A potential rift has opened within Europe between the European Commission and the European Court of Human Rights. The latter has issued a ruling that permits the “hard return” of illegal migrants, which runs contrary to the policies of the EC.
Brussels supports the ruling in favor of “hot returns”
The European Commissioner of the Interior defends the right to ask for asylum, but considers that this right “cannot be offered at each meter of the border”
Neither stupor nor surprise, rather support. The European Commission considers the sentence of the European Court of Human Rights in favor of Spain in the case of the immediate return of sub-Saharan immigrants who jumped the fence at Melilla in 2014 to be logical and compatible with current community legislation.
Ylva Johansson (Sweden, 56), European Commissioner of the Interior and in charge of negotiating the future European policy of asylum and immigration, assures in statements to El Pais that “the right of asking for asylum must always be granted”. However, she considers that that right “cannot be offered at every meter of the border,” and that the member states should have the power to indicate the points where the request should be made.
The unexpected turn of the Strasbourg Court, which in a prior ruling had rejected the “hot return”, and the alignment of the commission denote the progressive hardening of the EU migration policy. The organization was shaken in 2015 by a migration crisis that shook the foundations of the Union, cracked the Schengen Zone [internal border controls continue among several EU members] and was at the point of bringing down a leader as powerful as the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. In 2015 more than 1.2 million people requested asylum in the EU, double that of the previous year. Germany registered 5,400 petitions for each million inhabitants, Austria, 9,900, and Hungary, 17,700. The flow was closed after an agreement between the EU and Turkey to retain the exodus from the Syrian war in exchange for €6,000,000,000.
Johansson has among the specific tasks of her mandate to mend the wounds left by that crisis and recoup the confidence among countries at odds, with Merkel’s Germany and Orbán’s Hungary as symbols of the respective sides. After a commission presided over by Jean-Claude Juncker, clearly aligned with the open principle defended by Merkel, the current president, Ursula von der Leyen, has built bridges to Hungary and Poland in search of a consensus that still seems difficult.
The tactic, for now, is to offer Budapest and Warsaw the promise of reinforced exterior borders and the commitment that illegal immigrants will be returned to their countries of origin as expeditiously as possible. This Thursday’s ruling seems to open the way for some hot returns, which till now had been interpreted as being contrary to community rights.
“No, I am not in shock over the ruling,” indicates Johansson during a meeting in her office at the seat of the European Commission, where she has occupied the position of commissioner since last December 1. Johansson asks for time to study the verdict and draw all the conclusions. However, without a detailed analysis by her department, the former Swedish Minister of Health sees the interpretations of some judges and analysts as being disproportionate, which points to a clash between the ruling and the right of asylum.
Johansson stresses again and again that “it is important to highlight that the right of asylum should always be conceded.” But she immediately adds that “the member states cannot facilitate this possibility in all sites.” The commissioner recalls that “some member states have a very long border, and the possibility of requesting asylum cannot be offered at every meter of that border.”
The commissioner defends the right of the states to designate “the point at the border where one has to go to request asylum,” although she specifies that that situation should be managed while “respecting fundamental rights”. Johansson believes, for example, that one should not tell the potential refugee to go 2,000 kilometers to present the request [for asylum].