The Holy See
back up

 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move - N° 82, April 2000

Refugee Law in the European Union 
at the turn of the Century: 
some pastoral reflections

Rev. Fr. Michael A. Blume, S.V.D.

[German summary, Spanish summary]

The furor roused in the European Union (EU) and elsewhere over the formation of the new government in Austria in February 2000 is a reminder that refugee emergencies exist not only in Africa or Asia but also in a certain sense in the European Union. Without entering into the merits of what Jörg Haider's Freedom Party, a key component of new coalition, may do in the next months, it is good to keep in mind that his positions on migration helped popularize his party. Since the Freedom Party supports a near "zero migration" option, there is understandably much concern about what this means for asylum and refugee law in Austria and even in the European Union.

The Freedom Party's position, however, is not so novel. What drew less attention, even though just as problematic, were the positions presented by Austria when it held the Presidency of the European Union in 1998. Among other things, the Presidency proposed "zero tolerance" for those who cross into the EU illegally: They were to be put back on the other side of the border.[1] In other words, no provision would be made for the fact that asylum-seekers simply cannot always use legal means or carry proper documents to reach a safe country. That can mean refoulement for asylum seekers.[2] Equally serious was its statement that the 1951 Geneva Convention was outdated and that national interest should be the norm for granting asylum.[3] Fortunately the proposals were not accepted by the other EU states. They nevertheless remain a clear statement of a tendency that does not die out simply by rejecting a position paper. The Freedom Party seems to reincarnate its sentiments. A recent "Note on International Protection"of the UNHCR seems to refer to this and similar tendencies:

Overall, UNHCR detected a distinct trend in an increasing number of States to move gradually away from a law or rights-based approach to refugee protection, towards more discretionary and ad hoc arrangements that give greater primacy to domestic concerns rather than to their international responsibilities. These restrictive tendencies found their most recent manifestation in one country where legislative proposals aimed at doing away with the distinction between aliens and refugees, including dropping any requirement for specific determination of refugee status under the 1951 Convention.

This article, however, is by no means an attempt to enter into polemics with Austria, which has a long history of being a multi-ethnic and tolerant society and a land of asylum. This is the experience with deep cultural roots that will hopefully be more formative of the immediate future than passing government coalitions as one Austrian historian observes: 

From a historical point of view one should not forget, despite all the problems, how much Austria up till today owes to its tradition as a country of asylum, in what measure Austrian art and culture, science and economy have been taken from those achievements that emigrants and asylum seekers introduced to their new land. . . . The celebration of the 1000 year jubilee of the first mention of the name of Austria should thus also be an opportunity to make the effort so that Austria . . . can keep to its traditional role as a country of asylum in the heart of Europe.[4]

Those are the roots this article wants to examine and use them to evaluate some tendencies and facts in European refugee regimes at the turn of the century.

1. Europeanizing refugee law[5]

As we follow debates today on refugee law in Europe, we need to keep in mind that one of the functions of law is to express the deep and long-standing roots of European civilization regarding the stranger and the refugee. If there are refugee emergencies in the European Union today, the response cannot be separated from the cultural and spiritual foundations of European civilization. Facing them is much more than a question of stopping illegal migration but of assuring that laws and policies express the best of being European. Racist banners at soccer matches and "skinhead" violence are warning signs of problems affecting the best in European society. This is a challenge in which committed Christians need to be involved, acting in concert with men and women of good will on this continent, namely to express in law and public policy the best in Europe, what is enduring, solid, and beyond the media-driven public opinion of a particular moment.

Culture and social life in all its dimensions precede law and legal traditions, which express their underlying cultures. Pope John Paul II has spoken about this on many occasions in audiences with those who have a notable influence on culture.

