Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Refugees: European detention centres for asylum seekers "intolerable"

Conditions in many centres housing asylum seekers and refugees are "intolerable" according to new findings by MEPs on the Civil Liberties Committee. After several years of research into centres around Europe they have identified poor hygiene, overcrowding and a lack of medical care as key concerns.

The report - backed by the Parliament on 5 February - also identifies a lack of legal aid as a significant problem.

Over a period of 3 years, MEPs visited 26 detention centres in 11 countries across the European Union. These included centres in countries in the south such as Spain, Italy and Malta and those in the north and east like Denmark and Poland.

The report shies away from naming and shaming particular countries as the MEP who headed the visits, French Socialist Martine Roure, wanted to stress Europe's "collective responsibility".

She called for "clear, just, effective and proportionate procedures" to deal with the ever growing influx of people seeking asylum in the EU. "Countries on the EU frontier cannot be left alone to deal with the influx of migrants," she said.

Some of the key findings included:

* Overcrowding, poor hygiene, lack of equipment.
* People were not informed of their rights.
* Inadequate medical care and a lack of specialised care.
* Some detention centres are located in prison establishments.
* Poor interpretation services and lack of legal aid in certain countries.

Among the recommendations were:

* States move away from a policy of simply detaining people.
* The EU establishes a permanent system of visiting centres.
* Open centres should be encouraged rather than closed ones.
* Food, housing, medical care should always be available.

The report welcomes recent attempts by the European Commission to create a more open and accessible labour market for migrants with for example the blue card scheme for skilled migrants and measures to tackle the illegal employment of migrants workers by unscrupulous employers.

Over the course of their investigation, MEPs visited detention centres in the UK, Italy, Spain, France, Malta, Greece, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark and Cyprus.

Source: European Parliament
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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