European Union Camps System
Transit Processing Centres (TPCs) and Regional Protection Areas (RPAs) by Christopher Ndikum Nsoh
In February 2003, a draft proposal from the United Kingdom (UK) government to deport asylum seekers arriving UK and other EU states to Transit processing Centres was revealed by a news paper. This idea which was first leaked to the public by the Guardian daily news paper in Britain as if it originated from the UK, the Danish government has been nursing it for quite a long while.The Danish government had pursued a topic of "Reception in the Region." Since 2001, the Danish government carried on discussions on the interception of asylum seekers coming to Europe using the very strategy practised by the US government to stop Haitian asylum seekers who wanted to enter America and as well as the strategy of the Australian government in the so called "Pacific Solution" to stop the arrival of boat men to Australia. Nevertheless, the Danish government played its game in a manner that it was seen as if the UK government is the original propounder of this ideology which led the UK government of Tony Blair to receive criticism from all quaters. The Danish minister Bertel Haarder designated "reception in the region" as one of the priorities in the field of asylum and migration during the EU presidency in the second half of 2002. According to Gregor Noll, since 1986, Denmark proposed a draft resolution in the UN General Assembly. The draft stipulated an international procedure for the protection of refugees: (Denmark, 12 November 1986, UN Doc. A/C. 3/41/L/51.) In 1994, in the agenda of Inter Governmental Consultations (IGC), the Netherlands introduced the theme of reception in the region of origin. Mr. Aad Kosto, the former Dutch state Secretary of Justice made a speech where he inumerated the possibility of reception centre in the region of origin and also proposed a system where asylum seekers should be deported to reception centres in their different regions of origin. ( Speech delivered by Aad Kosto at the Fifth Conference of European Ministers Responsible for Migration Affairs, Athens, 18-19 Nov. 1993)
Not withstanding the origin of this ideology, the intention of this article are manyfold. This article is on the systemic character of the TPCs and RPAs as instruments of exclusion an externalisation of asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants. There is the creation of a state of exception in the international asylum and refugee politics in which the protection of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants are gradually and deliberately scraped off.
Definition of Transit Processing Centrs and Regional Protection Areas
Transit Processing Centres (TPCs) is an ideology to construct asylum seekers reception centres at the external borders of European Union countries where asylum seekers from different regions of the world wanting to come to the EU states should first of all lay their asylum claims. The asylum seekers will be detained meanwhile their claims are processed in the centres. If an asylum claim is genuine, the person will be brought into any of the EU countries chosen by the asylum seeker but if the claims are rejected, the asylum seeker will not be allowed to enter the EU states. In the propal of the UK, it was envisaged that asylum seekers will be kept in centres managed by International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the UNHCR would be an independent body. The only remedy of UNHCR would be an adminisrtative review of the decision, peharps by a senior board on the papers only and a close involvement of the European commission. Regional Protection Areas (RPAs) ideology is the construction of asylum camps at the different so called refugees producing regions of the world. According to this concept, asylum seekers intending to enter Europe have to first of all lay their asylum claims at the camps in the region from which they are coming from. If the claims are accepted, the asylum seeker will be brought into Europe, to the countries chosen by the asylum seekers. With this idea, asylum seekers can no more come directly to EU countries from their countries or regions of origin. If any asylum seeker comes directly, he/she will be deported to any of these camps in the region of the asylum seeker closer to his or her country of origin. The Uk "New Vision for Refugees" intends to have the UNHCR on their side. But in a manner in which they will make the UNHCR to know that if the UNHCR is hesitant,the UK will be ready to work with IOM, an organisation without a protection mandate. This strategy of the UK was a wish to mould the UNHCR into the organisation they would wish it to be.
These zones will be opened to asylum seekers from a particular list of countries accepted by the host countries in the region and accept returns of those nationalities who have applied for asylum elsewhere.
Reverting to this definition, there are certain list of countries whose citizens can go to a particular region to seek asylum. For instance, if Cameroon is hosting one of these centres, asylum seekers from East, North and South African countries can file their cases in Cameroon since Cameroon is found in Central Africa. The other point is that if asylum seekers from the above mentioned places do not go to Cameroon to file their asylum cases but went directly into the EU states, the EU states have the legitimate right to carry these asylum seekers back to Cameroon. If the case of the asylum seeker is accepted in the centre in Cameroon, his or her document will be processed in this centre for a resettlement into a European country of the choice of the asylum seeker. To establish a RPA, the host state, funding state and international protection organisations would have to define and agree on the list of countries that the nationals could go to. The difference between RPAs and TPCs is that the RPAs are located in the source regions of refugee crisis and accepting the responsibility to receive and host refugees coming from the region. Meanwhile TPCs are at the external borders of EU countries and functioning as a deterrent for unwanted migrants.
Resaons for regional Protection Areas
It is believed that the current system of asylum is failing and needs a new system. The management of asylum seekers is not effectively done but in the new centres, it will be perfectly carried out to the satisfaction of the asylum seekers and the international community.
The support asylum seekers in other parts of the world get is not equitable, with asylum seekers in EU states. Asylum seekers in EU states receive more benefits to those out of EU like in Africa where the UNHCR spends an average of $50 a year on each refugee.
It is extremely difficult, time consuming and costly to remove people whose asylum claims are negative within the EU countries. With this system, it will be easier because the regions are not as attractive economically as EU to the economic migrants.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees' three-pronged strategy
The UNHCR, feared not to be marginalised in this project, came out with what is known as the "Three- Pronged" strategy for processing the asylum cases. On the 17 of March 2003, the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubers attempted to take a lead in this debate when he presented his "three prong model" in a meeting in London
The first element is directed to refugees who move directly to Europe, after haven sought asylum in their region of origin, what is known as " Irregular Movers". These people will be taken back to their regions of origin where they will be registered and their asylum cases will be processed, this will also signify strengthening the capacities of first country of asylum, developing self reliance activities for asylum seekers, creating a way for refoulement, intergration in the region or resettlement.