A few days after the start of the NATO operations against Yugoslavia in March 1999, Pope John Paul II received the members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Recalling 1999 as the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the Council, he had high praise for its eminent service to the peoples of Europe and its purpose to "unite more closely the European peoples on the basis of the patrimony of values that is common to them." These are the moral and spiritual forces that humanize society and remain the basis for the construction of Europe. They include the respect for the dignity of each person, with all the consequences for the rights, freedom, democracy, and solidarity. "These values are deeply rooted in the European conscience; they represent the strongest aspirations of European citizens." The Pope considered as essential the efforts being made by the Council to "translate these values and aspirations in terms of law, of respect for freedoms and of democratic progress." The untiring effort to put the inalienable dignity of the human person at the center of their concerns and decisions will result in a solid collaboration for the construction of Europe, which Awill serve man and all humanity."[6]

Eleven years earlier the Pope addressed the Assembly twice, in March and in October 1988. He reminded them that the "biblical concept of man has permitted Europeans to develop a lofty understanding of the dignity of the person, which retains an essential value even among those who do not adhere to a religious faith."[7] Religious faith lived in Europe for hundreds of years has helped form a culture that recognizes and affirms issues common to our humanity, especially the dignity of the person. The human rights conventions promoted by the Council of Europe are expressions of the conscience formed by this religious current and philosophical reflections linked with it. The Pope also expressed support for the Council's initiative at that time of promoting north-south solidarity in Europe and information about the complex relationships existing between the peoples of Europe and of the Third World. He spoke of "ample room for interaction and collaboration among all the forces that work for the genuine well-being of the human family. God help us all to love and serve our brothers and sisters ever more wisely and generously"[8]

Later that same year, addressing the European Court and Commission of Human Rights, the Pope recalled that "human rights . . . draw their vigor and their effectiveness from a framework of values, the roots of which lie deep within the Christian heritage which has contributed so much to European culture. These founding values precede the positive law which gives them expression and of which they are the basis. They also precede the philosophical rationale that the various schools of thought are able to give to them."[9]

Thus Europeanization, considered from a Catholic point of view and applied to refugee law, means the project of reading Europe's legitimate concerns about migration and refugee movements in the light of the fundamental values of European civilization. These include the affirmation of the dignity of the person as prime value and the sacred character of life; the role of the family; the freedom to think, speak and profess one's convictions and religion; the protection of individuals and groups; the cooperation of all for the common good; the concept of work as a sharing in the Creator's own work; the authority of the State, itself governed by law and reason[10]; and the solidarity with all peoples that emerges from probing the mystery of the human person. These are the core issues of the religious-humanitarian culture of Europe. They are like the soil in which a legal system can be cultivated to produce laws that will be good for Europe and the rest of the world too.

2. Expressing european values in law

There are many laws and legal instruments that can be cited as embodying the best of European traditions, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1951 Geneva Convention, and post-war constitutions of some European Union countries. This body of tradition has continued to develop. Today as the European Union and countries aspiring to become a part of it are committed to a greater unity in areas of asylum and refugee legislation, the need to draw on the best of European tradition is more urgent than ever. 

What kind of report card can be given for the progress made so far at a level of law? We look briefly at some current EU laws.

2.1 The schengen convention

The EU has functioning laws and agreements that deal with some aspects of migration and asylum. The Schengen Convention provides, among other things, for open borders among state parties to it. At the same time it requires tough visa requirements for those who request admittance to a Schengen countries. "Fortress Europe" is the expression often used to describe this situation. The fortress, however, is an expanding one. As more non-EU countries seek membership in the Union, they adjust their laws to "EU Standards." The result is a kind of buffer zone developing around the EU, consisting of countries with increasingly severe laws but inadequate mechanisms and structures for dealing with migration, including cases requiring international protection. Hungary, for example, an aspiring EU country, regularly treated asylum-seekers arriving there from Kosovo in 1998-99 as "economic migrants" and detained them in prison-camp conditions.[11] Poland, as another example, has for years has been a country of transit for many migrants trying to get into Germany. But more recently, as EU border controls have become more severe, Poland has to deal with thousands of people who are refused entry to Germany. As a result Poland is now implementing a more severe migration policy. And finally, shortly before Christmas 1999, the Czech Republic, also hoping to join the EU, caused considerable delays and inconveniences at its borders with a hastily formulated and poorly implemented law on the entry of foreigners.[12] So there is an EU border that is gradually moving eastwards and affecting the countries beyond it. 

The stricter laws are aimed at controlling a legitimate concern: irregular entries, particularly through traffickers. Nevertheless among those whom such policies can excluded are people who really have need of international protection. Putting all who come to a border without documents or who enter illegally into the same category of "illegal migrants" and thus criminals grossly oversimplifies the situation. Furthermore it amounts to defaulting on international oblations assumed under the 1951 Geneva Convention if asylum-seekers. The implications of Belgium's recent withdrawal, albeit temporary, from the Schengen agreement as part of an exercise of regularizing migrants within the country still need to be evaluated.

2.2 The Dublin convention

This agreement provides, among other things, for the implementation of a "safe third country" policy.[13] If someone, for example, claims asylum in Germany after having passed through a safe country where s/he could have made the same claim, that person is liable to deportation back to it. That country could make a further deportation if the applicant had passed through another safe country along the way. This process can be - and has been - further repeated in a chain of deportations, sometimes sending the person back to the country s/he tried to escape. 

There is furthermore a problem about which countries are considered safe and who determines the safeness. In one EU country, where the "safe list" is compiled by an office in the Foreign Ministry outside the scrutiny of its parliament, regimes well known for their human rights violations have appeared on the "safe list." Economic and political interests can also influence these safe lists - all to the detriment of the people who have a right to be protected. 

One worrying development is the way the EU has been warming up to Sudan since the meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission of April 1999. There, in contrast to previous statements, which have regularly criticized Sudan for its human rights record,[14] some EU states promoted a resolution that congratulates the government of the National Islamic Front for its commitment to a process of democratization that aims for a representative and responsible government.[15] High level exchanges of visits have also started, yet there is little evidence that anything has really changed. There seems furthermore to be little or no informed public debate in the EU about this matter. The reason for the rapprochement lies in the oil and other minerals in the south of the country, where a civil war against the Khartoum government has been going on for years. One wonders whether protection of Sudanese asylum-seekers will eventually be compromised for a few barrels of oil. The de facto making of policy, driven by economics and not concern for the human person, affects the protection of persecuted people.[16] If some EU members take such benevolent attitudes, will mechanisms connected with the Amsterdam Treaty require-or at least pressure-all to recognize Sudan as a "safe country"? Such developments would start rewarding persecutors and protect the EU from refugees.

2.3 The Amsterdam Treaty

The Amsterdam Treaty of 1997, successor of the Maastricht Treaty, is the constitutional basis of the EU itself. Regarding migration and asylum issues, it is an important step in the unification of EU policy and binds the signatories to do just that within five years after entering into force on 1 May 1999. That process is going on right now. 

Last October the Summit of Tampere (Finland) was held to review progress in its goals, including the harmonization of EU law. Commentators on the Tampere Summit have positive comments about its Declaration, especially its commitments to maintaining the international conventions on refugees.[17] The process of harmonization, however, is complex, for each country has developed its own legal tradition over the years. The temptation is to take as norm, within the limited time available to them, what all the states can easily agree to. Thus there is danger of EU laws and policies being reduced to the lowest common denominator. Harmonization has many advantages but must be done on the basis of high standards. It also needs to deal with areas like procedures. That will require investment in resources that assure good decision making. Otherwise there is danger of depriving international agreements of their force, and that will be to the detriment of migrants and asylum-seekers as well as, in the long run, of the citizens of the EU.

The harmonizing project could perhaps be called an ethical emergency, especially regarding the standards used in the exercise. This happens when at a time when the world of forced migration has become more vast and complex than ever. Ironically although the information to understand it better is easily available (e.g. through internet), most people receive only bits and pieces in occasional news flashes, which at the best are superficial and at the worst colored by ideological and political interests. The realities of the world of refugees have to impinge more on the minds and hearts of people to bring out the best in culture as expressed in law. 

3. Some questions of practice

Although all the members of the EU adhere to the major conventions on refugees and asylum, the selective application of these instruments is a cause of concern. Alternate forms of protection, such as temporary protection status, were regularly applied in the 1990's in the case of people fleeing the former Yugoslavia. Thus the full range of rights of refugees provided in the 1951 Geneva Convention could not be claimed. The practice continues. 

