Vote No on the EU “Reception” Directive! Flight is no crime!

Appeal to the members of the European Parliament

Vote No on the EU Reception Directive! Flight is no crime!

Dear Sir or Madam,

Imagine you yourself had to flee. You leave everything that you own behind. After a long, ardous journey you reach the EU. You believe that here rule of law and democracy exist, and you finally believe that you are safe. But at the border you are being arrested. You are locked up in the next detention centre – for months if deemed necessary. No-one tells you why you are being detained.

This is the stark reality in a number of Member States including Greece, Malta and Hungary. In October 2012, Greece raised the possible detention period for asylum seekers to twelve months. This inhumane practice will not prohibited by the draft directive you are to vote on – instead it will be legitimized by European legislation.

The foreseen regulations for detention cover all eventualities. Six new grounds for detention are to be introduced into the directive. The first stated reason alone – detention in order to verify an asylum seeker’s identity – allows for excessive detention practices: most protection seekers don’t have valid documents. Another ground for detention that would allow detaining almost every asylum seeker already at the border is the procedure, to decide on the right to enter the territory.

PRO ASYL has already appealed to the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, in the end of May 2012, to stop the grounds for detention foreseen in the new Reception Directive. Thousands of people have joined this appeal making clear that “Flight is no Crime”.

There are to be six grounds for detention in the future Reception Conditions Directive:

„Verification of Identity“: Detaining in order to verify somebody’s identity or nationality represents the boundless possibility to detain asylum seekers. Many protection seekers are forced to use forged documents during their flight. So even if original passports or documents exist, their authenticity often will be doubted.
„Determination of elements on which the application for protection is based“: asylum seekers are to be detained in order to secure evidence for their asylum claims. This ground for detention is principally contradicting the protection of basic rights: the presentation of evidence supporting an asylum claim is in the interest of the protection seeker.
„Procedure to decide on the Right to enter the Territory“: a claimant may in the future be detained in order to decide on the right to entry. Asylum seekers however do have a right to enter the territory – Detention in order to decide whether such a right exists or not is contradicting guaranties for refugees under international law.
“Delayed Application”: this planned ground for detention also is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. Detention is generally only permissible if a person is required to leave the territory. This is not the case with asylum seekers. Once they apply for asylum they do have the right to remain in the member state until their application has been decided upon.
“Protection of national security or public order”: an applicant shall be put in detention when the protection of “national security” or “public order” so requires. Since those undefined concepts are used as so called sweeping clauses, their scope of application is potentially indefinite.
Detention during a Dublin procedure when there is a risk of absconding: member states shall detain protection seekers in order to ensure the transfer to the responsible member state if there is a “risk of absconding”. This ground of detention enables an excessive detention practice. A “risk of absconding” is assumed very quickly within Dublin procedures. Already today, asylum seekers are treated as “fugitive” if they cannot be found at their residence address when a Dublin transfer is being carried out unannounced.
The Parliament has introduced an accelerated Dublin procedure into the draft Dublin III- Regulation, which applies to detained asylum seekers. The requesting state has to make the Dublin request within one month. The requested state has to answer within two weeks. For the transfer there is a timeframe of six weeks. This acceleration is meant well to limit time spent in detention but its consequences are fatal. The two weeks’ time limit for answering Dublin requests will have the effect that member states whose Dublin departments are already overburdened will miss the deadline in numerous cases. Therefore, they will “consent by non-response” and be responsible for the requested cases as foreseen by the Dublin Regulation. Legal protection and remedy will also be undermined by the accelerated procedure. Legal counseling is much more difficult to organize in detention, since consultants can be present less frequently. It can take weeks until a lawyer can be found. Like this, the accelerated procedure renders it impossible for detained asylum seekers to challenge an imminent deportation in court. The intention of the Parliament to keep detention short is to be welcomed. However the wrong means was chosen with severe implications for legal safeguards. The original suggestion of the Commission to allow for detention only after the responsibility for a case has been clarified would have circumvented these problems.

It is shocking that even unaccompanied minors are to be detained under certain circumstances. That the detention of particularly vulnerable groups is to be possible at all is unacceptable in our view.

Asylum seekers need protection and should not suffer a violation of their human rights through an extensive detention practice. Whoever flees persecution has already suffered severe violations of human rights often also detention. To detain these people in the EU again is not compatible with refugee protection or with the guaranteed right to asylum under the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

On January 14, 2013 you will decide on the Reception Conditions Directive. We appeal to you: this proposal endangers refugee rights – reject it! There may not be an agreement at any cost.

Please advocate against the detention of refugee children, of newly arriving protection seekers and so called Dublin cases in Europe. The European Union may not continue on this path of systematic disrespect for refugee and human rights. Flight is not a crime. Please vote NO!