Members' Research Service By / June 10, 2015

Extraterritorial processing of asylum claims

The Agenda on Migration , published by the Commission on 13 May 2015, advocates a holistic approach which includes the…

@ European Union, EP

The Agenda on Migration , published by the Commission on 13 May 2015, advocates a holistic approach which includes the establishment of a pilot multi-purpose centre in Niger by the end of the year. The centre will work with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the UNHCR and the Niger authorities to provide information, local protection and resettlement opportunities for those in need. The establishment of such a centre could imply the extraterritorial assessment of asylum and other protection claims, an idea that can be traced back to 2003 at least. This keysource brings together a number of studies which evaluate the pros and cons of extraterritorial protection assessment.


Extraterritorial processing of asylum claims
@ European Union, EP

The potential and pitfalls of extraterritorial processing of asylum claims / Madeline Garlick, commentary, Migration Policy Institute, March 2015, 1 p.
The author notes the interest in the external processing of asylum claims despite the absence of concrete proposals on the table. She advocates a well-informed discussion to establish the viability and lawfulness of such an approach.

Refugees, Europe, Camps/State of Exception: “Into The Zone”, the European Union and Extraterritorial Processing of Migrants, Refugees, and Asylum-seekers (Theories and Practice) / Carl Levy, in Refugee Survey Quarterly. January 2010, Vol. 29 Issue 1, p. 92-119
This article traces the debate in the European Union from the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) to the Treaty of Lisbon (2009), leading ultimately to political disenchantment with the idea.

Chronology of events

In March 2003, the UK government put forward the idea as a pro-refugee but anti-asylum seeking strategy , which involved processing resettlement claims in regional protection areas. The European Union Committee did not however support the proposal in its 11th report (Session 2003-04). It was also widely condemned by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch .

The European Council Conclusions of November 2004 called on the Commission to carry out a feasibility study on joint processing of asylum applications outside EU territory. German Interior Minister, Otto Schily, supported the idea in Council in December 2004. In 2005, in an effort to address the same issues through resettlement and development aid, UNHCR came forward with Convention Plus .

In 2007, it published an advisory opinion on legal standards and policy considerations with respect to extraterritorial processing. In November 2014, German Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière, mooted the idea of ‘welcome centres’ in transit countries, meeting opposition from the NGO, Proasyl . In February 2015, the European Commission published a European Political Strategy Centre (EPSC) Strategic Note, which explores the feasibility of off-shore asylum processing, possibly through EU-run facilities in North Africa and key transit countries.

On 29 April 2015, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on the Member States to make full use of the existing possibilities for issuing humanitarian visas at their embassies and consular offices and to make greater contributions to existing resettlement programmes.


The European Union

Back to the future: Blair-Schily reloaded / Bernd Kasparek, Vassilis S. Tsianos, in movements. Journal für Kritische Migrations- und Grenzregimeforschung, Issue 1, 2015. Approx. 21p.
Diskutiert die Schengen-Krise sowie den Arabischer Frühling, an Hand der Migrationspolitik, insbesondere Frontex und Eurosur und des Dubliner-Übereinkommens.

Humanitarian visas – Option or obligation? / Ulla Iben Jensen, European Policy Department C, study requested by Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, September 2014, 59 p.
The author analyses existing EU legislation and practice on the issuing of humanitarian visas. She discusses their possible use to mitigate the absence of ‘protection-sensitive’ mechanisms. She considers whether the existing Visa Code obliges Member States to issue humanitarian visas and whether more could be done to encourage increased use of existing provisions in EU law.

Europe and extraterritorial asylum / Maarten Den Heijer, book published by Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2012, 321 p. (originally published as a thesis )

The European Union and the rest of the world

Pushing out the boundaries of humanitarian screening with in-country and offshore processing / Zara Rabinovitch, in online journal of the Migration Policy Institute, October 2014, 15 p.
This author studies the ongoing US and EU debates on establishing offshore asylum processing centres in order to take pressure off border management and reduce the number of migrants undertaking dangerous journeys.

The politics of extraterritorial processing: offshore asylum policies in Europe and the Pacific / Karin Fathimath Afeef, University of Oxford Refugee Studies Centre Working Paper 36, October 2006, 42 p
The author explores extraterritorial asylum policies through an examination and comparision of European and Australian cases. She considers the political context that led to the emergence of the concept in the UK and Australia in the early 2000s and ways in which such policies might develop in the future.

The international relations of the ‘new’ extra-territorial approaches to refugee protection / Alexander Betts, in Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 2004, p. 58-70
The author looks at the 2003 debate, which centred on the policy initiatives of the ‘UK proposals’ and UNHCR’s ‘Convention Plus’; clarifyies the conceptual and political relationship between the two and explores their underlying motivation and international relations from the UK and UNHCR perspectives at that time.

Case law

Interception Of Asylum Seekers At Sea: Extraterritorialisation And The Case Of CPFC V. Minister For Immigration And Border Protection / Asher Hirsch, April 2015, in blog post

The legality of extraterritorial processing of asylum claims: The judgment of the High Court of Australia in the ‘Malaysian solution’ case / Oxford Journals Law Human Rights Law Review Volume 12, Issue 1 (pp. 168-182)

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