Kosovars and asylum policies

Few people would question the fact that the Kosovars forcibly expelled from their homes and land in 1999 were refugees in the full sense of the word. Yet the juridical recognition of this fact by individual EU states was less common. Although Kosovars would have the right to apply for refugee status under the laws of EU states, there was a notable tendency to offer only temporary protection status or even less, e.g. a temporary residence permit renewable every three months until the situation changed at home. Such arrangements create considerable insecurity among the temporarily protected, including problems of upkeep, jobs, and housing. In a related matter, the UNHCR has felt obliged to point out that the decisions by governments to withdraw even temporary protection does not mean that the right to asylum does not apply to those concerned.[18] The Director of the UNHCR's Department for International Protection recently alluded to this when she stated: "Subsidiary forms of protection have an important place in any overall system, but as a complement to, not a substitute for, the protection to be provided under the Convention."[19]

Though coverage of the situation in Kosovo features little the popular media, it remains volatile and dangerous. Assuming that asylum-seekers are no longer to be expected from the region is premature thinking.

Making procedures more difficult

An issue that affects asylum is the ability to apply for it in the first place. The tendency is to make it more difficult to reach an EU country and get access to the asylum system. Just before the Tampere Summit of October 1999, the UNHCR expressed its concerns along these lines:

UNHCR believes that the way forward for the European Union and its Member States is to take a strategic approach to the development of a just asylum policy - one aimed at the management of refugee claims in such a way that it guarantees every applicant access to territory and asylum procedures, and ensures speedy and correct decision-making.
. . . . 
A future European asylum system should be underpinned by accessible, fair and expeditious asylum procedures, to which access is guaranteed. Such procedures not only identify those in need of protection; they also provide the basis for the return home of those who do not need protection.[20]

One of the ways of blocking access is by use of "carrier sanctions," penalties imposed by governments on airlines or ships that bring improperly documented foreigners to an EU country.(Finland, Spain and Sweden do not have such sanctions.) While these may be popular politically because they keep "economic migrants" away from Europe, they can also amount to indirect refoulement of asylum-seekers who really need international protection but have no way to obtain it. It furthermore turns airline staff into de facto immigration officials with the mandate to stop improperly documented passengers, a task for which they have no training.[21]This is yet another case of not recognizing there can be valid reasons why a person is undocumented.

Access to asylum, for example, became an issue in the U.K. House of Commons following the hijacking of an Afghan airliner to London in February 2000. The Home Secretary was reported as saying "he would personally rule on the asylum requests of the people . . . . His main goal . . . . was to eject the Afghans from Britain as soon as possible. . . . . 'Subject to compliance with all legal requirements, I would wish to see removed from this country all those on the plane as soon as reasonable practicable.'"[22]Behind the statement is also the wish to show that hijacking will not be tolerated. Hijacking and asylum are two separate issues. Putting them together creates one more case of linking crime with migration and asylum-seeking. The Home Secretary's promise of rapid removal obviously means the use of "accelerated procedures" or appeal to "manifestly unfounded claims," both of which aim at denying access to full status determination processes. The issue of the Afghanis seems more clouded by political hysteria than by concern for maintaining a credible asylum regime that protects persecuted people.[23]

Africa at the fence of Europe

If there is a buffer zone on the east of the EU, there is a fence and a sea on the south, facing Africa, though neither are impenetrable. Africa has seven million refugees, and other displaced people. Though few actually reach Europe, some do come both legally and illegally by air and sea. Others take long and risky land routes that lead to destinations in North Africa, among them being the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, EU territory, where they can apply for refugee status. Others risk crossing the Straits of Gibralter at a high price in money and life.More recently the passage to the Canary Islands, Spanish and therefore EU territory, which one reaches from Morocco with greater safety,[24] has become more popular. Then there are the routes between Tunisia and the Italian Island of Lampedusa, from where a repatriation agreement assures rapid return. Though a considerable amount has been invested in a security fence at Ceuta to keep migrants out (between US$ 10 million and UK£ 22 million-depending on theEuropeansources), its actual effect, in contrast to its symbolic one, is still to be seen.

Can there be other responses that are more faithful to the most noble currents of the cultural tradition on which Europe rests and which can only enrich it? We can consider appropriate responses if we take the time to understand who these people are and what needs of protection they have. 

