Open letter about readmission agreements

send to the Union Council and European Commission

Mirek Topolanek
President of the Council of the European Union

Rue de la Loi, 175

B - 1048 Bruxelles

José Manuel Barroso

President of the European Commission

B - 1049, Bruxelles

Paris, January 20th 2009

Re. Transparency in negociations and application of European Union readmission agreements.

Distinguished Presidents,

The European Immigration and Asylum Pact adopted by the European Council on 16 October of this year proposes, amongst other measures to be applied in the fight against irregular immigration, “readmission agreements with those countries for which it is necessary, either at a European level, or at a bilateral level, so as to ensure that each member state has access to the legal tools required to keep foreigners in irregular situations at a distance.” It also aims to assess the “efficiency” of the European agreements and to adapt the negotiation mandates that have not yet been signed.

To this day, eleven European readmission agreements have been signed: with the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao, part of the People’s Republic of China, Sri Lanka, Albania, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Moldavia, and four of the Western Balkan states: Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia. Others are in the process of negotiation: Morocco, Pakistan since 2000, China, Turkey, and Algeria since 2002.

Member associations of the “Migreurop”network are extremely concerned that the EU is about to embark on a process that is being carried out in almost total opacity, despite its involving issues of fundamental human rights. There exists no system to keep the European Parliament, national parliaments, and still less the general public of the countries concerned, informed of the criteria and development of the negotiations over these readmission agreements, neither of the actual consequences of their conclusions.

Our associations hereby wish to draw attention to the necessity of transparency in the negotiations and application of the European Union readmission agreements. In view of information already known, we have serious reason to believe that the negotiation conditions are far from guaranteeing the application of fundamental human rights, and that they may well even encourage their violation (I). As a first step towards this indispensable transparency, we wish to receive answers to certain doubts we have, both regarding already signed agreements as well as certain agreements still in the negotiation process (II).

I - Cause for concern

If one is to believe the former European Commissioner in charge of Justice and Internal Affairs, Mr. Franco Frattini: “The negotiation of readmission agreements has not been an easy task. (...) The main reason for their slowness is that, although these agreements are in theory reciprocal, it is clear that in practise they essentially serve the interests of the European Community. That is the case in particular of the arrangements regarding the readmission of members of non-member countries and stateless people - a sine qua non of all readmission agreements, but one that is very difficult to accept for non-member states. The successful outcome of negotiations depends therefore to a great extent on “levers”, or should I say “carrots” that the European Commission has at its disposal, that is to say on incentives that are powerful enough to gain the cooperation of the non-member countries concerned.”. [1]
We do not doubt that for each agreement the power struggles must vary, as must the size of the “carrot”: regarding Sri Lanka (one of the first agreements to be brought about), sources coming from members of the Sri-Lankan delegation claim that during the negotiations for this agreement, discussions were entirely led, and decisions made, by the European party. [2] It is not perhaps so in the case of countries such as Russia, whose weight, in geopolitical and economic terms, has allowed it to gain important concessions form the EU, as was noted by the LIBE Commission of the European Parliament. [3]

In other cases, it would appear that the EU exploits the economic dependence of certain non-member countries to ensure that they collaborate with their migratory policy through the signing of a readmission agreement. Thus, regarding Pakistan, the following report on the official Internet site, “France diplomatie”: “The EU rapidly agreed to commercial concessions for the entry onto the European markets of Pakistani products, namely in the textile sector. A cooperation agreement covering numerous areas (commerce, development, environment, sciences) was signed in September 2005. Its implementation is however dependent on Pakistan signing a readmission agreement. The EU is Pakistan’s first commercial partner, receiving 30% of its exports and accounting for 20% of its imports. Pakistan is equally one of the principal beneficiaries of European Community aid in Asia (165 million euros in aid is planned for the 2002-2006 period.) [4]

This type of forced partnership, in which economic or political issues seem to prevail over the non-member country’s capacity to protect people’s rights, is conducive to risk.

The Moroccan example is a clear illustration of such a risk: it is difficult not to see a connection between the narrowing of the gap between the EU and Morocco on migratory issues since the beginning of 2000, and the increase in raids and deportations occurring in this country, especially of sub-Saharan migrants (including asylum seekers present on Moroccan territory), in violation of national and international regulation. [5]. The negotiation of a readmission agreement was one of the issues arising in 2000. Let us recall here one of the most recent events, occurring on 28 April 2008, offshore Al Hoceïma (North-East Morocco), where, between 29 and 33 migrants of which 4 were children, were drowned off the coast of their inflatable boat punctured by soldiers with knives. There is no independent investigation conducted until now in order to make light of these events. [6]

The situation in the Ukraine is also worth mentioning, where the rate of refugee statuses granted does not exceed 2%, and where the UNHCR admits its concern over respecting the principle of no removal, over the quality of the investigation into asylum demands, and over the conditions in which refugees are received. [7]. In November 2005, the organisation Human Rights Watch published a report on the situation of migrants and asylum seekers in this country, and noted mistreatment, prolonged detention in very difficult conditions for these people, and at times even forced return to their country of origin suggesting an ignorance of the measures stipulated in article 3 of the European Convention for Human Rights. [8] . Amnesty International, for its part, warned in June 2008 of the serious deterioration of conditions for asylum seekers in the Ukraine, stating: “The Ukraine is not a safe place of asylum for refugees.” [9]

