steps to find alternative penalties to imprisonment and to ensure their effective implementation.
See also the Balkans Human Rights Web Page by The Greek Helsinki Monitor, where a website devoted to the CAT review of Greece during the 26th session is available:
COUNCIL OF EUROPE
On 25 April 2001, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted Recommendation 1510, entitled ‘Humanitarian situation of returnees to Kosovo’. (Text available at:
On 27 June 2001, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted Recommendation 1525, entitled ‘UNHCR and the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Convention’. (Text (provisional edition) is available on: ). For more information, see Policy Developments section.
European Court of Human Rights
Discrimination of Greek Cypriots in northern Cyprus considered tantamount to degrading treatment
In the case of Cyprus v Turkey, (Judgement of 10 May 2001, Application no. 25781/94), the Court found that with regard to the living conditions of Greek Cypriots in the Karpas region of northern Cyprus there had been a violation of Article 3 in that this group had been subjected to discrimination amounting to degrading treatment.
The Court observed in this connection that the Karpas Greek-Cypriot population was compelled to live in a situation of isolation and that its members were controlled and restricted in their movements and had no prospect of renewing or developing their community. For the Court, the conditions under which the population was condemned to live were debasing and violated the very notion of respect for the human dignity of its members. The discriminatory treatment attained a level of severity that amounted to degrading treatment.
European Court for Human Rights declares case concerning an expulsion of Slovak Romany family from Belgium partly admissible
On 13 March 2001, the European Court of Human Rights declared the case of Conka v. Belgium partly admissible. The case concerns an application brought by four Slovakian nationals of Romany origin who left Slovakia in November 1998 for Belgium, where they applied for asylum on account of repeated attacks allegedly carried out by skinheads. On 18 June 1999, their applications were declared inadmissible by the General Commission for Refugees and Stateless Persons and they were ordered to leave Belgium within five days. On 3 August 1999, the applicants applied to the Conseil d’Etat for judicial review of the General Commission’s decisions, while also seeking an ordinary stay of execution. At the end of September 1999, the Ghent police summoned several dozen Slovakian Romany families, including the applicants, to report to them on 1 October 1999 so that missing information could be added to the files on their asylum applications. Once they were inside the police headquarters, the Conkas were served with orders to leave the Belgian territory, as well as with warrants for their arrest. Together with other Romany families, they were then taken to the closed transit centre Steenokkerzeel near Brussels. On 5 October, they were escorted onto an aircraft that left Belgium for Slovakia, carrying 74 Romani refugees who had been refused asylum.
The applicants’ complaint concerns the arrest on 1 October 1999, and in particular the fact that it took place after they had been summoned to report to the police. Furthermore, they argue that they had not been given sufficient information about the reasons for their arrest, as well as that they had been victims of a ‘collective expulsion of aliens’. The Court declared admissible the applicants’ complaints under Article 5 §§ 1, 2 and 4 (right to liberty and security) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and Article 4 of Protocol No. 4 (prohibition of collective expulsions of aliens).
European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT)
Recent visit by the CPT to Switzerland included examinations of detention facilities and expulsion procedures
In the beginning of February 2001, a delegation of the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) carried out an eleven-day visit to Switzerland within the framework of its programme of periodic visits for the year 2001. This was the Committee's third visit to Switzerland, the previous visits having taken place in 1991 and 1996.
During its visit, the delegation followed up a certain number of issues examined during the two previous visits. It visited for the first time detention facilities of the Border Guards Corps, and also examined in detail the procedures and means of restraint applied in the course of expulsions by air of foreign nationals at Zürich-Kloten International Airport.
Further information can be obtained from the CPT's Internet Site.
Constitutional Court rules on the interpretation of provision implementing the Dublin Convention
In a judgment on 8 March 2001, the Austrian Constitutional Court ruled that Art. 5 of the Asylum Act, which implements the provisions of the Dublin Convention, does not violate the Austrian Constitutional Law. The complaint against the provision in Art 5 was on the grounds that expulsion orders issued under this provision were not subject to examination concerning risk of refoulement. This was rejected by the Court.
Administrative Court rules on Persecution by Non-State Agents in Kosovo
In this case (VwGH Erkenntnis 2000/01/0348, 4 April 2001), referring to the Administrative Court’s decision of 6 March 2001 (Zl. 2000/01/0056), the Court held that the change of circumstances in Kosovo does not necessarily imply that asylum applications submitted by people originating from Kosovo should be rejected. The Court argued that asylum could be granted to such persons on other grounds that relate to the present security authority (United Nations), in particular if the latter is not able to prevent persecution, relevant to the granting of asylum, by third parties.
The Independent Federal Asylum Review Board (UBAS) does not consider the Czech Republic and Hungary safe third countries
In several decisions, the Independent Federal Asylum Review Board (UBAS) has decided that the Czech Republic and Hungary cannot be considered safe third countries, the reason being restrictions on access to asylum procedures and shortcomings in procedural guarantees. On the Czech Republic, see decisions of 1 December 2000 (No.: 213.907/ 0-X/28/99) and of 22 January 2001 (No.: 206.291/12-III/07/00). On Hungary, see decision of 28 December 2000 (No.: 219.844/10-II/ 04/00).
Proposed amendment of safe third country clause in the Austrian Asylum Act
(See policy developments section)
Australian woman seeks refugee status on the ground of belonging to a ‘social group’
An Australian citizen who endured years of physical and sexual abuse in her home country has claimed refugee status in Canada on the ground of belonging to a persecuted social group - women.
The woman in this case is an Australian citizen, who had been battered and sexually assaulted by several men since the age of 14. In November 1997 she went to Canada and was granted refugee status after members of the Immigration and Refugee Board decided she had a well-founded fear of persecution by her former husband and his brother.
At the age of nine, she was placed in state care after suffering beatings and molestation at the hands of her alcoholic mother's boyfriends and her biological father, but later went to live with a married sister. She left after being raped by her brother-in-law. At 19, she married and moved to New Zealand, but soon she found herself enduring beatings again. In 1990, her husband was deported to Australia from Utah, where they then lived, after being convicted of aggravated assault charges stemming from an especially violent attack on his wife. Before he left, he threatened to kill her and her family, and continued to send her threatening letters. This left the woman determined to leave behind her life of dependency and abuse. In 1995, she completed a university degree and tried to obtain residency in the United States, where she hoped to raise her children. But her application failed and she returned reluctantly to New Zealand.