A recent conference of the Caritas Organizations of North Africa provided some useful information about them. There are, for example, students who become refugees, e.g., those at universities in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia from countries that include Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo-Zaire, and Congo-Brazzaville. These easily become refugees sur place almost overnight as wars flare up, produce anarchy, unimaginable violations of the human person, give free rein to the militias, and force people to flee. These constitute grounds for recognition under the 1969 OAU Convention.[25] Faced with that situation some students try to pursue further studies; others try to extend their residence permits; and others "go underground" to eventually "head for the hills," that is, to places like Ceuta and Melilla in hope of seeking refugee status. 

Then there are others, young men, between 20 and 40 years old, mainly from West Africa. Unfortunately they tend to have little education and are only semi-skilled. The are the migrants whose countries of origin give them little motivation to remain or hope of a future. To their numbers we can add more and more women and even families, particularly from the former Zaire. Besides these, there are also some who have fled civil wars virtually unknown in the West, e.g., in Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Angola, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. These are "mixed groups," all fueled by the desire to earn a living elsewhere.[26] 

If the refugees among them try penetrate the EU borders, it is because they have very few choices. Even escaping to a neighboring country is no guarantee they have reached a safe country. Those who make it to North Africa contacted complain of little food, police harassment, and many things that make a dignified human existence impossible. Those who do formally apply for asylum must wait for months before receiving an answer.

Among them we should not forget the Rwandans who fled their country in 1994 and are still on the move. While there may be génocidaires among them, they cannot all be considered guilty without due process of the law. Yet they can be found in practically every country of Africa, living as exiles in great insecurity. Those not affected by the Exclusion Clauses of the Geneva Convention need to find a place where to begin life anew.

The refugees and asylum-seekers waiting in north Africa for the chance to come to Europe are symbols of their seven million other brothers and sisters who will never get this far. The solution to their problems lies not in handouts or simply in increasing aid, which are at most interim emergency measures. An important part of it lies in the economics and politics of First World Countries towards them. The best proposals for refugee law will always fall short of their task if the already assumed international obligations of protection are not clearly reflected in a whole gamut of related laws and policies. If economics and politics can be regulated by legislation that springs from something that is not economic but transcendent, that is, from the best of European humanitarian and cultural tradition, the world may change, at least a little bit. Less people will seek asylum because less will feel obliged to leave their countries to find safety and protection of their human dignity.

4. Concluding reflections

It would not be an exaggeration to speak of a refugee emergency in the EU today, not in the sense of new and dramatic flows of people into the territory but of an ethical and moral emergency for the future of its asylum system. The means to face this emergency, however, are within easy reach. There is, first of all, a cultural tradition with a history of offering asylum and integrating foreigners. This is intimately connected with the Christian roots of Europe and expressed in many Christian communities and organizations. The Council of Europe has also developed this tradition as an official institution that provides a forum through which such humanitarian concerns reach government levels. There are also NGOs like ECRE, which is referred to in this article, that continue this same line of scholarly research into legal issues affecting refugees and advocacy at political levels. Lastly, the means of obtaining reliable information on migration issues in the Europe are available, e.g., through the many sources available on the internet.

On the shadowy side of preparedness are the factors that can annul or impede an effective response to the emergency. The practices that make access to asylum procedures difficult could well gain an upper hand: "safe" country lists, visa requirements and carrier sanctions, deportations to "safe third countries," substitution of refugee status with other forms of protection - just to name a few. Then there are political movements that directly attack Europe's cultural tradition of welcoming the stranger: the tendency to blame foreigners for social problems in the EU, the confusion between migrants and refugees, the criminalizing of immigrants and refugees by the popular media and politicians, and an overall lack of interest more reliable information about the realities of migration. A more subtle form of all this - and less within the range of public scrutiny - are political activities that weaken humanitarian protection in favor of economic advantages some business interests in Europe and repressive governments elsewhere.

The hopes and the shadows are the context in which the Church as institution and community is continually called by the Holy Spirit to make its contribution of encouraging the good and working to correct the negative. The much needed search for the truth is surely a value that both Christians and European humanism can embrace and promote. This that can be added the affirmation of human dignity regardless of the legal situation and media image of refugees and asylum-seekers. These are the chief means the Church has in hand. It is remeniscent of St. Paul's exhortation: "Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace" (Eph. 6,14-15).