II - Questions on past readmission agreements and those currently being negotiated

Today, our associations deem it timely to assess the negotiations and applications of the European readmission agreements, without limiting ourselves to the question put by the European Pact as to their “efficiency”. Since we are dealing in matters as sensitive as fundamental human rights, it seems to us that a qualitative and quantitative assessment should be carried out. The results of such an assessment must be communicated both to the European Parliament and to the general public of the countries concerned. To this end, we wish the following information to be provided to us:

1. Readmission agreements already in application:

a) the number of nationals of one of the non-member States, signatory to the agreement, that have undergone successful readmission

b) the number of demands for readmission on the part of applicant States that have not been accepted by the State to which the demand was made

c) the number and nationality of nationals from non-member countries, party to the agreement, that have undergone the readmission procedure.
We are particularly interested in this question with regard to the agreements with Albania, since the two-year deadline for the application of this clause was recently reached (1st May 2008).

Agreement with the Ukraine:
  the number of Georgians, Moldavians, Turks, Vietnamese and Turkmenistans who have undergone readmission measures

Agreement with Russia:
 the number of Uzbek nationals that have undergone readmission measures.

d) the number and nationality of people having undergone readmission under the “accelerated” procedure, provided for in the agreements with Russia, the Ukraine, Moldavia and Serbia.

e) the guarantees required by the European member States as to the effective application of fundamental human rights, and in particular those stated in the 1951 Geneva Convention with regard to refugees, and in the European Convention for Human Rights.

NB: despite the “no incidence” clause figuring in the agreements, referring to several international texts, there is no accompanying specific or precise guarantee regarding the obligation of the contracting parties as to the respect of the principle of no expulsion, or even as to the banning of torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3 of the ECHR)

f) concerning the Balkan States specifically, the conditions of readmission of nationals belonging to the particularly vulnerable Romany community.

2. European Union agreements currently being negotiated

Our associations wish to be informed as to the criteria applied, past and present, in the negotiations for readmission agreements. This question is all the more relevant and important in that the Council considers, in the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, that these mandates need to be reviewed: upon what basis? With what aims?

In any case, we would like to know the results of the assessment undertaken by the Council and the Commission with regard to the readmission agreements and their efficiency.

Thanking you in advance for the answers you will provide to these different questions, answers that will be made public, along with this letter.

With our best regards,

For the “Migreurop” network [10] , and other signatories association

Claire Rodier, President

Associations that signed the letter:

: ENDA Europe - Fédération internationale des Droits de l’Homme (F.I.D.H.) - Réseau Euro-Méditerranéen des Droits de l’Homme (REMDH)

Belgium : Abraço ASBL - CIRE - CNCD - LDH Belge - SAD (Syndicat des Avocats pour la Démocratie)

Bosnia-Herzégovina : Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Burkina Faso : Association « Nouveau Monde »

Cameroon : « Un monde avenir » - Association des Réfugiés sans frontières (ARSF) - Association d’aide aux familles et victimes des migrations clandestines (AFVMC) - Collectif « Voix des migrants » - Fondation Conseil Jeune - Groupe de recherche action sur les migrations en Afrique centrale (GRAMI - AC) - Welcome Back Cameroon (WBC)

France : ACT UP - ANAFE - ATMF - Autremonde - Association de défense des droits de l’homme au Maroc (ASDHOM) - CIMADE - Collectif Ivryen de Vigilance contre le Racisme - Comité Catholique Contre la Faim et pour le Développement (CCFD) - CRID - Droits devant ! - FASTI - Fédération Sud Education - Forum civique européen - FTCR - GISTI - Initiatives et Actions Citoyennes pour la Démocratie et le Développement (IACD) - IPAM - MRAP - Réseau Solidaire et Citoyen (RESOCI) - Survie - Terre des Hommes - Union des associations latino-américaines en France - Union syndicale Solidaires - Fondation Frantz Fanon - France Amérique latine

Guinea : Association ADEG

Italy : ARCI - ASGI - Comitato Antirazzista Durban Italia (CADI) - MELTING POT - NAGA

Kosovo : Rad Center

Luxembourg : ASTI - ACAT

Mali : Association des maliens expulsés (AME) - FORAM - Mouvement des Sans Voix

Morocco : ABCDS-Oudja - AMERM - AMDH - ATTAC Maroc - Association de sensibilisation et de développement des Camerounais migrants au Maghreb - Association pour la défense des droits humains des Camerounais migrants au Maroc - Association des Migrants et Réfugiés Guinéens au Maroc - Association sud pour la migration et le développement - Concerned Migrants Group (C-M-G) Worlwide - GADEM - Pateras de la Vida

Mauritania : Association mauritanienne des droits de l’homme (AMDH) - Association mauritanienne pour la promotion de la démocratie et l’éducation citoyenne (APDEC)


: Forum NVO - Association Reintegracija

Spain : Andalucia Acoge - APDHA - CEAR - Coordination de la « Rede Brasileiras e Brasileiros no Exterior » - MUGAK

Senegal : Groupe Migration Développement du CONGAD - Enda Diapol

Togo : ATTAC Togo

: Barbed Wire Britain Network to End Refugee ans Migrant Detention - Statewatch

Uruguay : Asociacion « Idas y Vueltas », association d’amis et familles des migrants en Uruguay

Western Sahara
: Association Sakia Lhamra Développement et immigr