Soon after arriving, she began receiving threatening telephone calls from her former husband. He had located her, she learned, by inquiring through a church they once attended. Faced with the prospect of endless intimidation, the family left for Canada in 1997 where she and applied for and was granted asylum on the ground that her former husband had persecuted her by reason of her membership in a particular social group, the group being women.
However, in a recent decision, the Federal Court of Canada delayed a decision on her appeal, saying that the board must consider whether the Australian government could protect her. The Court, noting the crucial importance of the issue of state protection in determining whether an asylum claim is well founded, sent the case back for a rehearing.
(Source: ‘Australian woman seeks refugee status’, the National Post, 14 may, 2001.)
Czech Government approves amendment to the asylum law aimed at tightening up procedures and preventing ‘abuse’ of the right to seek asylum
(See Policy developments section)
Parliament approves bill aimed at detaining asylum-seekers guilty of petty offences
(See Policy developments section)
Parliament adopts new Bill related to administrative detention centres
Décret no 2001-236 du 19 mars 2001 relatif aux centres et locaux de rétention administrative, J.O. Numéro 67 du 20 Mars 2001.
See also ANAFÉ’s recent publication Zones d’attente : en marge de l’Etat de droit, April 2001 below under publications.
Ruling of the Supreme Court of Appeal implies same conditions of remand for unaccompanied minors as for adults
In a ruling on 2 May 2001, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that holding an unaccompanied minor in remand for more than four days did not amount to a violation of the rights of the child.
This ruling puts an end to an ambiguous situation in which judges had given different interpretations of the provisions of the Aliens Law concerning the holding in remand in a so-called waiting zone of foreigners arriving by air or by sea and refused entry.
The case concerns a 16-year old Nigerian girl who arrived unaccompanied on 11 January 2001 from Abidjan. After spending four days in the ‘waiting zone’ in the airport of Roissy, Paris, a judge authorised an extension of eight days. On 16 February, the Court of Appeal of Bobigny ordered her release on the grounds that as a minor she could not defend her rights nor initiate a legal challenge of the decision to hold her in remand. It also stated that she should have been granted the protection of legal aid.
This decision was appealed by both the prefecture of Seine-Saint Denis and the Ministry of Interior. The Supreme Court of Appeal did not share the opinion of the Advocate-General that foreign children should benefit from the same legal guarantees as French citizens of their age and that they were entitled to protection and special assistance from the State, thus benefiting from a right of entry into France. The Supreme Court of Appeal pointed out that by basing it’s ruling on the absence of legal counselling for the child, the Court of Appeal had “[a]dded to the law a provision which was not foreseen”. In its view, the present law in force is adequate to deal with the situation of foreigners who are minors.
This ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal has been condemned by human rights groups, who argue that it has created a distinction between minors who are French nationals and those who are foreigners. Meanwhile, a Bill aimed at providing minors held in remand with a provisional tutor and a lawyer to give them the juridical capacity to act in a court of law is currently pending.
(Source: Migration News Sheet, June 2001)
Federal Administrative Court rules on the issue of internal protection alternative for Kurds from Northern Iraq
In a judgment on 16 January 2001 (BverwG 9 C 15.00), the Federal Administrative Court held that an internal protection alternative can only be considered if the asylum seeker can be reasonably expected to access the safe areas in fact. If the asylum seeker can access the safe territories from abroad (i.e. another foreign country), then there is no need for protection by granting asylum. The Court held that the temporary non-accessibility of safe areas, e.g. because interrupted traffic/road connections or manageable difficulties in obtaining travel documents, is irrelevant to the issue of granting asylum and remitted the case back to the (lower) Administrative Court of Munich because the latter had not sufficiently examined whether asylum seekers might receive a substitute passport for transit purposes by the German authorities without involving the Iraqi authorities, which would be accepted by the Turkish authorities in order to access Northern Iraq. In several recent decisions, the Administrative Court of Munich has held that Kurds from Northern Iraq can obtain substitute travel documents by the German authorities that will be accepted as a transit visa by the Turkish authorities in order to access Northern Iraq.
Chechen fighter granted refugee status on the ground of belonging to a ‘social group’
On 3 October 2000, the Migration Department granted refugee status to a Chechen who participated in both wars in Chechnya, 1994-1996 and 1999 respectively. He had been put on the ‘black list’ of wanted persons, and had been tortured in a so-called filtration camp. Refugee status was granted on the ground that he arguably belonged to a particular social group being persecuted in the Russian Federation.
New Aliens Act aimed at accelerating and simplifying the asylum procedure entered into force on 1 April
On 1 April 2001, the new Aliens Act (Act 2000) entered into force. Aimed at simplifying the asylum procedure, the new Act introduces several changes. It strictly divides the procedures for ‘regular aliens’ from those of asylum seekers. Furthermore, while the old Act allowed for the granting of several different statuses, the new Act leaves only one permit to be obtained, although the grounds on which asylum seekers can be admitted to the Netherlands remain the same as under the old Aliens Act. It also introduces a new residence permit for a fixed term, which can be replaced after three years by one of unlimited duration.
Procedural changes include giving the Immigration Service (IND) the possibility to freeze decision-making for a period of up to one year under certain circumstances, for example in situations of mass-influx or during a period when it is unclear how the situation in a country will develop, as well as the introduction of a so-called ‘intention-procedure’ during which the asylum seeker is given a possibility to respond before the actual decision is taken. Appeals of rejected asylum applications will, under the new Act, be handled by the Council of State. The new Act also introduces a mechanism that will facilitate the removal of asylum seekers upon denial of their asylum applications (the so-called ‘more-enclosing decision’), as well as several mechanisms to facilitate the rejection of asylum claims in relation to the concept of safe third countries.
Please find attached a more comprehensive summary of the changes brought about by the new Aliens Act, written by Diederik Pomstra from the Dutch Refugee Council. (annex L030101)
High Court ruling on the meaning of persecution
In its judgment Q v. Refugee Status Appeals Authority on 24 October 2000, the High Court ruled on the issue of whether a low level of police interest in the plaintiff could amount to persecution where this could involve an infringement of the plaintiff's freedom of thought and opinion.