In addition to these "arms of the Spirit" there are also institutions that can employ them. In this Jubilee Year, when we hear Christ's proclamation of God's year of grace and freedom from slavery, including modern day versions that refugees live through, a programmed catechesis on refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrants is very desirable for parishes and Catholic organizations. Refugees are part of the sign of the time of human mobility today. This needs to be studied and prayed over by as many people as possible. An excellent starting point for this kind of Christian formation can be found in the Papal Migration Day Messages. That is what can inspire a necessary form of Christian activism in politics that aims also at getting at some of the root factors in refugee flows, particularly those where European countries are involved, e.g., the shadowy areas of arms sales and promotion of business interests.

Finally, one element of this kind of Jubilee formation should include the reminder that the EU's welcome of refugees and asylum-seekers is not just an act of benevolence towards the unfortunate. It is also something in the interest of developing European civilization itself. That is the sense of the following statement of the Migration Commission of the French Episcopal Conference,[27] which boldly proposes France's and Europe's need of the foreigner:

It is true that we still have to learn to live together and that a climate of distrust and insecurity should not be allowed to gain a foothold. . . . It would be dehumanizing for all not to follow up the effort undertaken years ago with you to form bonds day to day among the French and immigrants, for we are constantly witnessing many fraternal gestures. They manifest a will to live together and are bearers of a veritable integration and mutual enrichment.

We need you then to prepare here in France and beyond its borders a future of peace and of fraternity in the respect of the dignity and the liberty of everyone. This is a struggle to carry on together on the terrain of daily life and that of legislation. . . .

It is urgent to find with you new forms of solidarity in a world where peoples depend more and more on one another. Working at that is fildelity to God, Father of all. Yes, we need you.

