Brussels, Wednesday 14 March 2001
As EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers prepare to meet in Brussels, Thursday (15 March), Amnesty International warns that measures against illegal immigration to be discussed at their meeting may breach the international human rights commitments of EU Member States.
According to Amnesty International, proposed measures to clamp down on illegal immigration include moves to impose significant prison sentences on those who help anyone enter the EU in breach of immigration laws.
Amnesty International is deeply concerned that these proposals may criminalise those who are acting on humanitarian grounds, to help people who flee human rights violations.
“There is a serious danger that these proposals will infringe on the EU’s international human rights obligations”, said Dick Oosting, Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office. “We urge EU ministers to look very closely at these proposals from the point of view of their human rights responsibilities, in particular towards refugees.”
Under the Geneva Convention (to which all EU Member States are signatories), States “may not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who […] enter or are present in their territory without authorisation” (Article 31 of the Geneva Convention).
While Member States have a right to regulate access through their borders, they also have an obligation to ensure that those fleeing human rights violations are not impeded in seeking asylum. Measures intended to stop those who smuggle human beings in breach of immigration laws should not have the consequence of preventing asylum seekers from finding safety and criminalise those who assist them in doing so.
Amnesty International is concerned that those who aid refugees out of purely humanitarian concerns, could be turned into criminals if these EU proposals are adopted. Amnesty International believes such a measure could contribute to hostile attitudes towards refugees and those who help them.
For further information, please, contact Amnesty International EU Office at 02 502 1499