Member states of the European Union are pinning Morocco and Tunisia for the list of “safe third countries”, where people seeking asylum (migrants) can be sent to. This comes right after EU unveiled a new concept in July this year of creating ‘platforms’ in Africa, as a part of wider effort to prevent people/migrants from taking boats to reach Italy and Spain.
The concept of safe third country means people would be sent back to the places they originally migrated from, regardless of their nationality. For instance, a person from Angola travelled through Tunisia to reach Spain could be sent back to Tunisia to seek asylum.
The EU Support Asylum Agency (EASO) has been ordered by the European Commission to draw a safe third country list on behalf of all the EU states. As of now, the list includes Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, and Ukraine.
The European Commission had sent a letter earlier in August asking EASO’s interim executive director Jamil Addou to collect information “relevant for an assessment of whether these countries can be designated as safe third countries at Union level.” Paraskevi Michou, head of the European Commission’s migration branch signed the letter, expecting the EASO probe to be completed by the end of the month.
EASO’s inputs “would be of upmost value” in the commission’s contribution to creating the controversial list, said Michou.
The decision of involving of EASO didn’t go well with a lot of EU lawmakers, considering the fact that the agency is not legally mandated to carry out such assessments.
At a committee meeting at the European Parliament earlier this week, Martina Anderson, an Irish MEP said, “This is a highly political issue and under the current regulation it is not part of the European Asylum Support Office mandate. The aim should always be that the fundamental right to asylum is safeguarded and not to be used as a tool for accelerated returns.”
When asked Addou about EASO’s involvement in the matter, he confirmed it to be just an exercise to guide the commission by collecting relevant information and it is not something directly in their mandate.”We are gathering neutral and objective information from a variety of sources and we leave it to others to draw their conclusions on this work,” he said.
The parliament’s lead negotiator on the file, Peter Nieder mueller, Hungarian socialist MEP said, “I don’t really see what the intentions are behind this new proposal. I have to say that the commission’s proposal comes as a surprise to me since not only does it reopen the provisional agreement of the co-legislators but it also changes the text substantially by including giving new tasks to the agency.”