[1]European Union, The Council, AStrategy paper on immigration and asylum policy@, Note from the Presidency to the K4 Committee, Brussels, 1 July 1998 (13.07) 9809/98,CK4 27, ASIM 170, n. 92.
[2]Refoulementor forcibly expelling a refugee to a place where s/he would be persecuted is forbidden by the 1951 Convention art. 33. Art. 31 of the same Conventionprohibits penalties on the illegal entry of refugees.All EU states are signatories.
[3]Commenting on the AStrategy Paper@ mentioned in note 1, The European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) observes:AThe exclusion of the vast majority of spontaneous asylum seekers would be combined, in the Paper=s strategy, with a general substitution of political discretion for legal certainty which would spell the end of asylum as a right. . . . The argument is made that the Geneva Convention has become outdated (Pars 27, 103 and 42, point 6). (AObservations by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles on the Austrian Presidency of the European Union=s Strategy Paper on immigration and asylum policy,@ ECRE, September 1998, p. 4 [emphasis in the original]).
[4]Hans Dopsch, "1000 Jahre Österreich?Seine Tradition als Asyl im Herzen Europas,"address to the 46th Congress of the Association for the Study of the World Refugee Problem, AWR-Bulletin, 35.(44.) 1997, p. 40.
[5]The rest of this article is updating and expansion of the author's "Europeanization of Refugee Law: A Catholic Perspective", AWR-Bulletin 37.(46) (1999), 50-54.
[6]Talk of John Paul II to members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, L'Osservatore Romano, 139-n.73 (42.100), 29-30 marzo 1999, p. 5.
[7]Address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Strassbourg, 8 October 1988, L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 14 November 1988.
[8]To the Committee on Parliamentary and Public Relations of the Parliamentary Commission of the Council of Europe, "Return to the values arising from Christianity to restore to Europe its fundamental unity", 17 March 1988 in: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II (Città del Vaticano, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1989) 11,1 p. 663.
[9]Addresss to the European Court and Commission of Human Rights, Strasbourg,8 Oct. 1988, L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 14 November 1988.
[10]See Address at the University of Upsalla, 9 June 1989, L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 19 June 1989.
[11]"The defender of civil rights . . . denounced today, Thursday, the inhuman conditions . . . in which refugees find themselves, confined in nine places . . . under the custody of the Border Police. . . . The majority of cases deal with Kosovar refugees, to whom . . . Hungary refuses to concede temporary residence. . . . The problem is rooted in the fact that the . . . authorities consider those coming from Kosovo, Irak and Afghanistan . . . as economic refugees when in reality they are there owing to danger to their lives. . . . [The] Head of the Border Police argued, from his part, that his men limit themselves to carry out the laws to detain allthose who illegallyenter the country, because by doing so they are committing a crime" (report of the Spanish news agency EFE, 4 Feb. 1999). See also Mejok-Magyar Emberi Jogvédö Központ, "Report on the . . . Start of a Prison-Lager Network for the Detention of the Asylumseekers [sic!] on area of the Hungarian Republic," Budapest, Sept. 28, 1999 (more information through
[12]See Ladka Bauerova, "Check Border Is Snarled by a New Law" in: IHT, 14 January 2000, p. 2.
[13]See A''Safe Third Countries' - Myths and Realities", Feb. 1995 in The ECRE Compilation: Overview of Positions Taken by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles on European Asylum and Protection Issues (London 1999), pp. 9-16.
[14]See United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Fifty‑fifth session, March ‑ April 1999, Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Leonardo Franco, submitted in accordance with Commission on Human Rights, resolution 1998/67. 
[15]See United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Fifty‑fifth session, March ‑ April 1999, "Resolution on Human Rights in the Sudan" of 23 April 1999.
[16]On the attempts of the Sudanese government to normalize relations with the EU, see "Paris veut aider le Soudan - réintégrer la communauté internationale", Agence France Presse, 2 June 1999, as cited by Vigilance Soudan (nn. 80-81, June-July 1999). On the NIF's politics of approaching the EU, see "Soudan : l'offensive de charme du NIF", Africa Confidential, édition française, n°334, 28 June 1999 as cited by Vigilance Soudan (nn. 80-81, June-July 1999).
[17]See, for example, "Observations by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles on The Presidency Conclusions of the Tampere European Council, 15 and 16 October 1999" ECRE, October 1999, p. 1: ECRE "broadly welcomes the Conclusions. . . . The organisation is encouraged by the positive commitment of the Council=s Conclusions with regard to the right to seek asylum and by the impetus given to the development of harmonised asylum policies with 'guarantees to those who seek protection in or access to the European Union'. These guarantees are crucial, as the best asylum policy in the world is of no use unless refugees can access its protection." (Emphasis in original).
[18]See, for example, the Comunicato Stampa / Press Release of the UNHCR Delegation to Italy, Malta and the Holy See, "La revoca della protezione temporanea per i nuovi arrivi dalla Repubblica Federale di Jugoslavia non inficia il diritto d'asilo," 21 July 1999.
[19]"Refugee Protection at the Turn of the Century: Looking Back - Looking Forward: Statement by Ms. Erika Feller, Director, Department of International Protection to the 50th Session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme," 7 October 1999.
[20]UNHCR Press Release, "EU Common Strategy on Asylum Must Meet Highest Standards of Refugee Protection," Geneva/ Brussels, 8 Oct. 1999. Italics mine.
[21]See comments on this byStefan Ericsson, Asylum in the EU Member States (Brussels, The European Parliament, 2000), p. 14.
[22]Sarah Lyall, "Hijacking Ends with Most Asking for Asylum," International Herald Tribune, 11 Feb. 2000, pp. 1 and 4.
[23]See the critical observations of the chief executive of the U.K.'s Refugee Council, Nick Hardwick, "Piling on the hysteria," The Guardian (internet version), 11 Feb. 2000.
[24]Jaime Pérez-Llombert, "El Gobierno canario teme que las islas se conviertan en nueva ruta de pateras," El Pais, 2 August 1999 - n. 1186.
[25]Article 1.2 recognizes as refugees persons who flee their country owing to "events seriously disturbing public order in either part or the whole of his country of origin or nationality." 
[26]An example of what desperation such situations can lead to is found in the touching La lettre des deux adolescents africains, reported by Agence France de Presse of 4 August 1999.
[27]ComitJ Jpiscopal des Migrations, "Nous avons besoin de vous", Un People en Devenir: L'Iglise et les migrants (Paris, Les Iditions de l'Atelier/Iditions OuvriPres, 1995) 61-62.

