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[Open Letter] to MEPs concerning the Directive on reception of asylum seekers

May 2013

[English] [français]

“More humane conditions for the reception of asylum seekers.
No to the possibility of systematic detention!”

Dear Member,

The draft recast of the European directive laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers in Member States will be put to the vote in the European Parliament at the plenary session in June 2013.

This text aims to establish more harmonised and more humane standards for the reception and treatment of asylum seekers by EU Member States. But in its current form it cannot achieve the intended objective.

The draft certainly reinforces a number of guarantees given to asylum seekers, particularly better reception conditions for vulnerable people, including unaccompanied minors and victims of torture, and is to apply in territorial waters and transit zones.

But by legislating on reasons and conditions for detention, which up to now have been left to the discretion of the Member States, it legitimises and generalises detention as a way of managing applications for international protection.

Among the six admissible reasons for detaining an asylum seeker, the first two – ’in order to determine, ascertain or verify his identity or nationality;’ and ’in order to determine the elements on which his application for asylum is based’ – would suffice to detain most applicants for international protection who seek refuge in an EU country. There is no provision for a maximum period of detention, which inevitably opens the door to abuse. It is particularly shocking that there is no prohibition on detaining unaccompanied minors or particularly vulnerable people such as pregnant women, or elderly, sick or traumatised people.

With regard to detention conditions, the text allows the possibility of detaining an asylum applicant in a prison if a specialised detention facility is not available.

Detention must not be used as a way of managing asylum applications in EU countries.

FIACAT and its affiliated associations - ACAT Deutschland, ACAT Belgie-Vlaanderen, ACAT Belgique-francophone, ACAT España, ACAT France, ACAT Italia, ACAT Luxembourg, ACAT Nederland - reaffirm their commitment to the principle that no asylum applicants may be deprived of liberty solely because they request international protection, and call for the reception directive to include improvements to the rules protecting the fundamental rights of asylum seekers, in particular:

- not to envisage any derogation from this principle, except for detention in the context of criminal procedures ;

- no longer to consider prisons as appropriate places for detaining asylum seekers ;

- to allow organisations working to uphold the right of asylum freely and autonomously to gain access to detention centres as citizen observers.

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