Friday, June 20, 2008

"Harmonizing" Detention and Deportation

Despite many protests from immigrant advocates, including an eloquent open letter from Bolivian President Evo Morales, the European Parliament this week passed a "return directive" setting "common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals" (a.k.a. undocumented migrants). Intended to safeguard the rights of migrants, the directive seems instead to push member states towards the lowest common denominator. Two of the most concerning provisions of this new law are a 5-year ban on re-entry into the EU for migrants who fail to depart within the allotted time frame and a detention period of up to 18 months pending deportation. According to the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, pre-removal detention periods in Europe currently vary tremendously, from a 32-day limit in France to an unlimited duration in the United Kingdom. While "harmonization" might protect some, it surely will harm others as more migrant-friendly countries may be encouraged to change their laws to conform to EU standards. Moreover, the directive permits detention of families and unaccompanied minors, a practice that we've criticized here in the U.S. Indeed, the entire exercise may serve to bring European policies in line with American "crimmigration" practices that ladle out a particularly retributive brand of justice against those who have committed no crime, but may seek protection from persecution and torture or simply to feed their families. Harmonious? Not for the sans-papiers and clandestinos, whose already perilous circumstances may become even more dire.

1 comment:

Naomi Norberg said...

Many in France are calling it the "shame directive" (directive de la honte). Indeed, European harmonization in the area of immigration and asylum has been centered on minimal standards. Detention is the first response to migration, with little if any distinction made between asylum seekers, economic migrants and would-be terrorists or other criminals.