Germany, France wants looser human rights rules to keep asylum seekers away

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Germany and France want the European Union to weaken its human rights safeguards to allow for deportation of asylum seekers before their case is considered, according to their joint proposal on curbing immigration, seen by Reuters on Tuesday (Feb 21).

This option would only kick in at times of a “mass influx”of people to the bloc and comes as the EU is persistently making it harder for migrants and refugees alike to get in and be allowed to stay.  

While the EU says it has the right to send away all economic migrants if it chooses so, its existing laws on human rights and asylum say a third country must met certain conditions if the bloc were to send there someone who claims asylum in Europe, and have the person wait for a decision there.  

Returning asylum seekers was a key element of a year-old EU-Turkey agreement, which Paris and Berlin hailed in their joint document as a “game changer” as it cut drastically the number of people – mostly Syrian refugees – making it to Europe.  

But few other EU neighbours could be seen as meeting the criteria, which include safety from persecution, humane reception conditions, and at least partial access to medical care, education and labour market.  

So Germany and France have proposed to dilute them, saying in the paper that the EU’s asylum system for “must be designed in a flexible way, and it must be capable of coping with any eventuality.”

“This is not about building a ‘fortress Europe’. It is about combating illegal immigration, which has already cost the lives of thousands, and about replacing it by a regulated system of legal admissions, combined with humane living conditions, assured by the EU in third countries.”

The two said the Turkish deal – which has been criticised by rights groups as cutting corners on human rights and for bumpy implementation that put people’s lives at risk – should serve as a blueprint for the future.  

They said extending the options for deportation – including of asylum seekers – would discourage people smuggling to Europe, while the bloc offer legal ways for confirmed refugees and pay to improve conditions for refugees and migrants in those third countries that receive such people.  

Specifically, the proposal also includes an option to recognise certain regions – rather than whole states as is the case now – as fit for such returns, even of asylum seekers.  

Germany and France said such new rules would still meet the basic criteria of the Geneva Convention on the rights of refugees, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights, but would rescind secondary EU laws offering more safeguards.  

Mass expulsions would still be prohibited and receiving third countries would still have to guarantee decent living conditions for deported asylum seekers, as well as ensure that the people the EU sends there are not pushed further towards places where their lives could be at risk.