The case concerned a Vietnamese citizen who had been twice visited by police officers for criticising the Vietnamese government to a small circle of friends and was warned that he might be interrogated if he continued in that manner. His parents were warned for disseminating similar views. They in turn had warned the plaintiff he would be questioned on his return to Vietnam. The Refugee Status Appeals Authority (RSAA) found that while the Vietnamese government restricted privacy rights and freedom of speech, the plaintiff's comments would not attract serious interest or severe penalties, and that the low level of interest of the police fell well below a level of harm that could be described as persecution. Subsequently, the application for judicial review was dismissed.
The plaintiff argued that any actual or threatened state action that inhibited the free and open exercise of a basic human right, if only through the creation of a climate of fear and duress, must in terms amount to persecution. He submitted that the Authority was wrong in law in implicitly adopting a restricted definition of persecution so as to preclude itself from fully considering the merits of the plaintiff's case.
Noting that a breach of human rights by the state may carry a presumption of persecution depending on the circumstances of the case, the High Court judge ruled that it must surely go too far to suggest that every such breach per se would amount to persecution. Subsequently, it was argued that it was not necessary for the Authority in this case to scope the meaning of ‘persecution’ or provide some exhaustive definition of the term in order to dispose properly of the matter before it. It was enough that the Authority found, after reviewing the nature of the police action and the circumstances of the country, that the level of interrogation to which the plaintiff was likely to be exposed was not likely to amount to persecution in terms of the Convention. Concluding that the plaintiff had not made out grounds to justify review, the proceedings were therefore dismissed.
Supreme Court suspends expulsion order of Nigerian asylum-seeker
In a ruling made public on 10 April 2001, the Supreme Court suspended an expulsion order issued by the High Court to a Nigerian national before having his asylum application processed, an order which gave the applicant 15 days to leave Spain.
Without prejudging the merits of the applicant’s asylum claim, the Supreme Court ruled that he was entitled to provisional protection pending the outcome of his application, given that the situation in Nigeria, as he had described it, was “well-known and notorious”. In its decision, the Supreme Court referred to the present political situation in Nigeria and to the repression suffered by the ethnic group Ogoni, to which the applicant belongs, after the coup d’état in 1993. The Supreme Court also stressed the fact that the applicant was from the military and a member of the Ogoni ethnic group, which it stated had been “[s]ubjected to torture and killings of all kinds […]” in response to their demands for more political autonomy, as well as that the applicant had had to abandon his country following the coup d’état.
(Source: Migration News Sheet, May 2001)
UK practice on Iraqi Kurds
The Home Office considers that the part of northern Iraq, referred to as the Kurdish autonomous area, is safe for the return of asylum seekers as it is under the control of Kurdish groups. However, there are cases where Iraqis from outside the safe area are being ordered out of Britain. In one case, a man who says he was tortured after defying President Saddam was told that Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, regarded his case as one of prosecution rather than persecution and his arrest as having a valid cause.
For more information on UK practice on Iraqi Kurds, see Policy developments section.
The Court of Appeal considers the 1951 Convention insufficient for protecting absolute or partial conscientious objectors
In the case of Yasin Sepet v Secretary of State for the Home Department and Erdem Bulbul v Secretary of State for the Home Department on 11 May 2001, the Court of Appeal ruled that conscientious objectors are excluded from the scope of protection guaranteed under the 1951 Convention.
The case concerns asylum applications by two Kurds on the ground that they feared persecution and would be arrested and imprisoned in Turkey for opposing military conscription. Their objection to performing military service was based on their political beliefs and on the likelihood that once in the Turkish Army they would be compelled to fight against their fellow Kurds rather than on a fundamental conviction to refrain from taking up arms. These arguments were subsequently rejected by both the Home Secretary, the special adjudicator and by the Immigration Appeal Tribunal (IAT). In rejecting the applications, the IAT stated that it was not sufficient for the appellants to show that they may be sent to the south-east [of Turkey]”, but that they, wherever they go, must show that “[t]hey are likely to have to perform military service in a way that would involve taking or being closely involved in actions offending the basic rules of human conduct.” The tribunal, drawing a distinction between ‘absolute’ and ‘partial’ conscientious objectors, found that the applicants were excluded because their aversion to killing Kurds was discriminatory.
The basic question raised by the applicant’s lawyers in this case was whether there is an internationally recognised fundamental right to refuse to undertake military service on grounds of conscience, and if so, whether such a right applied alike to cases of absolute and partial conscientious objection.
The majority view of the Court was that there is no core entitlement in international law to conscientious objection, but notice was taken of an “emerging human rights norm” and an absence of a decisive authority on article 9 of the European Convention. The fact that the majority came to a directly opposite finding to the dissenting minority regarding the basic question means that this matter will require further scrutiny. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeals.
Court of Appeal rules that the designation of Pakistan as a safe country of origin lacked justification
On 17 May, the Court of Appeal ruled in the case of Secretary of State for the Home Department v Javed that the Minister of Interior Jack Straw had erred in law and acted irrationally in including Pakistan in the so-called ‘white list’ of countries designated as ‘safe’. This judgment was only a judicial review of Mr Straw’s decision, and it did not therefore examine the merits of the applicants’ asylum applications.
The case concerns three Pakistanis whose asylum applications were rejected in accordance with the accelerated procedure since their home country was considered as safe. Under the accelerated procedure, there is only one possibility for judicial review as opposed to two under the normal procedure.
Specifically referring to the position of women and the persecution of the Ahmadi minority, the Court argued that the inclusion of Pakistan in the ‘white list’ was “irrational” and lacked justification, and that the three deportation orders were invalid. Accordingly, it ordered that the three cases be re-examined by a new special immigration adjudicator.
Although the ‘white list’ was abolished in October last year, this ruling could benefit up to 6,000 Pakistani asylum seekers who arrived in the UK between October 1996 and October 1999, when General Pervez Musharraf seized power in a bloodless military coup.
Court of Appeal considers re-certification of Germany as a safe third country unlawful
In the case of Regina (Zeqiri) v Secretary of State for the Home Department on 12 March 2001, the Court of Appeal considered a decision by the Home Secretary to remove Kosovan asylum seekers unlawful. This case concerned an application for judicial review by an Albanian asylum seeker from Kosovo of the decision by the Home Secretary in November 2000 to maintain an earlier issued certificate that declared Germany as a safe third country.
