Under plans to be presented tomorrow by the home secretary, David Blunkett, to the European Union summit in Brussels, asylum seekers will be held in ‘temporary processing centres’ outside the EU – possibly in Ukraine, Russia, Turkey or North Africa. A report by the Institute of Race Relations, published today, shows how this proposal is part of an ongoing attempt to create a militarised migration bulwark around the EU.
David Blunkett is calling for a ‘new vision of asylum processing fit for the 21st century’. He envisages a range of measures to tightly manage ‘migration flows’ into the European Union, through the export of EU border controls to countries outside the EU. In addition, he is proposing to create ‘transit processing centres’ – managed by the International Organisation for Migration – which will be located on the edge of the EU’s eastern and southern peripheries.
But the European Council’s new Border Control Programme, outlined at the Seville Summit of June 2002, is already moving in this direction. Under this programme, according to the IRR, a whole list of non-EU countries are being brought into the ‘managed migration’ process: development aid is increasingly tied to agreements to take back ‘illegal immigrants’ and non-EU countries are being encouraged to control migration from their own countries more firmly, through EU-backed schemes. Albania, China, Morocco, Russia and Turkey are all being coerced and cajoled into adopting a series of measures to prevent people entering and leaving. And all the countries on the edges of the EU are being formed into a militarised web around Europe, with the EU sponsoring the creation of elite border squads and high-tech surveillance. Navy vessels are also being deployed to intercept boats at sea.
The purpose of these measures is to ensure that eastern European countries and Turkey form a bulwark around the EU’s existing eastern border. Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria are expected to perform a similar function on Europe’s southern flank. The idea is to create as many barriers to refugee movement, in as many different countries and regions, as possible and, in the process, expand the EU’s authority over poorer neighbours.