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Immigration: projects to outsource asylum applications are progressing in Europe

Green light for Rome.

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Immigration: projects to outsource asylum applications are progressing in Europe

Green light for Rome. The Albanian Constitutional Court validated the agreement negotiated between Albania and Italy for the opening on Albanian soil of reception centers for migrants rescued at sea in Italian waters. Two months ago, the Supreme Court censored the Sunak government's controversial bill to deport asylum seekers who arrived illegally on British soil to Rwanda, forcing it to review its copy.

Signed last November, the agreement between Italy and Albania provided for the establishment of two reception centers in the port of Shengjin, on the Adriatic coast. One must manage the registration of asylum seekers, the other house the migrants while awaiting their response. Managed by the Italian authorities, these centers must accommodate up to 3,000 migrants per month, or around 36,000 per year, according to estimates from the Ministry of the Interior.

Giorgia Meloni, who promised to fight against illegal immigration, is faced with the increase in arrivals on the Italian coasts. According to the Italian Interior Ministry, the number of illegal landings increased by almost 50% in 2023 compared to the previous year, with 157,652 arrivals compared to 105,131 in 2022.

The agreement "does not harm the territorial integrity of Albania", specifies the Court's press release, which aroused the ire of NGOs. In an appeal filed at the beginning of December 2023, the Albanian opposition argued that the agreement between Giorgia Meloni and her counterpart Edi Ramasigné violated the Constitution and the sovereignty of Albanian territory. The agreement “should be authorized in advance by the President of the Republic” and does not respect “international standards regarding the rights of migrants,” she asserted. An argument that the Constitutional Court chose to reject.

The outsourcing of asylum requests is attracting more and more countries on the Old Continent, while illegal crossings are increasing sharply. In 2023, according to Frontex, the European border agency, the number of illegal arrivals will increase by 17% for a total of nearly 380,000 migrants in one year. The stated objective is to prevent applicants from remaining in Europe once rejected, as is the case in most EU countries. For the countries concerned, it is above all a question of discouraging migrants from coming to ask for asylum on their territory.

For the moment, Giorgia Meloni's project has therefore escaped the judges' ax. In London, Rishi Sunak was not so lucky. In response to the snub inflicted by the British Supreme Court, Rishi Sunak signed a new agreement with Kigali, based on a revised version of the bill. This new text defines Rwanda as a safe third country, which the courts will no longer be able to challenge. To limit legal recourse, he also proposes not to apply certain provisions of British human rights law to expulsions.

Also read: Immigration law: was the Constitutional Council more zealous than European law?

For the moment, the text has passed two decisive stages in the British Parliament, but its examination is long and delicate. Monday evening January 29, Rishi Sunak won the first vote in the upper house of Parliament. After more than six hours of intense debate, members of the House of Lords rejected an amendment that would have killed the legislation by 206 votes to 84. The bill was then passed on second reading without a formal vote, meaning that it will now be subject to line-by-line scrutiny for days. The Lords are expected to attempt to gut the text next month, when they begin debating and voting on amendments.

The vote in the House of Commons was no less perilous on December 12. The text was only adopted at first reading after seven hours of debate and by 313 votes to 269. The moment of truth will come with the return of the law to the House of Commons. Indeed, the Tory party, divided on this text, threatens to implode. Led by two vice-presidents of the Conservative party, Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith, around sixty deputies from the right wing denounce a law that is too watered down.

After abstaining, these protesters threaten to vote against the text when it returns from the House of Lords. Unless several amendments are adopted. For example, they demand that all possibilities of appeal be removed for deported migrants. Enough to cool down more moderate conservatives. To hope to emerge from this political sequence on top, Rishi Sunak will therefore have to deploy treasures of diplomacy.

The stakes are high for Rishi Sunak, whose political future will depend in particular on this text, after his promise to “stop the boats”. Especially since the Prime Minister has already lost his feathers in the migration battle. His policy was the subject of harsh criticism from his former Interior Minister, Suella Braverman, and led to the resignation of Robert Jenric, Secretary of State for Immigration.

Regardless, illegal Channel crossings saw a sharp decline in 2023, with nearly 30,000 migrants disembarking, compared to 45,000 in 2022. Britain has already paid Rwanda around 240 million pounds (around 280 million euros) to accommodate asylum seekers. But no migrants were sent to Africa, the courts having stopped a plane before it took off in June 2022.

The British Supreme Court's decision has had repercussions far beyond Westminster. Particularly in Germany, where the Scholz government, under pressure from the FDP, the liberal party, ended up reluctantly agreeing to examine the possibility of processing asylum requests from an African country. A feasibility study must therefore be carried out on the subject. But the opposition, particularly environmentalists, relied on the Supreme Court's decision to assert that this measure would necessarily violate human rights.

Also read: Germany: strengthening of border controls reduces illegal immigration by 40%

In response, the FDP argued that it was “not impossible” to carry out this project. The liberal party member of the ruling coalition, in the person of Ann-Veruschka Jurisch, an MP very involved in migration policy, proposed that checks on applications be carried out under the supervision of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

In Germany, 329,120 first asylum applications were registered in 2023, or 51% more than the previous year, according to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Faced with this growing migratory pressure and following the electoral successes of the Afd (populist anti-immigration right party - Editor's note) during the last regional elections, the government of Olaf Scholz took the migration issue head on. body.

Willy-nilly, the idea is making its way into the German national debate. It was notably adopted by the CDU, whose position has long been very moderate on the migration issue. In a document unveiled on December 11 and entitled “Living in Freedom”, the party long led by Angela Merkel revealed the broad outlines of its new program: it is therefore in favor of the outsourcing of asylum procedures to third countries.

Also read: Immigration: is the Danish model applicable in France?

Austria had also expressed its interest in the outsourcing project led by London. Last November, the Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Kerner, announced that he wanted to work in close cooperation with London on this issue. At the beginning of November, Kerner received his then British counterpart, Suella Braverman, to discuss cooperation between European states to organize the processing of asylum requests from third countries. “The UK has a lot of experience processing asylum applications outside of Europe,” he said. Austria can benefit from it.”

In Denmark, a country with one of the most restrictive migration policies in Europe, a law was adopted in 2021 on the outsourcing of visa processing. The text also plans to direct applicants towards Rwanda, but it is still at a standstill, with Copenhagen negotiating with Brussels on the subject. Although Denmark can deviate from European immigration and asylum law through "opt-out options" negotiated when signing the Maastricht Treaty, Denmark remains subject to the Geneva Convention and the Convention European Union of Human Rights. Denmark is therefore asked to ensure respect for the principle of non-refoulement, and to ensure that the transfer of people who have a well-founded fear of persecution is prevented.

Last November, Danish Minister of Immigration and Integration Kaare Dybvad Bek told Reuters that "the government's objective remains to outsource the processing of asylum applications to a partner country in collaboration with the 'EU'. He added that the UK Supreme Court's decision "does not change" the need to find new solutions to create a better asylum system while "addressing the significant consequences of irregular migration".

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