The applicant’s application for judicial review was stayed pending the outcome of R v Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Besnik Gashi, an application treated as a test case. In that case, the Court of Appeal established that the issuance of a certificate of satisfaction that Germany was a safe third country was unlawful, because he had failed to investigate a statistical disparity between the results of asylum applications in the UK and Germany. This decision was considered unlawful in relation to all Albanian Kosovans. As the Secretary of State had not investigated the reason for this disparity, he had not been in a position to decide that Germany was in fact a safe third country and therefore acted unlawfully in issuing removal certificates. Before the test case appeal was abandoned, circumstances changed so as to allow certification of Germany. In November 1999, he decided to permit Besnik Gashi's application for asylum to be substantively determined in this country. The Home Secretary therefore abandoned the appeal and ordered the return of the applicants to Germany.
The applicant in this case challenged the decision, claiming that the delay of cases to allow the test case to proceed created a legitimate expectation that was not respected by the review. In its judgment, the Court of Appeal stated that although the change of circumstances entitled the Home Secretary to re-certify that Germany was a safe third country, he nevertheless acted unlawfully in deciding to remove Albanian Kosovan asylum seekers, since to do so was contrary to the asylum seeker’s legitimate expectation (arising from the test case of Gashi) that his application would be substantively determined in the UK.
The Court of Appeal rules that the promotion of terrorism against any state from within the UK can justify deportation on grounds of national interests
In the case Secretary of State for the Home Department v Rehman on 23 May 2000, concerning the deportation of a Pakistani national on grounds of national interests because of his involvement with an Islamic terrorist organisation, the Court of Appeal held that the promotion of terrorism against any state from within the United Kingdom could constitute a threat to national security.
In its judgment, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision by the Secretary of State for the Home Department to make a deportation order on the grounds that it would be conducive to the public good in the interests of national security under the Immigration Act 1971, and thus ruled against the decision of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission on 20 August 1999, where it was held that a deportation could not be carried out in the interests of national security because his alleged activities, which it found not to be proved, were not targeted against the UK or its citizens.
As the basis for its decision to remit the appeal to the Commission for re-determination, the Court stated that the security of one country was increasingly dependent upon the security of other countries and that the promotion of terrorism against any state therefore was capable of being a threat to the national security of a particular country. Ruling that the approach of the Commission was flawed in so far as it required the conduct relied on by the Secretary of State to be targeted on this country or its citizens, the Court of Appeal noted that “[i]n any national security case the Secretary of State was entitled to make a decision to deport not only on the basis that the individual had in fact endangered national security but that he was a danger to national security. When the case was being put in that way, it was necessary not to look only at the individual allegations and ask whether they had been proved. It was also necessary to examine the case as a whole and then ask whether on a global approach that individual was a danger to national security, taking into account the executive's policy with regard to national security. When that was done, the cumulative effect might establish that the individual was to be treated as a danger, although it could not be proved to a high degree of probability that he had performed any individual act which would justify that conclusion.”
The construction of the concept of ‘particular social group’ considered in the context of landowners in Colombia
In the case of Secretary of State for the Home Department v Wilson Hernan Lopez Montoya on 27 April 2000, the Immigration and Appeals Tribunal (IAT) stated that landowners in Colombia were, as a group, inadequately protected, but held that because it would be possible for a landowner to divest himself of his real property, he would fail to satisfy the requirement of ‘immutable characteristics’.
This decision, an appeal by the Secretary of State against a decision where a Colombian landowner was found being persecuted as a member of a particular social group, is yet another determination designed to offer guidance to adjudicators on the construction of the concept of particular social group (PSG).
Court of Appeal critical of the Tribunal’s assessment of future risk for a Roma facing serious harm in the past
In the case of Katrinak v Secretary of State for the Home Department (2001 EWCA Civ 832), the Court of Appeal criticised the Tribunal for failing to properly approach the future risk of persecution to a Czech Rom who had faced serious harm in the past. It also made important comments as to the meaning of persecution, stressing that it was to be assessed by subjective criteria, and that a person could be persecuted by way of serious ill-treatment to other members of their family. The Court of Appeal subsequently remitted the case back to the Tribunal for re-determination.
(Source: the Refugee Legal Centre’s (RLC) ‘Legal Bulletin’, no. 94, 15 June 2001)
Administrative Court ruling on the safety of Germany for Tamil asylum seekers
In the case of R v Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Yogathas (2001 EWHC Admin 377), the Administrative Court found that a challenge to the German approach to the ‘internal flight’ question could not be sustained on the facts of that particular case since it did not present any special features that might have caused any of the differences in approach to have a special significance. Therefore, the application for judicial review was dismissed.
(Source: Refugee Legal Centre’s ‘Legal Bulletin’, no. 94, 15 June 2001)
Key ruling by the IAT on the approach to article 8 of the ECHR
In the case of Nhundu and Chiwera v Secretary of State for the Home Department on 1 June 2001, the Immigration and Appeals Tribunal (IAT) delivered a key ruling on the approach to ECHR article 8 cases, stressing the extra-territorial effect of the right to private and family life in the context of a decision proposing removal of two appellants to Zimbabve.
In this case, the Tribunal dismissed the appeals against the determination of the adjudicator, stating that while their return would involve a degree of hardship, it would not give rise to insurmountable obstacles such as would cause a violation of article 8.
(Source: the Refugee Legal Centre’s ‘Legal Bulletin’, no. 94, 15 June 2001)
Racial discrimination of Roma citizens of the Czech Republic not considered tantamount to persecution by the IAT
In the case of Olga Puzova, Marcela Kolkakova, Stansilav Kolcak, Pavel Milko and Robert Cikos v Secretary of State for the Home Department, 9 March 2001, the Immigration and Appeals Tribunal did not consider the level of discrimination complained of as generally persecutory. Referring to the case of Horvath, discrimination and Hathaway’s level 3 rights and skinhead violence, the Tribunal stated that the Czech state is not unwilling to classify crimes as racially motivated, and can therefore not be said to be unwilling or unable to provide the level of protection based on the ‘Horvath test’. The Tribunal, being satisfied that none of the applicants could succeed before it on the basis that the Roma minority in the Czech Republic have a well-founded fear of persecution by reason of their race whether the areas of discrimination and the feared harm are viewed individually or cumulatively, dismissed each of the five appeals. In addition to several authorities and reports, the applicants had relied on three determinations in which Czech Roma had been successful. According to the Tribunal, these decisions were not authority for any general proposition.
This decision is limited to the question of claims based only on race or ethnicity, where the level of discrimination had not crossed the threshold of severity necessary to qualify as persecution.