Flüchtlingsgesetze in der Europäischen Union im neuen Jahrhundert: Einige Überlegungen.


Der Artikel ist eine Überlegung über die in der Europäischen Union (EU) tief verwurzelten kulturellen Werte, die überwiegend biblisch oder christlich sind. Wie können sie die Gesetzgebung und das Verhalten den Asylanten und den Flüchtlingen gegenüber beeinflussen. Diese Tatsache sollte die Grundlage für die europäisierenden Flüchtlingsgesetze sein. Heute ist dieser Aufruf zu einem solchen Verhalten dringlicher denn je, weil man darüber nachdenkt, die Migranten- und Flüchtlingsgesetze in Einklang zu bringen, wozu ja das Abkommen von Amsterdam die Staaten der EU verpflichtet. Diese Koordinierung erscheint äußerst wünschenswert, ist aber sehr komplex; sie müßte in jedem Fall das höchtste Niveau als gemeinsamen Nenner nehmen, nicht das niedrigste. Der Autor geht in seinen Darlegungen dann zu einigen konkreten Situation über, wo die europäische Handhabung den Flüchtlingen und Asylanten gegenüber einer gründlichen Aufmerksamkeit bedarf, wie zum Beispiel: In Fällen, bei denen ein zeitlicher Schutz-Status (oder andere ähnliche Maßnahmen) den Flüchtlingsstatus ersetzen, wenn die Antragsteller ein Recht auf den letzeren habe, bei Schwierigkeiten überhaupt bis zu einem Verfahren zu kommen, und dann beim Verfahrensverlauf; weiter ist eine europäische Antwort vonnöten für die afrikanischen Asylanten, die nicht wissen, wohin sie gehen sollen, auch sollte das Problem, wer über "sichere" Länder entscheidet (deren Bewohner, die um Asyl ansuchen, automatisch einem"beschleunigten Verfahren" übergeben werden) überdacht werden. Der Beitrag der Kirche ist eingebettet in diesen Kontext. Er schließt die Förderung der positiven Aspekte ein, wie auch die Suche nach wahren und korrekten Informationen als Grundlage für eine verantwortliche Politik, für den Schutz der Menschenwürde der Asylanten ohne Berücksichtigung ihres Status. Den Europäern sollte in Erinnerung gerufen werden, daß sie die Ausländer brauchen, um das Beste aus ihrer eigenen Kultur hervorzubringen. 

Leyes sobre refugiados en la Unión Europea en el cambio de siglo: algunas reflexiones


El artículo reflexiona sobre los valores culturales más enraizados en la Unión Europea (EU), predominantemente de origen bíblico y cristiano, y sobre la manera como pueden influir en la legislación y las actitudes frente a los que solicitan asilo y a los refugiados. Sobre esta realidad deben formularse las leyes europeas para los refugiados. Recordar estas actitudes es hoy tanto más urgente, cuanto el Tratado de Amsterdam obliga a los estados miembros a armonizar sus leyes para emigrantes y refugiados. Siendo esta armonización del todo deseable, es igualmente muy compleja y es necesario que tienda al estándar más elevado, y no a unos mínimos comunes. 

El autor pasa a considerar algunas situaciones concretas, referentes a refugiados y solicitantes de asilo, que merecen una atención especial: situaciones en que un estatuto de protección temporal (o modelos similares) sustituye el estatuto de refugiado en casos en que el solicitante tiene derecho a este último, obstáculos en las formalidades y en su accesibilidad, la respuesta concreta a los solicitantes de asilo procedentes de África y sin otra salida, o el problema de los ciudadanos de los denominados países “seguros” (cuyas peticiones de asilo son sometidas automáticamente al “procedimiento de urgencia”). 

La contribución de la Iglesia debe insertarse en este contexto, promocionando valores positivos, como son la búsqueda de la verdad y de una información correcta, bases de una política responsable, insistiendo en la protección de la dignidad humana de los solicitantes de asilo y recordando constantemente a los europeos que ellos necesitan de los extranjeros para ir desarrollando lo bueno y mejor de su propia cultura.