Faculty of law blogs / UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

Asylum? Maybe, But Outside The EU. The Externalization of the Responsibility to Protect


Ivana Belén Ruiz-Estramil


Time to read

3 Minutes

Guest post by Ivana Belén Ruiz-Estramil. Ivana holds a PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences and a beneficiary of the Basque Government’s Postdoctoral Programme for the Further Training of Doctoral Research Staff. She is a visiting Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, attached to the Hegoa Institute of the University of the Basque Country. This is the sixth post of Border Criminologies’ themed series on 'The Changing Landscapes of Immigration Detention' organised by Ana Ballesteros-Pena and Cristina Fernández-Bessa.

refugees welcome sign
By Montecruz Foto (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.es)

The differentiation and classification between migrants and refugees, beyond the specific cases that gives rise to both processes of displacement, has become a matter of great administrative importance in recent decades. The greatest obstacle for thousands of people seeking international protection in the EU has so far been identified as access to the territory itself, with increasingly dangerous routes where life is exposed to hostile geographical and climatic conditions (see work by Mendiola). New challenges are now being added to these adversities. This post aims to point out how the New Pact on Migration and Asylum creates a framework of possibilities in which seeking asylum in the EU becomes more difficult, as third countries of transit are considered safe and endowed with protection mechanisms in which to seek asylum. In this way, the influx of people can be stemmed, without losing the protection argument.

Analysing the New Pact on Migration and Asylum from a sociological perspective, and delving deeper into asylum and refuge, we find the continuation of the attempt to harmonise asylum policy in the EU, and promote a common and coordinated policy of “solidarity” between the member states. In this effort, not only do member states play a key role in making a common policy effective, but third countries of transit to the EU also play an important role, with the aim of managing population flows towards the EU and reducing the number of illegal entries into the territory.

As indicated in the “Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on a New Pact on Migration and Asylum”, the Commission proposes to establish a procedure at the border for those who cross without authorization, a control prior to entering the territory, where the third countries of transit to the EU are key to the development of this procedure. The “Amended proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council Establishing a Common Procedure for International Protection in the Union and repealing Directive 2013/32/EU”, continues along the same path, highlighting the construction of a pre-entry phase with the objective of a rapid response aimed at examining the application for protection, or initiating the process of return or refusal of entry to the territory. This strategy foresees the increased screening of persons seeking access to the EU, but also, as we see in Regulation (EU) 2021/2303, a screening that extends to third countries. These third countries will also be subject to analysis by the EU Asylum Agency, including the possibility of sending experts from the Agency, to evaluate possible increases in displaced persons and mobility management mechanisms.

The practices of refoulement, externalisation and detention have spread globally, giving rise to such abysmal contradictions as that of restrictions of movement justified as as protection measures of asylum systems. However, EU shows a new line of evolution, in which it seeks to generate influence in transit countries, delegating the responsibility to protect to countries it considers “suitable” for reception, developing for this purpose an exercise of “evaluation” of these countries, which contributes to reinforcing its position of dominance over neighbouring third countries. This is not only an exercise in externalising border control in which neighbouring countries can take charge of controlling access to the border, as happens for example between Spain and Morocco in the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, but also in influencing these border countries to develop asylum systems that can serve as a justification for not admitting an asylum application in the EU, since the third country of transit is considered safe and has a protection system in place. These third countries would thus act as a barrier to the arrival of protection claims in the EU, while the EU would be seen as a guarantor of international protection on its territory (by ensuring that Member States’ asylum systems are not overburdened) and in third countries (by sending technical staff and providing financial support). The key resides in having delegated responsibilities without losing the discourse of protection.

Through the alliance between the EU and third transit countries, international protection is degraded while discursively it seems to be strengthened by involving more actors. Every day, reality shows situations of high levels of insecurity, of human rights violations and of a humanitarian principle in which life finds minimal guarantees for survival. While the difference between “migrants” and “refugees” deepens, increasing the suspicion of every displaced person as an “impostor”, more and more dangerous routes open up, where becoming “invisible” increases the chances of reaching the destination. In this invisibility, lives that do not yet appear salvageable are drowned, anonymised and can no longer claim responsibility, either for international protection or for their death.

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style):

I. Ruiz-Estramil. (2023) Asylum? Maybe, But Outside The EU. The Externalization of the Responsibility to Protect. Available at:https://blogs.law.ox.ac.uk/border-criminologies-blog/blog-post/2023/03/asylum-maybe-outside-eu-externalization-responsibility. Accessed on: 20/04/2024

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