United States of America
U.S. Supreme Court rules on the Attorney General’s authority to detain asylum seekers where removal is no longer foreseeable
In a judgment in the case of Zadvydas v. Davis (99-7791) on 28 June 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the issue of whether the authorization to detain beyond the removal period under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is subject to the implied, nontextual limitation that the detention be no longer than reasonably necessary to effect removal to another country, i.e. whether aliens, that the Government finds itself unable to remove, are to be condemned to an indefinite term of imprisonment within the United States.
The Supreme Court held that “[o]nce an alien enters the country, the legal circumstance changes, for the Due Process Clause applies to all ‘persons’ within the United States, including aliens, whether their presence here is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent.” With regard to the issue of interpreting the relevant provisions in the INA, the Court held that it had not found anything “[i]n the history of these statutes that clearly demonstrates a congressional intent to authorize indefinite, perhaps permanent, detention. Consequently, interpreting the statute to avoid a serious constitutional threat, we conclude that, once removal is no longer reasonably foreseeable, continued detention is no longer authorized by statute [italics added].”
For details, see the Opinion of the Court (including the two dissenting opinions by Judges Scali and Kennedy), available on:
Asylum Granted to Spanish Gypsy Woman victim of Domestic Violence
On 10 April 2001, a Spanish Gypsy woman who had fled a 7-year abusive marriage and sought asylum in Pennsylvania in the USA, was granted refugee status by a Judge who described her situation in her community as similar to being ‘enslaved’. The woman had suffered numerous incidents of physical abuse, including sexual assault, being poured on with boiling water and kicked by her husband. She had been ‘pulled out of school in the 5th grade’ and was married in an arranged marriage at the age of 15 in which she reportedly had been beaten on a number of occasions.
Despite her ordeal, the woman was told by Gypsy elders (known as ‘patriarchas’) to return to her husband. The Gypsy Council, the lawmaking body of the community, was all male and did not allow her to speak. If she had, she said that her father would have beaten her. After a suicide attempt, she got help to go to the USA.
The woman’s legal representatives claimed persecution based on ethnicity, imputed political opinion or social group, which they defined as ‘Gypsy women’ or ‘Gypsy women who reject male domination or immediate family’. Whilst the Judge did not clarify which definition of a social group he adopted, he ruled that her treatment was tantamount to slavery and rose to the level of persecution. The Judge also stated that the evidence provided showed that, as a member of a Gypsy community, the woman could not have sought protection from the Spanish authorities because of their ‘hands off’ approach to matters they consider internal to the community. Whilst the Gypsy community’s legal structure did not provide her with protection, her case would also have been ignored by society at large. Likewise, she would not have been able to blend into mainstream Spanish society and as such would have been easily tracked down by her family. Thus, the Judge concluded that future persecution could not be ruled out. INS has reserved the right to appeal.
(Source: ‘Women’s Asylum News’, Issue 9, April 2001, published by the Refugee Women’s Resource Project).
U.S. grants asylum to persons involved in Ukraine political crisis
The United States has granted asylum to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's ex-bodyguard, Maj. Mykola Melnichenko, who accused Kuchma of involvement in the killing of the critical journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Even though the State Department’s spokesman was reportedly unsure of the status of Gongadze's widow, 28-year-old Myroslava, who had helped her husband in various projects and was a spokeswoman for an opposition party, the Ukrainian government said she had also been granted asylum.
Melnichenko resigned from Kuchma's bodyguard service last year and went into hiding abroad. He then released tapes that he said were made by a recorder hidden in Kuchma's office. In the recordings, a voice resembling Kuchma's is heard discussing how to silence Gongadze, an outspoken critic who disappeared after the alleged Kuchma tapes were made. The journalist's beheaded body was later found near the capital, Kiev.
The decision has sparked criticism from the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, which states that granting him asylum meant protecting a man suspected of significantly damaging national security, creating obstacles in the way of a criminal investigation. In response to the criticism, Boucher stated that the case had been handled based on standard international practice and international procedures and criteria, and should not be seen as affecting the overall U.S. policy toward Ukraine.
(Source: ‘U.S. grants asylum to two figures in Ukraine political crisis’, Associated Press, 16 April 2001).
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN INFORMATION DOCUMENTS (COI)
New comprehensive country of origin information website launched
In cooperation with UNHCR, ECRE and the European Commission, the first comprehensive country of origin information website has now been launched. It is the European Country of Origin Information Network website (ecoi.net), a joint initiative of Accord (Austria), GEA2000 (Slovenia) and Informationsverbund Asyl (Germany), is available on providing up-to-date and authoritative information on the human rights situation in countries of origin of asylum-seekers in Europe.
Follow-up on information requests on Discriminatory Detention of Criminal Asylum Seekers (DS 01/01 and DS 02/01)
The information collated during the last issues of the Documentation Service has been put together once more for the sake of completeness, and information on Austria has been added. See attached document: Asylum Seekers and Criminality (L030102)
New UNHCR analysis of asylum decisions in 38 countries
The study, Trends in Asylum Decisions in 38 Countries, 1999-2000, provides a comprehensive analysis of asylum decision statistics and indicators. The report includes information on asylum applications, decisions and pending cases by country of asylum, origin, type of decision and stage in the asylum procedure and also provides recognition rates and other relevant indicators. The study was made available during the 2nd meeting of the Global Consultations on International Protection (third track), held in Geneva, 28-29 June 2001.
Report by the French Human Rights consultative committee on the reform of the asylum legislation in France
Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme, L’asile en France, Avis et étude préparatoire, Situation en vigueur: Difficultés et dysfonctionnements, July 2001.
For information on how to obtain copies, please contact CNCDH on (Tel: +33 01 42 75 77 09), or (Fax: +33 01 42 75 77 14).
Recent publication by the European Roma Rights Center’s (ERRC) addresses the issue of access to justice
The European Roma Rights Center’s (ERRC) Newsletter Roma Rights 1/2001 addresses the theme of ‘access to justice’. The articles in this issue cover various aspects of justice as they pertain to Roma, and especially how individuals may gain access to courts. The articles lay bare some aspects of the often opaque machinery of domestic and international legal systems. This publication is available on:
Caritas publishes study on detention conditions in various European States
The document is entitled Schubhaft in Europa. Ein Überblick über rechtliche Grundlagen & Haftbedingungen, Schubhaft Sozialdienst Vienna, May 2001. Mike Berger from Caritas-Vienna who works in the detention social service in Vienna has collected information about detention condition in various European states. The study was distributed at the Austrian conference of police officers and NGOs regarding standards of detention to secure expulsion, which took place on 7-8 June 2001 in Vienna. The document is published in German only, and can be obtained from Caritas in Vienna.
