Friday, October 01, 2004

Asylum camps in North Africa are to go ahead ... probably

Now that the European Commission, as opposed to member states has proposed it, the idea has been accepted at The Hague: there will be five asylum camps in Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Algeria and Mauritania, all countries with dubious records in human rights, but let that pass.

The “pilot projects” will be funded by the Commission and the Dutch Presidency, which implies that they will start before the end of the year. The UN High Commission for Refugees, having expressed some disquiet at the idea, will, after all, participate. The present High Commissioner happens to be Ruud Lubbers, a former Dutch Foreign Minister.

The UK suggestion that refugees from other parts of the EU should be repatriated to their countries of origin has been dropped. These camps are for those who have not yet made their way across the various borders, barriers and past the Italian gunships.

Some problems remain. Libya, to name the most obvious one, has not signed the International Convention on Refugees, so it is not clear how Colonel Gaddafi, even in his newly acquired good-guy mode will interpret what to do about asylum seekers.

While the funding has been agreed on, the policing and administering have not. Nor is it clear whose jurisdiction will apply to the camps or how and by whom will the asylum processing procedures be carried out.

Other problems that have not been discussed at all are to do with the refugees’ willingness to go into these dubious camps and past experience of inefficiently administered UN ones in places like Rwanda

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