Statewatch article: RefNo# 6776
EU buffer states and UNHCR “processing” centres and "safe havens"
Statewatch News Online, June 2003
The Observer newspaper reported on Sunday (15.6.03) that a pilot camp was being set up in
Croatia to hold up to 800 refugees and asylum-seekers:Observer story On Monday, 16 June the Guardian newspaper quoted Home Office officials as saying that they "have no record of this" and it is sggusted that the camp being built with EU funds is being prepared by the Croation government as a holding centre for people seeking asylum in that counyry: Guardian

Anyone reading the press release of the Council of Justice and Home Affairs Minister on 5-6
June in Luxembourg would have wondered what all the press speculation was about on the
issue of whether the EU was going to adopt the proposals put forward by the UK government on
creating so-called "safe havens" for refugees and asylum-seekers. The press release simply
said:

"In the context of the preparation of the Thessaloniki European Council (20 June 2003), the
Council.. held a first exchange of views on a number of Presidency and Commission reports on
the following matters: Commission communication on the development of a common policy on
illegal immigration, smuggling and trafficking of human beings, external borders and the return
of illegal residents, [and the] Commission communication towards more accessible, equitable
and managed asylum"

This feature looks at the background and provides the full documentation.

(update, 13.6.03) Report from the Luxembourg meeting on the Justice and Home Affairs
Council, 5-6 June: On the issue of asylum "processing centres" the issue was introduced by
JHA Commissioner Vittorino referring to (COM (2003) 315, see text below) and is said to have
received a very good reception.

Only the Swedish government voiced strong criticism and firm opposition (they have also written
to the UNHCR to express their disappointment at its position). The Netherlands, DEnmark and
Austria, together with the UK, are most strongly in favour. Schilly, who previously expressed
opposition, said Germany was not opposed on principle but were concerned over the resolution
of legal questions.

The key issues are the location of the processing centres and the trial project. The UNHCR is
adamant that the camps must be inside the EU, but the UK and Denmark are set on Albania
and Ukraine. The states in favour hope to get a pilot project up and running by the end of the
year. The pilot camp 'could be' inside the EU, though most likely in an accession state. Inside
sources say they will get something up and running, potentially in Romania or Bulgaria.

Although some delegations raised legal issues the UK is adamant that these can be 'ironed out'
during the pilot. Apparently, according a UNHCR source, Lubbers had similar ideas for asylum
camps when he was in the Dutch gov. in the early- mid 1990s. On safe havens, Kenya and
Tanzania were mentioned as possible havens for Somalians.

Visa database: The European Commission has completed its study and found the database
feasible. Estimated technical costs are 130-200 million euros including biometric identifiers.
Both issues to be discussed further at summit.


Documentation


1. UNHCR plans for camps in EU and in "regions" of origin - "Processing centres" (pdf)

2. Letter from Blair to Greek Presidency proposing "safe havens": Blair-Simitis (pdf)

3. Proposals from the European Commission dated 3 June 2002: a) Towards more accessible,
equitable and managed asylum system:
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