ANAFÉ publication on detention centres at airports
ANAFÉ (Association Nationale d’assistance aux Frontières), Zones d’attente : en marge de l’Etat de droit, April 2001. The document is attached, but is also available on: (L030103)
New publication on expulsion and detention in EU Member States
Bruno Nascimbene (ed.), Expulsion and Detention in the European Union countries - L'Eloignement et la d’Etention des Etrangers dans les Etats membres de l'Union europenne.
This book contains the results of research conducted in all the European Union Member States, and also includes contributions from distinguished lecturers and lawyers. National reports focus on expulsion of aliens in migratory policies, reasons for the expulsion of aliens from national territory, status of aliens subject to expulsion orders, typology of expulsion measures, enforcement of expulsion orders, and jurisdiction in case of expulsion orders. By comparing the data from the fifteen national reports, this book highlights both current differences in the European laws and the main problems regarding the future adoption of common rules on immigration. The results of the research were presented and discussed at a seminar held in April 2001 at the Law Faculty of the Università degli Studi in Milan.
For information on how to obtain copies, please contact Dott. A Giuffre’ Editore S.P.A. in Milano via fax (+39 02 38009582) or e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Council of Europe publication on protection of refugees under the ECHR
N. Mole, Asylum and the European Convention on Human Rights (Human Rights Files No. 9, 2000 revision, 2000). In this 3rd edition, the author draws extensively on the recent case law of the Strasbourg organs to present a wide-ranging account of the protection afforded to refugees under the European Convention on Human Rights.
New publication by the Refugee Legal Centre on the interpretation of the Refugee Convention in common-law countries
Case Law on the Refugee Convention: The United Kingdom’s Interpretation in the light of the International Authorities is a 344 page guide, written by Mark Symes, on the English law’s position on the Refugee Convention in the context of decisions from throughout the common-law world, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It has been recognized as an extraordinary resource and an invaluable tool for refugee lawyers, as well as recommended by the UNHCR.
For information on how to obtain copies, please contact RLC: (Tel: +44 020 7827 9090), (Fax : +44 020 7378 1979), (E-mail: <email@example.com>)
DRC study on the implementation of the Dublin Convention
The Dublin Convention - Study on its Implementation in the 15 Member States of the European Union. Published by the Danish Refugee Council, December 2000. Available on:
ELENA International Introductory Course on Refugee and Asylum Law
The course will be held 13 - 16 September 2001 in Sarajevo, Bosnia – Herzegovina and include lectures by James Hathaway and Walter Kälin. More information on the course can be obtained from the following website:
The International Institute of Humanitarian Law (IIHL)
6-10 November 2001, San Remo, Italy.
Course on ‘Refugee Law’ in English. For details, contact IIHL in
EU institutions create new portal for easy online access to EU legal texts
Building on the success of the EU online legal information services available to the public, the EU institutions have created a single entry point to EU legal texts, the EUR-Lex. This website is a first step in bringing together in a streamlined environment the whole body of EU legal texts for online consultation. Available on this new portal developed by the Office for Official Publications pf the European Communities (EUR-OP) offers an integrated access to a wide range of legal texts, as well as links to numerous legislative sites both of the EU institutions and in Member states.
CPT launches new database
In May 2001, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) launched a new database. Containing the full texts of all published CPT reports, it is hoped to become a valuable tool for all those involved with deprivation of liberty issues. The database can be searched for any words, or from pre-established lists of keywords, detention places, categories of detained persons and States. The database is accessible at <>
or via the CPT's website at <> (Menu ‘database’).
UNESCO launches online database on human rights research and training institutions
Austrian website with background information on refugee children
Gender and FGM-related websites
Asylum Aid’s Refugee Women’s Resource Project (RWRP):
The European Campaign on Women Asylum Seekers
The European Campaign on Women Asylum Seekers was launched on 6 December 2000 as a follow-up to the European conference ‘Toward a (See also the report of the European Meeting on the Development of Gender Sensitive Integration Practice in Europe’ in June 1998, and will run for a year, aimed at drawing attention to the type of persecution women experience ant to exert pressure on Member State governments and the European institutions to develop a gender-sensitive European Policy on Asylum., available at:
The Women's Human Rights Resources (WHRR) website on refugee and immigration law by the Bora Laskin Law Library at the University of Toronto.
This website contains information on a wide range of subjects relevant to refugee and immigrant women, including articles on FGM, decisions by the Human Rights Committee, as well as domestic immigration cases. The site also has links to sections on , and and .
Refugee Women’s Legal Group (RWLG) website
This website is aimed at providing practitioners and others working with refugee women access to appropriate sources of information and support to assist in the presentation of individual cases.
Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children:
The Women’s Commission is an expert resource and advocacy organization that monitors the care and protection of refugee women and children.
(See also the publication Forced Migration Review, issue 9, December 2000, which is devoted exclusively to the issue of Gender and displacement. Available on: ).
New and updated website of the FGM Education and Networking Project
This new and updated website contains reference material, articles, legislation (both national and international), as well as a wide range of FGM-related links to other educational, medical and legal resources.
The Centre for Gender and Refugee Studies
The Centre for Gender and Refugee Studies provides on-line case summaries of cases in the US involving female genital mutilation. The site also provides names and contact information for experts on this issue (based in the US) and other relevant documents and reading material.
The Centre for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP) website on FC/FGM
On this website, the CRLP, working to promote women’s equality worldwide by guaranteeing reproductive rights as human rights, provides information on global laws and policies towards the elimination of FGM, legislation on FC/FGM in the United States, as well as information on new books and reports on this subject.
World Health Organisation (WHO) website on FGM
On this website, the World Health Organisation provides classification and definitions of FGM, information about WHO activities against FGM, and information package (WHO/FRH/WHD/96.26) and a bibliographic database which includes information about research carried out about FGM in a wide range of countries.
ECRE has a new legal intern Thomas Jonsson. Thomas can be contacted for at
ECRE DOCUMENTATION SERVICE
On the 1st July the Belgians took over the EU Presidency for a six month period. They will have the task of assessing the progress made so far in the implementation of the Tampere conclusions at the European Council of Laeken in December. ECRE is preparing a parallel summit to draw attention to asylum issues and to influence the decisions that will be taken.
The Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, the Foreign Minister Louis Michel and the Minister of State for foreign affairs Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck presented the programme of the future Presidency in Brussels on 2 May. Belgium wants to reaffirm the importance of establishing a common asylum and migration policy. Regarding asylum, emphasis will be placed on harmonising asylum granting procedures and the reception of refugees. They think it is necessary to develop fairer burden-sharing schemes and to establish more precisely which Member State should deal with a particular asylum request.
However, it is obvious that their attention will be directed mainly towards immigration issues (combat against illegal immigration, trafficking and smuggling in human beings, border controls). In addition they will organise a conference on Immigration issues on 16&17 October.
Spain will succeed Belgium at the head of the EU in the first semester of 2002. They have already announced their priorities in the field of JHA : immigration and the fight against terrorism. As for asylum Spain will promote a directive to converge European legislation on third country nationals who are long-term residents in the EU and another one to harmonise asylum policies
JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS COUNCIL - 28/29 MAY IN BRUSSELS
Proposal for a Council Directive on minimum standards for giving temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons and on measures promoting a balance of efforts between Member States in receiving such persons and bearing the consequences thereof
The Council achieved political agreement on this proposal: temporary protection will be valid for one year, with the possibility of an automatic extension for two further six-month periods. Moreover the EU Council of Ministers will have the possibility to decide on a further extension of up to one year. If the situation in the country of origin changes for the better, the EU Member States will have discretion to end the protection.
People receiving temporary protection in an EU Member State will be given rights such as the right to work, housing, emergency health care, maintenance support and education. Any of them may submit an application for asylum at any time. The authorities are required to process the application at the latest by the time at which the period of temporary protection expires. Concerning family reunification it was agreed that the nuclear family should be reunited whereas Member States have the discretion to refuse the reunion of other members of the family.
The directive should be adopted shortly and then published in the Official Journal by mid July. ECRAN members will be asked to lobby to ensure the most asylum friendly interpretation of the provisions of the directive in the national legislation. The directive will be made available on the ECRE site on :
Proposal for a Council Directive on family reunification for third country nationals residing legally in a Member State
The Ministers of the 15 Member States could not reach an agreement. There are still a lot of problems to solve. The work will continue under the Belgian Presidency.
French package of anti-smuggling and anti-trafficking measures
The Council found political agreement on:
· the proposal for a directive defining the facilitation of unauthorised entry, movement and residence,
· the proposal for a framework decision on the strengthening of the penal framework to prevent the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence
· the proposal for a directive on the harmonisation of financial penalties imposed on carriers transporting into the territory of the Member States third country nationals lacking the documents necessary for admission (carrier sanctions)
· Proposal for a Council Framework Decision on combating trafficking in human beings
ECRE is concerned that the “humanitarian clause” in the Directive and Framework Decision on facilitation of entry and stay, is left to the discretion of Member States.
EU ASYLUM AGENDA
Proposal for a Council Directive laying down minimum standards on the reception of applicants for asylum in Member States
The Commission adopted in April a proposal for a Council Directive on minimum standards on the reception of applicants for asylum. The text is now available in all languages at this address:
The EP Committee on Citizens’ Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs has nominated a rapporteur for the proposal : Mr Jose Salvador Hernandez Mollar (PPE-Spain).
Commission Communication towards a common asylum procedure and uniform status
The Commission issued last November its Communication on these subjects. According to the scoreboard all the measures should be in place at the end of 2004 and part of national legislations. ECRE has issued its comments on the communication in June. They are available on the website.
As regards the discussion in the European parliament, the report by Robert Evans (PSE-UK) on the Communication was presented to the Committee on Citizens’ Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs on 11 July.
The Committee will vote the text at the end of August and the Plenary will adopt it in September.
Proposal for a Council Directive on minimum standards and procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status
In the EP the rapport by Ingo Schmitt (PPE.DE) on the proposal was presented in the Committee on Citizens’ Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs on 19 June. The content and tone of this report is outrageous. Many MEPs criticised the approach adopted by the rapporteur. The deadline for submitting amendments was June 28. The text will then be voted by the Committee on August 28 and by the Plenary in September. ECRE will ask MEPs to reject all the 89 amendments presented by the rapporteur.
ECRE has issued its comments on the proposal on April 18. They are available on the website.
Proposals on rules on the recognition and content of refugee status and on measures on subsidiary forms of protection offering an appropriate status
ECRE has been consulted before the drafting of the last two instruments in the pipe-line, which should be presented shortly and published in September. ECRE urged the Commission to opt for an inclusive interpretation of the refugee definition.
Proposal for a Community instrument on determination of the State responsible for the examination of a request for asylum - follow-up to the Dublin Convention
The new proposal on the Dublin Convention is expected in mid July. The text will be available in September.
The Scoreboard has been updated on 23 May by the Commission. It is available at this address :
EP resolution on progress in establishing an area of Justice, Security and Freedom
In a resolution approved on 16 May, before the JHA Council, the European Parliament condemned the fact that there is still no strategic approach to asylum and immigration. More specifically Parliament criticised the delay by Council in adopting a directive on family reunification.
Parliament was therefore calling on the Council and the Commission to:
· submit comprehensive strategies and precise timetables for the development of a policy on asylum and immigration and to leave aside the multitude of uncoordinated individual initiatives by Member States;
· to rationalise working methods and to speed up the adoption of decisions; to agree at last on provisions for burden-sharing among Member States with regard to refugees and asylum-seekers;
· to recognise Parliament's role as co-legislator as envisaged in the Treaty of Nice; to make provisions for extending the co-decision procedure to all legislative fields in the areas of Justice and Home affairs;
· and finally to convene an extraordinary conference of EU ministers for Home affairs and Justice during the Belgian presidency in order to discuss the overall strategy in the field of freedom, security and justice.
Parliament more specifically calls for an international conference on finding a solution for the thousands of Kurds who flee unbearable circumstances and thus often fall prey to human trafficking.
The 14th ECRAN meeting took place in Rotterdam on the 14th of June to discuss the advocacy strategy on the EU agenda, the Belgian Presidency and the Laeken Summit. The minutes of this meeting have been sent to the ECRAN Focal Points.
ECRE DOCUMENTATION SERVICE
Legal Seminar on the Safe Third Country Concept, Ukraine.
