|Statewatch article: RefNo# 6589
|Statewatch bulletin, vol 12 no 5 (Aug-Oct 2002)
|In April 2002, the Commission released a Green Paper on an EU policy on "return" (expulsion, deportation or repatriation) from the EU. In line with the Council of the European Union (the 15 EU governments) it says that the EU has to develop a detailed policy on expulsion of migrants who do not have documents authorising them to enter and reside or whose documents authorising them to reside have expired ("irregular migrants"). This was the first time that the Commission had issued a Green Paper on any aspect of EU immigration or asylum law. The purpose of EU "Green Papers" is to launch a wide-ranging public discussion on whether the EU should have a policy on a particular subject at all and what the content of that policy should be. Usually, the Commission leaves a year or more after the submission of the Green Paper so that there is time for national parliaments, the European Parliament, civil society, EU consultative bodies and national executives to comment on the issues.
For this Green Paper, the Commission organised a public hearing on 16 July 2002, at which civil society groups who came to speak were allotted the princely period of five minutes each to respond to the Green Paper. The deadline for submissions was 31 July 2002.
With the ink hardly dry on the Green Paper the Council of the European Union adopted a list of third countries (and criteria) with whom re-admission agreements (accepting the return of people) should be negotiated.
The EU Summit in Seville, under the Spanish EU Presidency, on 21-22 June endorsed the plan in the Green Paper and half-formulated policies on expulsion.
On 11 July the incoming Danish EU Presidency circulated a draft programme on expulsion including "forced and voluntary return". It set the deadline for the adoption of a "Return/Repatriation Programme" at the November meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council. In June the German government put forward a resurrected proposal for a Directive on transit by air and expulsions (see below). On 14 October the Commission issued a formal Communication based on the so-called consultations.
"Return policy on illegal residents"
The Commission's Communication advocates the "return" (expulsion/repatriation) of all "illegal residents", that is, those who do not "fulfil the conditions for entry to, presence in or residence" in the EU. The objective is the adoption of a:
general policy on the return of illegal residents, valid for all regions or countries of origin or transit
This extends to those who asylum claim has been rejected, those who overstay their visas or residence permits and resident third-country nationals who pose a threat to national security or public order. It should be noted that people coming from the "white list" of countries (eg: USA, Canada, Australia and Japan) who do not need visas to enter are quite unaffected by this plan.
The argument in the Communication is, at times, quite tortuous in self-justification. It quite openly recognises that:
where voluntary return fails, the forced return of illegal residents becomes a necessity.. The possibility of forced return is essential to ensure that admission policy is not undermined and to enforce the rule of law.. A credible policy of forced returns helps to ensure public acceptance for more openness towards persons who are in real need of protection, and for.. labour-driven migration
"Labour-driven migration" is a reference to the emerging EU policy whereby people with skills needed to maintain EU economies are encouraged to come for fixed terms as distinct from people fleeing poverty and persecution.
The Commission, in line with the Council, argues that:
Third countries must readmit their own nationals unlawfully present in a Member State and, under the same conditions, nationals of other countries who can be shown to have passed through their territories before arriving in the EU"
The "smooth and timely return of illegal residents" is hampered, according
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