The second prong deals with those asylum seekers who do not have valid claims to asylum, that is nationals from countries which are not asylum producing countries. What is known as " Manifestly Unfounded" application for asylum. In such cases, the measures to be taken could include closed reception centres on the territories of some of the ten new EU member states that have just joined in 2004. The cases will be processed by EU teams and appeals with UNHCR participation. Those found genuine will be granted asylum in one of the EU countries depending on certain factors like skills, family connections, needs and other important issues such as language. And collective move from the EU states will be made clear that those found not to be in need of international protection will be returned immediately to their countries of origin.
The third prong would depend on the functioning of Europe's individual national asylum system. That is the provision of international protection to those in need of it. Here the UNHCR is prepared to work together with states to examine how procedure and system could be rendered efficient.
Past experiences of the RPAs
The United States of America created a centre in Guatánamo Bay, in Cuba to process the claims of Haitian asylum seekers in July 1994 to settle in the USA or return to Haiti. The US termed this " Safe Heaven". In Havana, to intercept the Cuban asylum seekers, another centre was created by the US. These two initiatives raised the dilemma of human rights and other questions. On the practical part of it, the Intergovenmental Consultations (IGC) said it may encourage human trafficking on forged identities and nationalities. Careful examination of all the impedements therefore concluded that the " exclusive" option is not feasible and as such, does not deserve further elaboration. The IGC said in 1995 that " Regarding costs, the US found both scheme to be very expensive"
The Australian so called " Pacific Solution" is another example but it is a little bit different because the asylum seekers in MV Tampa, the Norwegian freighter that carried the asylum seekers, did not decide to which country to be taken to after the process of their asylum claims. The Australia government decided where to take them. This so called " Pacific Solution" was offensive to human dignity and in violation to international human rights and refugee law standards. This procedure also led to high financial funds allocated to offshore processing, making the Pacific Solution a net loss of some AUD 900 million for the Australian tax payers from Fiscal Year 2002/3 to Fiscal Year 2005/6.
In an interview withFranco Frattini that was published on Tuesday, 31. 05 2005, byBruno waterfield, Frattini said the ideology of TPCs and RPAs have advanced. Two pilot Regional Protection Prograsmmes will be launched in July. He continued,"My idea is that the two best options could be the Great Lake region (Africa) and the eastern dimension of Europe. The great Lakes region is probably the biggest origin area of illegal immigrants and the eastern dimension of Europe for example Ukraine or Georgia or Belarus." . He said they will try to start with two puilot programmes, the first one for Africa and the second one probably for Ukraine.
The Commission proposal will focus on funding on relief, rehabilitation and regional development in a bid to build capacity in countries "which can host large numbers of Europe bound refugees." The Regional Protection Programme will link support to to measures such as providing protection to refugees, registration, cooperation on legal migration and agreement of returns of failed asylum seekers or illegal migrants to countries outside the EU states. According to the plan, the UNHCR is expected to play a role an a key factor will be membership of international refugees agreements. The aothor of this report portrayed the report as an answer to the controversial British proposal in 2003 for "Transit Processing Centres."
The very sensitive question directly linking EU development ais to political deals on immigration was played down by Frattini. To continue on migration, Frattini said, " We need to stimulate those countries to agree on a common approach regarding immigration. It is not at all a "do ut des" (I give that you give) base, but it is a common framework, I may include a common strategy on immigration and one hand and better conditions for developmenton the other hand." He rounded up by sayin, "the Commission is to go beyond crackdowns on illegals to proposals that may crack open Europe's door to legal migration. He is prepared to present a propal at the end of this year as the first ever proposal and this will be the first time that europe will have two proposals on the same table. "The first proposal will address illigal immigration and the second on addressing legal immigration."
This development raises the following question, why is it that Europe do embark on this exclusionist and externalisation project? Is it to show its patriarchal or dominant position of the world? Is it to stigmatise people from other continents and to create stereotypes of unwanted migrants? Is it to create a homogenous Europe by excluding other people of the world? And to include other new European countries?
This idea of RPAs can it may be reduce the number of migrants to enter Europe but it is completely impossible to think that it can stop migration due to the many factors causing migration. The world of today is characterised with the movement of information, cultures, money and goods. Many people will continue to come to Europe because the region from which they originate cannot protect them, meanwhile others will come because of poverty to seek for better living conditions. Though poverty is not stated in the 1951 Convention as a reason to seek asylum, it does not cancel the fact that there are other unconventional reasons that can cause people to flee and poverty is one. This issue of RPAs will increase the idea of refugees being pushed into the hands of smugglers. As the Europeans continue to tighten their borders, many strategies will be developed by smugglers to address the issue of mixed flows. That is the Conventional and Unconventional refugees.
There is the authonomy of migration already created, what is known as the bridge of migration that will always make people to move, for instance, people to meet their family members, the effect of colonisation and the occupation of other continents by the Europeans and Americans.
To stop migration or reduce migration into EU countries, the EU states are obliged to respect the following points;
Must strengthen their moral and legal capacity to treat asylum cases in a fair and efficient manner. And they should tackle the human right abuses and violence causing the asylum seekers to flee from their regions of origin and to stop supporting authoritarian governments because of private interests. If it happens that it is not possible to contol these abuses, EU states should be ready to receive the asylum seekers and offer recognition to victims in respect of human right.
To respond to the needs of those seeking asylum in Europe, the EU states must engage in capacity- building in region of origin of the asylum seekers, comprehensive solution for the situation, and to reconsider how their external elements in policies may engage with refugee issue in a more comprehensive and holistic way.