More than 160 organizations urge EU institutions not to detain asylum seekers

Photo : Caritas Europa

More than 160 human rights organizations, among them Terre des Hommes, Caritas Europa, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, has signed the appeal “Not crossing red lines-A negotiators’ checklist on minimum detention safeguards”, insisting that EU institutions ensure respect for asylum seekers’ right to liberty in recast Reception Conditions Directive and Dublin Regulation.

The statement calls on the EU institutions to maintain the presumption against detention in EU asylum legislation and uphold as a minimum a list of essential safeguards on the detention of asylum seekers in EU asylum legislation.

Relevant negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament on the recast Reception Conditions Directive and Dublin Regulation are starting right now. The deliberations relates to the detention of asylum seekers during the examination of their asylum application and during Dublin procedures and includes provisions with regard to grounds of detention, procedural safeguards, detention conditions and detention of vulnerable asylum seekers, including children.

The appeal “Not crossing red lines” was signed by 166 organizations comprising human rights, medical and judicial civil society institutions active across Europe and internationally.

The detrimental effects of detention on the physical and psychological well-being of people fleeing persecution, regardless of their age, sex and physical and psychological health is widely documented. What is more, when asylum seekers are granted international protection, detention can greatly hinder their successful integration into the host society.

“Today, 166 organisations call on the EU institutions to seize this opportunity to adopt standards that fully endorse the presumption against detention of asylum seekers and protect asylum seekers from arbitrary detention as required under international refugee and human rights law. The protections afforded by international refugee and human rights law presuppose that, as a general rule, asylum seekers should not be detained and that detention may only be used in exceptional cases, and only with full procedural safeguards in place,” the statement says.

The proposal includes some “essential safeguards on detention of asylum seekers”:

■ “A person shall not be detained for the sole reason that he/she is an asylum seeker. Seeking asylum is not an unlawful act and asylum seekers should not be penalised for irregular entry in line with Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention.”

■ “Asylum seekers may only be detained as a measure of last resort and, if considered necessary in the individual case, and only if alternatives to detention cannot be applied effectively. Alternatives to detention must be laid down in national law.  In the exceptional case that detention is considered necessary it shall always be for the shortest possible period.”

■ “Grounds for detention must be narrowly and explicitly defined  and exhaustively established in EU asylum law and in national law. These grounds must be clearly distinguished from detention for the purpose of removal.”

■ “Detention must be ordered by judicial authorities. Asylum seekers shall in all circumstances be promptly informed, in a language they understand, of the reasons of their detention, their rights in detention and the procedures available to challenge their detention.”

■ “Effective access of specialized NGOs, UNHCR and legal representatives to all places of detention, including in transit zones and at the border, must be ensured.”

■ “Asylum seekers must have a right to independent and free legal assistance and representation to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court. Detention of asylum seekers must be subject to automatic and periodic review by a court.”

■ “Asylum seekers shall never be detained in prison accommodation.”

■ “Vulnerable asylum seekers, in particular children, elderly, pregnant women, persons with physical or mental disabilities, victims of torture and illtreatment and traumatised persons should not be detained. In the truly exceptional case that detention of vulnerable asylum seekers is considered necessary as a last resort, it must be established by an independent qualified expert that their health will not deteriorate as a result of detention. In such truly exceptional cases, conditions of detention and procedural safeguards must take into account their specific vulnerability.”

■ “Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children must never be detained.”

■ “In addition to the safeguards listed above the recast Dublin Regulation must uphold the principle that detention may only be applied to asylum seekers in the Dublin procedure once the applicant has been notified of a decision to transfer to the responsible Member State and that the actual transfer will take place promptly.”


“Not crossing red lines-A negotiators’ checklist on minimum detention safeguards”:

Caritas Europa: