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Eurosur: When border control takes precedence over migrants' lives
Date: 20/06/2012 - 11:34
Eurosur, the proposal for regulation concerning a border monitoring system, was presented by the European Commission on December 12th 2011, and puts cross-border crime on the same level as illegal immigration. It overlooks search and rescue at sea, despite it featuring in the 2008 Communication.
Eurosur is defined as a ‘system of systems’, providing for the strengthening of borders in order to reach an integrated management system in cooperation with the agency Frontex. This is made possible by the interconnecting and rationalisation of surveillance systems that exist within member states, the technical sharpening of monitoring tools on an EU scale (satellites and drones, for example), creating a shared EU maritime information space and cooperating with third party neighbouring countries.
AEDH condemns regulation that threatens the fundamental rights of asylum seekers and immigrants, that does not make search and rescue operations at sea a priority, that places EU responsibilities on third party countries, and is a threat to guarantees of data protection and privacy.
Whilst considering the European Union’s steps to monitor outside borders legitimate, AEDH wishes to remind that the right to leave one’s country is a fundamental right according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Asylum seekers attempting to cross EU borders must be entitled to all protection and their applications must be considered. Thus, they must be welcomed into Europe.
The Eurosur system means detecting and following ships is made easier, particularly in the cases of ‘precarious’ boats who do not display national flags and can therefore be intercepted and examined by ships in charge of maritime zone monitoring, including non-territorial zones. Rather than investing this detecting technology in saving lives, Eurosur overlooks the search and save at sea requirement. Already obligatory for all member states under international maritime law, this requirement must also be applied to shared EU maritime operations. Shipwrecks are currently on the rise in the Mediterranean and the lives of those fleeing their countries seem to hold no great value during joint operations coordinated by Frontex. This is in line with the regulation proposal in question.
And yet, the ships at its disposal are required to bring on board those travelling on makeshift crafts or rafts. As military ships, they belong in part to the national territory whose flag they bear. The crew is therefore required to assess the individuals in question one by one, including asylum seekers.
To turn down a ship in trouble and to place it in the hands of third party countries is to be part of a collective turning back process, despite the fact that the principal of non-refoulement can have no exceptions. Even worse, to not assist those risking their lives on makeshift crafts is an intolerable violation of fundamental rights.
In installing a cooperative system with third party countries, Eurosur is an early warning system of migrant departures, or the gathering of migrants who set sail by third party countries. Thus the EU rejects all responsibility. The proposed multilateral agreements will worsen the situation and the system, and will do so without any monitoring, in particular from the European Parliament.
As for the vague concept of the ‘exceptional use’ of personal data, AEDH wishes to express deep concern, thus joining with the concerns of the European Data Protection Supervisor. AEDH wishes to stress the serious risk of misuse of personal data and the disrespecting of the principles of necessity and proportionality. AEDH opposes the handing over of personal data to third party countries who do not subscribe to the same European norms of guarantees and considers the passing on of immigrant and asylum seeker personal data to be inacceptable, since the latter groups require more guarantees due to the sensitive nature of their data.
AEDH calls on members of the European Parliament to look into this extremely political issue so that fundamental rights may be guaranteed. So that parliamentary control may be fully exercised. So that Eurosur may first and foremost be a tool that aids in fighting cross-border crime, and a sea search and rescue tool for immigrants and asylum seekers who risk their lives in coming to Europe in the hope of a better life. AEDH calls on NGOs and citizens to oppose this regulation project which does not provide the indispensable guarantees of protection of fundamental rights, as defined in the Charter and international conventions.
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