On 17th and 18th May 2001 ECRE co-organised a seminar together with UNHCR Ukraine, which took place in Kyiv on “The concept of Safe Third Country and the use of country of origin information: the experience of Ukraine, Belarus and other countries”. This seminar was held under ECRE’s capacity-building programme for refugee-assisting NGOs in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, funded by the Matra Programme of the Dutch government. It was organised with the close co-operation of UNHCR Ukraine, UNHCR Belarus and the Ukrainian NGO “Charitable Fund Edelweiss”.
The concept for the seminar came as a result of discussions with the UNHCR Branch Offices in Kyiv and Minsk, as well as with NGOs working with refugees in Ukraine and Belarus on field trips in October and November 2000. During these discussions, it became clear that the authorities of Ukraine and Belarus were applying the concept of “Safe third Country” to exclude asylum seekers who had travelled through the Russian Federation from access to the determination procedure. It was estimated that up to 60% of asylum seekers were refused the right to claim asylum on this basis.
Article 3 of the Ukrainian Law “On Refugees” states that “Refugee Status may not be granted to a person who, before arriving in Ukraine, stayed in a country where this person could, in conformity with the set procedure, be granted asylum or refugee status”. The Belarusian Law on Refugees
contains a similar Article forbidding the granting of refugee status to someone who has travelled through a third country before arrival in Belarus. Belarus also has a “white list” of countries considered safe for asylum seekers. This list includes all neighbouring countries to Belarus.
The second strand of the seminar was planned to concentrate on the research and collection of country of origin information. ECRE had received regular reports that in many cases decision makers in asylum cases were relying on their foreign embassies or even the embassies of the refugees’ countries of origin to provide information on a persons’ claim. The purpose of the second session was to provide information on how seriously many governments take the research into country of origin situations; and to provide information about possible sources of information which are reliable and objective.
Speakers at the seminar included Christoph Bierwirth, from UNHCR Ankara; Clara Odofin, Head of ECRE’s Policy and Advocacy Department; Mark Ockleton, Judge with the UK Immigration Appeals Tribunal; Dr Boldizsar Nagy from the NGO Menedek in Hungary; Svetlana Gannushkina from Memorial Migrants’ Rights Network in Russia; Abbas Faiz, Researcher on Afghanistan with Amnesty International and Kevin White, from the Research Team of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board. In addition, Galina Subotenko, Head of the Department of Migration and Refugee Issues within the Department of Nationalities and Migration gave a presentation and Ukrainian lawyer with Edelweiss, Anna Melnitskaya, gave a comment to this presentation. Evgeny Kremko, from the Belarus Committee of Migration also gave a presentation on the situation in Belarus with comments from Galina Kommarovskaya, a lawyer with the Minsk City Bar Association.
The seminar was attended by about 70 participants including lawyers, judges, representatives of NGOs providing legal assistance to asylum seekers, and government officials both from regional Migration Services and other government departments.
Two supporting publications of background materials on the Safe Third Country concept and also on sources of country of origin information were produced by ECRE’s intern, Maria Sangermano. This was translated into Russian and distributed at the beginning of the seminar and used as a reference text throughout the seminar. A list of websites with country of origin information was also distributed at the meeting.
For a fuller report of the seminar, or a copy of the background publications on Safe Third Country concept, please contact either Rachel Bugler (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Daniel Drake (email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>) at the ECRE Secretariat.
“Planning Together: NGO co-operation and the protection of refugees in Eastern Europe” Two day workshop in St Petersburg, Russia.
This meeting took place on 4 and 5 June in St Petersburg, Russia. Over 35 representatives of 18 refugee-assisting NGOs in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine took part. The meeting was led by consultant for ECRE, Bill Seary, and Allan Leas, Daniel Drake and Rachel Bugler participated from ECRE’s Development and Membership Department. The workshop aimed to review the work of the NGOs over the last two years, and to look at priorities for future support. A flexible programme was adopted which encouraged the NGOs present to look at the obstacles and challenges facing them in their work, and to work in base groups and working groups to identify strategies to work towards solving these. On the second morning, the participants identified four priority areas and broke into working groups to discuss how these could be approached. These areas were: Lobbying; Tolerance building and refugee education; Vocational training and job creation for refugees and Internal management issues including staff training. The results of the working groups and the plenary sessions were written up during the meeting in Russian and distributed to all participants in the form of an exit pack at the end of the meeting. A translated version of the conclusions of the working group on lobbying is attached here as an example (cee030101).
The future objectives of ECRE’s programme in Eastern Europe were also presented and participants were asked for their input and comments on the most useful ways that ECRE could support their work. Participants identified topics, which require further support and discussion. These included: lobbying; reception and employment of refugees; education; means and systems for exchanging information; psychologically traumatised refugees; integration issues; conflict resolution within organisations; consultation techniques for refugees; working with refugee communities; public awareness raising. ECRE also received strong endorsement for its capacity-building programme, and NGOs stressed the importance of ECRE becoming a truly pan-European organisation.
We are in the process of producing two publications; the first an adapted version of the ECRE Task force “Integration Good Practice Guides” adapted for the Central and Eastern European context. The second is a leaflet on “Helping Refugee Children in Schools” which is based on a publication by the British Refugee Council and adapted for Eastern Europe. It is hoped that both these publications will be available in Russian and English in the early Autumn.
ECRE will run a workshop on “Lobbying and Advocacy” in Vilnius, Lithuania on 10-12 September 2001. Participants from selected NGOs in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Estonia and Slovenia (?) will participate.
ECRE, together with Memorial Migrants’ Rights Network is also organising a second legal seminar on the “Safe Third Country Concept” which will take place in Moscow on 20-21 September 2001. This seminar will involve representatives from NGOs as well as refugee lawyers, judges, migration service officials and other relevant government officials.
For information on any of the above events, please contact Rachel Bugler or Daniel Drake at the ECRE secretariat. (email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Planned post of project officer for Eastern Europe at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles
Please find attached an invitation for expressions of interest for the post above (cee030102). Contact Rachel Bugler for more information: email@example.com
LIST OF ANNEXES –
P030101 The Strategic Presentation for Europe, Response on behalf of NGOs by Dorothee Starck, Policy Officer at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE)
L030101 THE NETHERLANDS - Changes brought about by the new Aliens Act
L030102 ASYLUM SEEKERS AND CRIMINALITY
L030103 Zones d’attente - en marge de l’Etat de droit
Cee030101 Lobbying and implementation (from NGO planning meeting, St Petersburg, June 4-5 2001)
Cee030102 Expressions of interest: planned post of project officer for eastern europe at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles