FECL 49 (December 1996/January 1997):


At its Dublin Summit of 13-14 December 1996 the European Council agreed on the principle that no citizen of a member state of the EU shall be allowed to apply for asylum in another member state. An amendment to that effect of the Maastricht Treaty would constitute a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees, Amnesty International warns.

One of the Dublin Summit Presidency Conclusions states: "The European Council asks the Conference [IGC] to develop the important proposal to amend the Treaties to establish it as a clear principle that no citizen of a Member State of the Union may apply for asylum in another Member State, taking into account international treaties."

In a statement of January 1997, Amnesty International (AI) strongly objects to the proposed amendment.

Firstly, AI questions the words "taking into account international treaties" in the Conclusion. "Does this mean that the proposal would only be applicable if it was not contrary to prior international agreements subscribed to by the Member States? This would seem logical, but in this case, Amnesty International considers that it immediately negates the effects of the proposal".

Indeed, as is pointed out in the AI statement, Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes the right of everyone "to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution". Under the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees all signatory states are obligated to respect its provisions, including the fundamental principle of non-refoulement: Article 33 of the Convention forbids signatory states to expel or return ("refouler") a refugee to frontiers or territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. AI notes that this prohibition of return requires that each asylum seeker must have access to a fair and satisfactory asylum determination procedure, capable of identifying all those at risk of persecution if returned.


Violation of the principle of non-refoulement

The AI statement goes on: "Affiliation to a supranational body such as the European Union cannot be used by Member States to evade their obligations under international law". Therefore, it says, the exemption of Member States from examining individual asylum applications of nationals of another Member State is a clear violation of the principle of non-refoulement. Moreover, AI expresses concern that such a proposal could "constitute a precedent that could be implemented in other regions of the world".

"Furthermore, the present proposal could have serious consequences where a EU Member State (present or future) would be culpable of persecuting a certain category of persons or an ethnic minority, or would be unable to protect such persons from persecution".


Nobody knows what will happen in the future

"Nobody can attest to what will happen in the future in the current or enlarged European Union", AI argues. European governments therefore should envisage "all possible future scenarios".

The AI statement further refers to the Conclusions adopted by the EU immigration ministers in December 1992 on "countries in which there is generally no serious risk of persecution" (see FECL No. 11: "London Conference on closer coordination of Immigration and Justice policies within the EC" and "The meeting of the twelve Ministers of Immigration") These Conclusions state that the absence of serious risks should be established "in an objective and verifiable way" and that the general assessment of a country as safe "should not automatically result in the refusal of all asylum applications from its nationals or their exclusion from individualised determination procedures".


Breach of Universal Declaration on Human Rights and of Geneva Convention

Finally, the AI statement recalls that, less than two years ago (in June 1995), the EU Council Resolution on minimum guarantees for asylum procedures explicitly stipulated that the Member States continue to be obliged to examine individually every application for asylum made by a citizen of another Member State.

The statement concludes: "The present proposal (...) would constitute a clear violation of the international obligation of European States under the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the 1951 Geneva Convention. Amnesty International accordingly strongly urge European Union Member States not to retain the present proposal."


Source: ‘Concerns of Amnesty International concerning the proposal of the European Council to suppress the right to asylum for nationals of a member State in the other Member States of the European Union’, Statement of AI-European Union Association, Brussels, January 1997.